FE Guild could become a new body responsible for professional standards

The Government is poised to set up a new professional body for further education, a document leaked to FE Week reveals.

The Further Education Guild would act as a “focal point” for ministerial efforts to promote professionalism in the sector, including taking on aspects of the regulation of lecturers through setting professional standards and codes of behaviour.

The Guild would also develop qualifications and support and promote continuing professional development (CPD).

The Guild and an associated proposal to develop a new “Chartered Community College” grade for institutions appear to be part of Government moves to a new professional landscape for FE in which staff will no longer be required to be qualified teachers.

The Guild plan is set out in a paper presented last week to the Further Education and Skills Ministerial Advisory Panel at a meeting chaired by the FE minister John Hayes. The panel makes recommendations to the Government.

“FE Week has now also learned that Lord Lingfield’s final report, initially scheduled for publication this month, has been put back until early autumn.

The document is being seen as a response to Lord Lingfield’s review of professionalism in the sector, which produced an interim report in April recommending the scrapping of compulsory registration with the Institute for Learning and an end to the requirement for lecturers to be qualified teachers.

Sources say it is an attempt to offer something in response to criticism of the deregulation move in Lingfield.

FE Week has now also learned that Lord Lingfield’s final report, initially scheduled for publication this month, has been put back until early autumn.

an overarching body with end to end responsibility for professionalism and vocational education across the sector”

The document, “Developing an FE Guild” was written by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) civil servant Jonathan Yewdall and presented to a meeting of the panel, which includes representatives from stakeholder bodies across FE, on Tuesday last week (10th July).

It says: “Reflecting current thinking about modern guilds, key functions and features of an FE Guild are likely to include:

“Acting as an overarching body with end to end responsibility for professionalism and vocational education across the sector, including to own professional standards and codes of behaviour for members; develop appropriate qualifications for people working in the sector through which people can progress; support  individual, subject specific and corporate CPD; [and] support employer recognition of professionalism.”

The Guild would offer institutional and individual membership, says the paper, both of which would be on a voluntary basis.

However, individuals and colleges would be given incentives to join, in that corporate membership of the Guild would be a key criterion for an institution qualifying as a “Chartered Community College” (see separate article).

Individuals would have an incentive to join, too, it says, as the training courses the Guild provided would be linked to higher level qualifications.

The document, which says the Guild would provide a “single, collective focus for raising standards of professionalism and being a custodian of excellence”, would be an “employer-led partnership drawing in employee representative organisations and sector bodies concerned with workforce development”.

The paper also raises questions as to whether the Guild would have any role in lecturers’ pay and conditions and whether it would have any role to play in handling unprofessional conduct complaints by individuals and institutions.

The Hospitality Guild, which was set up last year for the hotel and catering sector with funding from the Government’s £34 million Growth and Innovation Fund, is being seen as a model for the FE version.

The document does not represent finalised Government policy but sources at the meeting said there was no disagreement voiced among attendees. One source said: “There was widespread consensus that it would be worth pursuing both options, and this is something that is being taken forward. It’s very much John Hayes’s baby.”

Another source said, however, that the document raised many questions, including how a Guild would co-exist with current organisations including the Learning and Skills Improvement Service.

Full details are still to be finalised but an announcement is expected in the autumn, possibly at the annual conference of the Association of Colleges in November.

Participants in the meeting did not want to comment on the record.

BIS was also keeping tight-lipped about the proposals. “We don’t comment on leaks,” said a spokeswoman.

The interim Lingfield review said its final report would be published in July 2012, but the spokeswoman said the “evidence gathering for the final report” would be finished this month, with the final Lingfield report itself coming out in “early autumn.”