FE Guild go ahead for Association of Colleges

The Association of Colleges (AoC) has won government approval to “take forward” its proposals for an FE Guild.

The AoC’s winning bid for the guild, submitted with the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) and “key partners” at The Institute for Learning (IfL), had been in competition with proposals from The Independent College Partnership (ICP).

But FE Minister Mathew Hancock revealed that he had given the AoC the green light today at the launch of Lord Lingfield’s Professionalism in Further Education review.

“We have asked the Association of Colleges to take forward their partnership’s proposals for a guild that will support and enhance the professional standing of those who teach in further education, and I look forward to working with them to develop these,” said the Tory MP, speaking at East London’s Building Crafts College.

The guild plan was initially set out in a paper presented to the FE and skills ministerial advisory panel at a meeting chaired by former FE Minister John Hayes around four months ago.

But even then the idea was 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 IfL and an end to the requirement for lecturers to be qualified teachers.

Martin Doel, AoC chief executive, said: “We look forward to taking forward proposals with AELP, on behalf of a wide range of partners, to form a guild.

“We think the combination of a guild and an FE covenant represents a very powerful means by which increasing professionalism might be further developed as a partnership across the FE sector between employers and employees.

“However, in order to endure and succeed, the guild will need time and space in which to develop and there will need to be clear agreement on what the guild is, what it does — and will not do — and how it relates to the existing organisations in FE.

“It will need to build on and complement the achievements of those organisations already involved in professional development in the sector.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said no timescale had been set for the guild to be set up.

Graham Hoyle, chief executive of AELP, said: “Together with the AoC and other partners, we have high ambitions for the Guild working with colleges and independent providers to make the UK have the best FE and skills system in the world.

“One of the strengths of the bid is the aim to develop teaching and learning skills that will go beyond the traditional classroom based model, which will enable the sector’s workforce to operate across the full range of ages and qualification levels.

“The FE Guild will have a clear remit to promote and sustain links with business both nationally and locally so that the sector becomes increasingly the provider of choice for more employers.

“We also believe that the guild can add value by attracting members from outside the core BIS-sponsored provider group.

“We will develop benefits and services which will aim, for example, to attract non-state funded trainers and training organisations.”

The IfL’s chief executive, Toni Fazaeli, said: “We welcome the report’s references to a recognisable professional identity across further education and skills. We agree that teachers and trainers need greater flexibility to explore and make a creative and innovative contribution to professional excellence.

“We are pleased to be a key partner in the proposal led by the AoC and the AELP to run the new FE Guild.”

Lord Lingfield, working with an expert panel, was commissioned by the government to look at raising standards and professionalism in the FE sector.

Their conclusions include the endorsement of a guild to enhance the status of the sector by providing a single body to set professional standards and codes of behaviour, as well as develop qualifications.

They also recommend that high performing colleges and providers should be recognised and given more freedom with the independent and publicly recognisable award of chartered status.

In addition, they recommend that teachers of English and maths as well as those working with students with learning difficulties or disabilities should have specialist qualifications.

Chris Banks, ICP chair, said: “We are glad the Minister has decided to take forward the FE Guild. We wish all those involved with developing it success, because it’s an important opportunity for the sector and the country and we need to get it right.

“We do hope they will take the opportunity to do something innovative and effective that will enable more young people, adults and employers to experience outstanding FE and training.”