Children are being put at risk because there is no compulsory registration of college lecturers, according to the head of Scotland’s teaching watchdog.
Lecturers are increasingly working with school pupils, as secondaries look to extend the vocational courses that they offer in line with Scottish government policy on such qualifications.
In light of this, Ken Muir, chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) has called for further education lecturers to be regulated by the body in the same way as teachers to provide “national and international public protection”.
Currently, lecturers sacked from one college because they were not up to the job could turn up in another institution, Mr Muir warned.
He added: “We have increasingly received comments from parents and parent bodies asking the question: ‘Are college lecturers who are teaching my child in a school subject to the same registration and regulation requirements as the teachers?’
“The answer I have to say every time is: ‘I can’t guarantee that because there is no compulsory registration of lecturers.’ It’s the same with instrumental music instructors.”
Parents in the dark
Mr Muir’s comments were echoed by the Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC). Parents would naturally assume that adults working with their children were subject to the same regulatory framework as other teaching professionals, executive director Eileen Prior said.
“There is a strong argument for registering college lecturers in the same way as we register teachers to ensure that they are suitably qualified and subject to the same regulations around appropriate behaviour and maintaining their CPD,” Ms Prior added. “Most parents would not know to be concerned about this and would assume it was the reality for adults working in school.”
At present, lecturers can register with the GTCS but registration is not compulsory.
Last year, TESS revealed that the number of college lecturers registered with the GTCS had dropped by 20 per cent in two years (“The curious case of the disappearing FE lecturers”, Insight, 4 December).
Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request show that the number of lecturers on the teaching register fell from 657 to 521 between 2013 and 2015.
Today, 517 college lecturers are registered with the body, equating to about 10 per cent of all Scottish lecturing staff.
“[Registration] would give national and international public protection,” Mr Muir said. “There is nothing to stop a lecturer – and we know it has happened – who is sacked from a college one day and a month later is teaching in another college.
“Now, if you had national registration and regulation of the college lecturing force, that would not be allowed to happen because it can’t happen to teachers.”
Scotland’s largest teaching union, the EIS, which also represents FE staff, believes that all lecturers should hold a recognised FE teaching qualification and be registered with the GTCS.
Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, believes that having a professional body is the best way to maintain and improve the quality of educational provision in FE.
A Scottish government spokesman said that colleges were obliged to put staff working with vulnerable groups, such as children, through the appropriate background and criminal record checks.
“There are potential benefits of GTCS registration, but this has to be considered alongside wider workforce issues, which is rightly being led for the sector by Colleges Scotland,” he added. We are pleased that GTCS will participate in this work and be represented on the relevant advisory group.”