Leading a culture of teacher professionalism with ongoing professional development at its heart is key to improving the quality of learning and teaching in all sectors of the Scottish education system. This is important for many reasons but, above all, to ensure that children and young people have access to the best possible learning experiences. This includes in the college sector.
I have been a champion of the college sector in Scotland throughout my career. Before I took up post as chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), I was chief inspector of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate for Education with responsibility for colleges. In that role, I was privileged to see first-hand how Scotland’s colleges play a pivotal, though far too often undervalued, role in our society by consistently delivering the high-quality learning experiences our college students need to support them to achieve the best possible outcomes and career destinations.
Background: What is the role of a college lecturer?
GTCS: Registration for FE
Therefore, I am pleased that the GTCS, as the independent, self-regulating body for teaching, is leading a programme to register and regulate college lecturers across Scotland. This programme is being carried out in response to the National Joint Negotiating Committee settlement agreement of 2017, which requires registration of college lecturers with the GTCS.
Colleges provide many specialist services and support for a diverse range of individuals, including those who experience multiple disadvantages and barriers to learning. Crucially, for many students, college is the essential gateway to accessing employment and/or progressing to higher levels of education. Colleges Scotland recently reported that colleges now deliver 26 per cent of all higher education in Scotland, and 40 per cent of students from the lowest socioeconomic backgrounds progress to university through college. There is so much work to be proud of in this vibrant sector.
We are all acutely aware that Scotland’s economy and the labour market are changing rapidly. The consequences of this are particularly significant for the Scottish college sector as it meets increasing demands for diverse learning programmes, and more flexible and accessible learning formats often in conjunction with a strengthening and closer alignment with industry. Colleges have been responding to these increasing demands for more flexibility and innovation for many years, but the level and rate of change now being experienced is unprecedented.
College lecturer workforce
Placed at the heart of this dynamic environment, underpinned quite rightly by the highest of expectations, is the college lecturer. An increasing professionalism and agility within the college lecturer workforce is crucial in order to deliver and advance Scotland’s economic priorities and to actively support local communities to address the poverty and disadvantage we know exists. For this to happen, we must ensure that we invest in our lecturer workforce so it is fit for the future through the provision of systematic and ongoing high-quality professional learning and development.
In late 2018, the GTCS was pleased to be asked to work with the college sector to register and regulate the lecturer workforce, and to work with all colleges to support the enhancement of a culture of college professionalism.
As a registered member of the GTCS, each lecturer in their professional practice is required to be guided by the Professional Standards for college lecturers, and to actively engage in career-long professional learning. This places high expectations on lecturers and on college employers to ensure that their working environment positively facilitates an ongoing professional learning culture grounded on professional trust and positive relationships.
Since early 2019, we have been working very closely with key stakeholders including representatives from EIS-FELA union, Colleges Scotland, Scottish government and universities offering the Teaching Qualification in Further Education (TQFE), on the development of a bespoke registration model for college lecturers. We are currently focusing on developing pathways to registration and enhanced professionalism for lecturers. It is a complex programme, which will respect the distinct identity of the college sector and ensure that the professionalism of lecturers is recognised and developed through the purposeful integration of professional standards, professional review and development and mandatory ongoing professional learning.
It has never been more important to anticipate, support and enhance the professional capacity of our college lecturers, who play such essential roles in protecting and enhancing the excellence of the college sector. I firmly believe that registration with the GTCS will help to enhance and raise the profile of college lecturer professionalism. We look forward to working in ever closer collaboration with key stakeholders in the college sector and, more importantly, with every college lecturer to help build improved outcomes for all our learners and communities.
Kenneth Muir is chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland
To find out more, please visit the GTCS website