FE training to get Pounds 100m windfall

May 26, 2000

Ministers and civil servants are awaiting Treasury approval to spend up to Pounds 100 million to introduce compulsory teaching qualifications in further education.

Lecturers' union leaders say education secretary David Blunkett and officials in his department are backing their call for investment in staff development to help address a recruitment and retention crisis and concerns over teaching quality in the sector.

The cash injection may follow the imminent conclusion of a consultation exercise on teaching standards in FE.

Standards developed by the FE National Training Organisation may be applied to a compulsory teaching qualification for all FE lecturers.

Ministers first signalled their support for compulsory qualified teaching status in FE two years ago, as it emerged that a high proportion of a growing army of part-time lecturers who were replacing laid-off full-timers were unqualified.

It is estimated that up to 60 per cent of part-time lecturers and 20 per cent of full-timers do not hold an FE certificate of education.

Mr Blunkett reiterated his concern over the issue at a meeting early this month with officials from lecturers' union Natfhe.

Sue Berryman, head of Natfhe's colleges department, said it appeared that ministers and civil servants were now just waiting for the go-ahead from the Treasury to pour millions of pounds into the Further Education Funding Council's standards fund.

Natfhe estimates it will cost at least Pounds 100 million to bring all FE lecturers up to the required standard, although it is difficult to estimate because there are no reliable figures on exactly how many lecturers there are.

Natfhe is hoping for an announcement from the lifelong learning minister Malcolm Wicks, when he addresses their annual conference on Saturday.

The union would like to see the creation of a professional teaching body for FE, similar to the Institute for Learning and Teaching in higher education.

Paul Mackney, Natfhe's general secretary, said Mr Blunkett was sympathetic to arguments that it was increasingly difficult to attract and retain teaching staff in FE as pay and conditions deteriorated in comparison with schools and industry.

As an additional measure, the government is understood to be considering the extension of teacher training bursaries worth up to Pounds 13,000 to graduates who are willing to train as FE lecturers.

Mr Mackney said: "If Mr Blunkett goes ahead with this, he will be sending a big signal that he is serious about the re-professionalisation of FE lecturing."

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