Ministers have chosen further education as the testing ground for new competency-based teaching qualifications.
The Department of Employment and the Department for Education are paving the way for the development of higher level National Vocational Qualifications for FE lecturers, in a move which could also have implications for teaching staff in higher education and schools.
They have instructed the new Further Education Development Agency to take the first steps towards the creation of an education lead body which will spell out the skills lecturers are expected to have. The FEDA is to carry out an employment mapping exercise, the standard preliminary work before the formation of a new lead body.
Stephen Crown, FEDA chief executive, said ministers had clearly decided the FE sector was ready for a new teacher training qualifications framework.
"The FE sector has been working towards more competency-based standards for teachers for a while. We need to build on that experience," he said.
Department of Employment sources suggested this week that the move might prepare the ground for competency teacher qualifications in higher education and schools.
Two years ago similar efforts to set up an education lead body met with strong resistance from both sectors, and from DFE officials. But the competency movement has been given a boost by education secretary Gillian Shephard, who championed NVQs during her time as secretary of state for employment.
Ministers will be keeping a close eye on the outcome of a recently-launched consultation exercise by the new Teacher Training Agency on using profiles of competences for newly-qualified teachers and similar competency-based projects in the higher education sector, alongside the FEDA's work.
Ruth Gee, chief executive of the Association for Colleges, called for a strategy to "re-professionalise" FE lecturers, She proposes "profiling" of lecturers' competencies and professional attributes, with an accreditation framework offering verification from certificate to masters levels.