Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Professionalism in Further Education. Common sense, at last!

A fascinating interim report has just been released by the The Independent Review Panel established by the Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning. Brilliant stuff and finally someone has seen the light and proposes to cut through the nonsense that has been the compulsory membership of the Institute For Learning and requirement for qualifications that seldom seem to have produced any improvement in the classroom and certainly no better use of modern technology.

[Anyone would think I had contributed la great deal to this myself!]

Entitled Professionalism in Further Education, here are some key points:

Over the past decade, government has attempted to impose by statute a form of professionalism on the further education sector through the development of national occupational standards for teaching staff. As successive reports by Ofsted and academic research have shown, this endeavour has failed to achieve consistency in the diverse provision for acquiring vocational knowledge and skills.

This Review will endeavour to offer comprehensive recommendations to government which will not only reflect circumstances which are very different from those of a decade ago, but which also pay greater attention to the particular virtues of further education, its unique place in our national life, and a conception of professionalism which suits a body of staff who often enter teaching following a successful career in business, a trade or another profession.

Our intention will be to outline and encourage new directions which will be free of unnecessary compulsion (and the perverse outcomes so often associated with it), and to bring some fresh thinking to issues which, evidence suggests, have become confused.

There are sufficient statutory arrangements in place through, for example, employment legislation and the requirements for staff performance management and learner safeguarding set out in Ofsted’s Common Inspection Framework, to ensure at least a threshold level of professional competence. Above that, providers should have the freedom to stand or fall according to the service they offer to learners and the public accreditation they earn for the high quality of that service from Ofsted and others (e.g. IiP, EFQM, ISO etc). The example of the Higher Education Academy shows clearly that a shift from the intention to compel lecturers to achieve teacher-training qualifications, towards one where they and their employers are persuaded that this is in all their best interests in order to enhance standards, is much more effective than regulation.

Initial teacher training programmes appear to be largely generic and theoretical, rather than being related to the professional and occupational expertise of college lecturers; mentoring continues to be weak; the system of qualifications and credits is very inconsistent among teacher training providers; and the commitment of FE employers to support their staff to attain excellence in pedagogy appears distinctly uneven. It is at least arguable that most of the national effort has been made in the wrong place: towards standards, regulations and compulsion, rather than towards fostering a deep and shared commitment to real ‘bottom up’ professionalism among FE employers and staff.

The panel’s doubts about the validity of the 2007 Regulations; a conviction that it would be absurd and impracticable to dismiss those lecturers who have dissented from them (in some cases, from the outset); and our understanding of the tenor of government policy, lead us to conclude that the Regulations are unenforceable.

Setting aside the lack of any form of compulsion bearing on lecturers in higher education and the apparent illogicality of requiring lecturers who may have already worked successfully in FE for many years to become ‘qualified teachers’, the IfL on behalf of the FE sector, is unique in requiring post-qualification tasks before conferral of ‘qualified’ status.

these additional hurdles to qualification might be interpreted as meaning that FE and FE lecturers are inherently less professional than their peers in other sectors. The implication is that they are in need of special measures to assure ‘professionalisation’. The review panel believes that this is nonsense, contradicted by the fact that many colleges in the sector, for example, have been giving a good public service for a century or more.

The researchers were told that ‘validation and endorsement of the new framework was so rushed that things were cobbled together by teacher trainers working in isolation from one another – all having to take their own university criteria, structures and credit ratings into account’. When the qualifications of the nine national awarding bodies are added to universities, variability seems likely to be unhelpfully large.

The panel has noted that the current arrangements are disproportionately concerned with formal teaching in colleges, neglecting much of the breadth and richness of the FE sector. We will invite witnesses from these areas of neglect to describe to us what they need to contribute fully to an ambitious and professional sector during the next stage of the review.

No comments:

Post a Comment