Government could remove obligation for teachers to register with IfL

Teachers will no longer have the statutory obligation to register with the Institute for Learning (IfL) under plans revealed today by the government.

The news follows the release of recommendations in the interim report of the independent review of professionalism in the further education and skills sector, which was chaired by Lord Lingfield.

As a result of the recommendations, the government will “set in motion a formal process of consultation” with the “view” to taking away the obligation for teachers to sign up to the membership body, which has been a regulation since 2007 and is in place until September 2012.

The government will work with sector bodies, the IfL and other organisations directly affected by the review’s recommendations, before making a more detailed statement on its response and plans for implementation.

Minister for further education, skills and lifelong learning John Hayes said: “Moving away from an approach that enforces professionalism through regulation, to one that gives colleges and providers the freedom to decide how best to achieve high standards of teaching and learning is consistent with our policy of giving colleges freedom and power.

“It is also important that we empower staff to take responsibility for their own professional development – supported where they choose by voluntary professional body membership.”

A final report, which will consider professionalism more widely, will report in the summer.

The main recommendations from the interim report are:

  • Continued phasing out of state grant funding to the IfL, with support for professionalism among FE staff to be provided by the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) from September 2012
  • The last increment of transitional funding for the IfL should be used to refund part of the second year of fees paid by FE staff
  • Revocation of The Further Education Teachers’ Continuing Professional Development and Registration, England Regulations and The Further Education Teachers’ Qualifications, England, Regulations, replaced with largely discretionary advice to employers on appropriate qualifications for staff and continuous professional development
  • Simplification of and re-naming the in-service teaching qualifications
  • An appropriate government body should take on responsibility for keeping a register of staff who have been found guilty of gross misconduct by the authorities, so that they may be excluded from future employment in the FE sector.

Mr Hayes said: “With the benefit of this interim report, we can take the necessary steps to ensuring further education professionals are at the forefront of teaching excellence.”

The IfL, meanwhile, has confirmed it will again operate as a voluntary, professional membership organisation.

Toni Fazaeli, IfL’s chief executive, said: “IfL has done everything asked of it in terms of the regulations, and more: registering teachers and trainers; supporting teachers’ continuing professional development (CPD); conferring the professional licensed practitioner status of Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS); and undertaking additional research and development to support professionalism in the sector.

“The review’s report makes the mistake of conflating IfL with the regulations and in condemning the latter criticises IfL as if it were responsible for them. This is not the case. Governments make regulations and are responsible for ensuring that they are enforced.”

Sue Crowley, IfL’s elected chair, added: “Despite my grave concerns about the recommendation that initial teacher training should be optional, I am optimistic about the future of the teaching and training profession in further education and skills.

“This optimism is born of witnessing the expertise, deep professional commitment and resilience that teachers and trainers demonstrate in their practice, week-in, week-out, for the benefit of millions of young and adult learners.”

The University and College Union (UCU), which has campaigned against fees for membership to the IfL, has welcomed the news.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “We are pleased that the panel has recognised compulsory membership of the IfL is a bad move. We are also delighted that the relatively small number of people who did pay the fee will now be reimbursed.

“Boycotting the IfL was not a decision UCU members took lightly, but to be effective as a professional body it must enjoy the confidence of the majority of practitioners.

“Today’s recommendations are a vindication of the members’ boycott and we look forward to playing a full part in the review of professionalism in further education.”