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Vocational 'mess' slated

College and school leaders must end their dispute over teaching standards in vocational education for the good of thousands of school-age teenagers, the General Teaching Council for Scotland insists.

The council continues to maintain that it is best placed to become the professional body for further education and has called on college leaders to match its flexibility.

Matthew MacIver, the GTC registrar, last week told a council meeting: "This is one of the big issues and it has to be resolved for the thousands of children in the 14-16 age group who are following vocational education courses. We have to get it right on who is going to teach them."

But the GTC's demand for a stake in FE teaching standards continues to be rejected by Scotland's Colleges. Further meetings are scheduled to break the impasse, described by one college representative on the council as "a mess".

Mr MacIver said: "The GTC has been very flexible on this whole issue and we're responding to a genuine need in Scottish education and I hope to get the same flexibility from Scotland's Colleges."

Council members reacted angrily to the dismissal of the findings from the Scottish Executive consultation on a professional body for the FE sector.

Dorothy Finlay, GTC education convener, and a primary headteacher, said:

"It is breathtaking to go into a major consultation and to get the responses but at the end of it to say 'we're going to ignore most of it'."

An Executive analysis of the responses postponed any decision on setting up a professional body because of the chasm between the two sectors. Its suggestion that the Scottish Further Education Unit might become involved is also hotly disputed by the GTC.

Kirsty Devaney, a college representative on the GTC, which has 1,000 registered lecturers, said: "Dismay does not come anywhere near the depth of feeling on this. It is a national disgrace that FE is being excluded from a professional body that represents all the other teachers in Scotland."

Jim Thomson, ex-chair of the former Clackmannan college, said FE teachers were seen as second-class citizens, teaching second-class courses and the rejection of the consultation findings underlined that. "There is a lot of anger out there and the Executive should take responsibility for this mess.

We are in very considerable difficulties," he said.

But Bruce Heil, assistant principal of Edinburgh's Telford college, said it had taken time for the GTC to get its head round the reality that FE "is not an all-graduate profession and never will be". Staff came in and developed qualifications within the sector.

Jane Polglase, policy manager at the Association of Scottish Colleges, repeated the sector's belief in an alternative to the GTC.

"The college sector thought long and carefully about this and decided a professional body was unnecessary because college staff have other ways of increasing their knowledge, both of teaching techniques and new developments in their subjects," Dr Polglase said. "Many already belong to other professional bodies. The disclosure process also meets other concerns about contact with young people."

She added: "What Scotland's Colleges would like to do is increase the very strong level of professionalism in the sector without the bureaucracy of a professional body. Our major concern is that we want people from industry, professions and crafts to be able to come and teach in colleges to make sure our students are getting cutting-edge knowledge."

Underlining the point made by Mr Heil, she said: "At the moment it is not possible for a lot of our people to be registered with the GTC because its regulations require a degree to teach at secondary level. Degrees do not exist in areas such as hairdressing or beauty therapy, where staff have equally valuable qualifications."

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