New FE proposals on teacher training have been formulated by the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) and are up for consultation. Toni Fazaeli, chief executive at the Institute for Learning (IFL), looks at what a newly-qualified teacher or trainer needs to know.

We welcome the LSIS consultation on qualifications for new teachers and trainers. We especially welcome the consultation period, as there is important work still to do.

We are passionate about high-quality teaching — our object is to promote this through individual professional body membership, and our members firmly believe in teaching and training being at least a level five profession, as evidenced in our recent survey, to which more than 5,000 practitioners responded.

Teaching in FE and skills, like other professions, has clear expectations of standards, and qualifications for entry and early years of practice.

It is a second or parallel career for most practitioners, and their young and adult learners deserve to be taught by dual professionals, proven experts who have recent work experience in their field.

The average age of entry to teaching in FE and skills is around 37 — that’s 10 years older than for entrants to school teaching.

Teaching is a profession. To continue attracting high-calibre new entrants it must be, and be seen to be, a step up professionally. Initial training must enjoy public confidence and recognition.

Learners expect and deserve expert teaching that makes the best use of their talents, and does not waste their time or commitment. Do the proposals put forwards by LSIS, in line with the Lingfield review, offer the right suite of qualifications? Is the central focus on what is right and best for young and adult learners?

On the plus side, the LSIS proposals convey that it is a given that initial qualifications matter. The new specialist qualification for teaching disabled learners is long overdue – recognition of this is a positive development. Retaining specialist qualifications for teachers of English, maths and ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) is right.

The average age of entry to teaching in FE and skills is around 37 — that’s 10 years older than for entrants to school teaching.

The big question for us all during the consultation period is what do good newly-qualified teachers or trainers need to understand, know and offer their learners? We will be exploring this – and whether the standards need reviewing – with our members, as well as the next level and more technical questions about qualification design.

It is good that the consultation spans late November when Sir Michael Wilshaw’s annual report will be published, as Ofsted’s views on the quality of teaching and learning across FE and skills need to inform teacher qualifications. Will the quality of teaching staying the same be acceptable, and might it be essential to consider ramping initial teacher qualifications up rather than down?

When considering developments in our sector, it often helps to look at parallel worlds. A proposal to halve the size and breadth of initial qualifications for doctors, engineers, nurses or schoolteachers would spark a public debate.

The proposal to halve the diploma qualification from 120 to 60 credits – this will include specialist teachers of English, maths, Esol and disabled learners – lacks rationale.

Presumably somebody thinks newly qualified teachers are over-skilled and so need half the amount of training? If so, where is the evidence?

FE routinely supports young and adult learners who did not fare well in their initial education, so newly qualified teachers need to be adept at enabling learners to overcome problems and make rapid progress.

There is a danger that reducing initial teacher education for FE and skills will prove a false economy.

Most individuals moving into teaching in FE will have earned more in their original field. While not a focus of the consultation, IfL believes that trainee teachers must be supported through bursaries and grants, as those entering the routes to school teaching are. We agree with LSIS that the economy and society depend on learners in FE being well taught and trained — they are our country’s future.

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