Teacher status barriers must go

19th February 2010 at 00:00

A paradox emerges from two recent articles in FE Focus ("Foundation campaign bids to add vocational Edge to election" and "Door to teaching in schools remains closed to FE staff", January 29).

On the one hand, we are informed of the continued barrier to obtaining equal recognition between the teaching qualifications of those in further education (QTLS) and in schools (QTS).

On the other hand, fine words are quoted from politicians about their commitment to raising the standing of vocational education and training. Such words have a hollow ring if those teachers of vocational subjects who do not hold degrees are not accorded the same status as their colleagues who do.

Policymakers need to understand that teachers of vocational subjects may well not have acquired degrees, especially as many of those areas are either not formally recognised as being taught at higher education level or have traditionally followed knowledge and skill acquisition routes that, especially in the UK, have stood outside the gilded path of GCE A- levels leading to university. A good teacher of hairdressing, for example, will hold a national vocational qualification in hairdressing together with years of successful industry-based experience.

If there is to be a real commitment to elevating the status of vocational education in the UK, then we need to regard relevance and quality of experience and qualification as superordinate to whether that qualification is called a degree or not.

The engendering of a new technician class holding highly regarded vocational qualifications (as in the German system) would go some way to meeting this need, but we are not there yet. Let the barriers between QTS and QTLS be removed. This would demonstrate a real commitment to vocational education and its teachers and learners.

Dr Margaret McLay, Director, Consortium for Post Compulsory Education and Training, University of Huddersfield.

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