The time has come to establish a regulatory body for all lecturers in further education which would make the right to practise conditional on registration, the General Teaching Council for Scotland has told the Scottish Executive.
The GTC also makes it clear it thinks that it should be the body to represent FE lecturers. It adds that it would seem "highly unlikely" that a professional body solely for the FE sector in Scotland could be financially viable.
In its response to the Executive's consultation on whether a professional body is needed for college staff, it says: "(The GTC) is a dynamic body and has the experience, the structure and the drive to become the professional body for both teachers in schools and lecturers in colleges. Such a move would help to create a single, integrated educational environment and teaching profession."
In a survey of the 981 lecturers with teaching qualifications registered with the GTC, 99 per cent of the 267 members who responded supported the formation of a professional body for FE lecturers.
Most favoured mandatory registration, especially in relation to the requirement for full-time lecturers (99 per cent), part-time lecturers (87 per cent) and for those teaching the 14-16 age group (85 per cent). But there was little support for temporaryevening-class lecturers being required to be registered.
Most (91 per cent) agreed staff development should be provided for teaching the 14-16 age group and considerable concerns were expressed regarding child protection issues and health and safety.
Matthew MacIver, chief executive and registrar of the GTC, said: "We understand that the FE sector is not like the primary or secondary sector.
There are around 1,000 FE lecturers registered, 20 per cent of the full-time equivalent teaching posts. We recognise that the registration of all FE lecturers would have implications for us as a professional body, as well as for FE."
The GTC suggests that different levels of membership could be considered for staff who were actively engaged in learning and teaching but who lacked a teaching qualification. These would be:
* full member: full registration for experienced FElecturers with a teaching qualification in FE or recognised equivalent;
* member: provisional registrationmembership for lecturers who had embarked on a TQ(FE), the requirements for full registration being successful completion of TQ(FE) and an agreed period of relevant teaching experience;
* associate member: provisional (conditional) registration for FE lecturers who had completed appropriate professional development awards,on condition that they begin a TQ(FE) within an agreed timescale and undertake any further CPD necessary.
The GTC report adds: "The council accepts that flexibility is desirable and necessary in the FE system, but it also believes that all staff engaged in the core business of learning and teaching should hold appropriate teaching qualifications or be expected to gain one in a specified time.
"Arguments may well be made for certain groups to be exempt from the need to hold or gain qualifications, but the underlying principle should be that all students in FE, vocational or non-vocational, have the right to be taught by an appropriately qualified lecturer."
The GTC fears that Scotland could be overtaken by events in England where the aim is to produce a fully qualified FE workforce by 2010. All new full-time lecturers will be required to gain an appropriate teaching qualification within two years of taking up their appointment. Part-time lecturers doing 10-plus hours would be expected to gain a teaching qualification within four years.
The English targets also include existing lecturers - an interim target of having 90 per cent of full-time and 60 per cent of part-time lecturers qualified by 2006.
"Given the high regard in which Scotland's education system is generally held, should we have less ambitious plans than England?" the GTC report asks.