Every learner in the English FE and skills sector deserves to be taught by qualified teachers and trainers — and that the right should remain in law, says Toni Fazaeli

The issue of teaching qualifications has been in the news again, following Stephen Twigg’s announcement that if Labour wins the next election, all teachers will need formal teaching qualifications or will need to gain them within two years.

In his speech, the shadow education secretary said that high-quality teaching was the most important factor in improving education.

The 2007 regulations requiring teachers and trainers in FE and skills to have teaching qualifications have been retained, for the time being, following a government consultation last year. The Institute for Learning’s response to the consultation drew on the views of more than 5,300 members, and their overwhelming support for initial teacher training and qualifications was echoed in the responses from other individuals and organisations throughout the sector.

It is possible that the government will choose to deregulate, so that employers can decide on whether they require teaching qualifications. I have, however, heard of no other profession where the government is thinking of removing a national requirement for initial training and qualifications. In fact, the coalition recently dropped proposals to remove the current requirement for street works operatives and supervisors to hold specific qualifications, following a consultation in which a number of concerns were raised, especially about the potential for a drop in standards of workmanship.

I hope that the government will listen to the case for requiring teachers and trainers in FE and skills to be qualified too. Does the quality of teaching matter less than the quality of roads?

More than four million 14 to 19-year-olds and adults are educated and trained through the English FE and skills system each year. They include those studying for A-levels on the way to higher education; young and adult apprentices; adults receiving specialised training in the workplace; and some of the most vulnerable people in society —  those with learning difficulties; adult and young offenders; and those for whom education has been a closed book.

Every one of them deserves to be taught by professional teachers and trainers, and that right to be taught by qualified teachers should remain in law.

If we are to attract the brightest and the best industry experts, we must be able to demonstrate that teaching and training in FE is a respected step up professionally”

The law is in the public interest; is not unduly restrictive; and is tailored for our sector: new teachers or trainers have up to a year to gain a short preparatory teaching qualification and up to five years to gain a teaching qualification. This gives time and flexibility for industry experts entering teaching to become dual professionals — and, if a person teaches fewer than 28 hours a year, there is no requirement in law to become a qualified teacher.

It is in the public interest that tomorrow’s engineers, accountants, technicians, mechanics, plumbers, chefs and healthcare workers are taught by teachers who know their specialist subject well and have good teaching skills too.

It may be tempting to employ unqualified teachers to drive costs down, but it is a false economy. Who thinks the decision about doctors, nurses, surgeons and paramedics being qualified should be left to individual hospitals? The FE and skills sector’s ability to make its important contribution to the well-being of our nation’s economy and society relies on the quality and professionalism of its teachers and trainers.

And if we are to attract the brightest and the best industry experts, we must be able to demonstrate that teaching and training in FE is a respected step up professionally, with good initial teacher training to support this second professionalism.

A national requirement for teachers and trainers to complete initial teacher training and be qualified is in the national interest and the interests of a highly regarded FE and skills sector — in my view just as much, and some may even argue more so, than road operatives.

Toni Fazaeli, chief executive,
Institute for Learning