Labour manifesto pledge: Set a target that all FE teaching staff have a teaching qualification within five years
Sally Hunt argues FOR
The teacher shortage problem isn’t limited to schools – FE colleges are also feeling the pinch.
As well as addressing problems of low pay, endemic casualisation and mounting workloads, a key challenge for the next government will be to boost the status of further education teaching.
The government’s decision in 2013 to scrap the requirement for FE teachers to gain a formal teaching qualification was deeply disappointing.
The Labour party plans to reverse this if it comes to power. This move makes a lot of sense.
First, it recognises that teachers are dual professionals – as well as being subject specialists, they must be able to support different types of students with their learning.
Second, a renewed requirement for formal teaching qualifications would send a clear message about the importance of quality in FE delivery.
Third, it would keep FE in step with wider moves to ensure that teaching professionals are well qualified. Internationally, excellent education systems like Finland’s are supported by highly qualified vocational teaching workforces.
Crucially, Labour says its proposal will be backed up by additional funding. In a sector where staff have seen their pay decline by over 20 per cent in real terms since 2009, any new requirement for formal qualifications needs to be backed up with extra investment and mustn’t place any additional cost burden on individual teachers.
Labour’s commitment is a good start, then. But the next government’s approach to professionalism in FE shouldn’t stop with a formal qualification. In a fast-changing skills landscape, it’s vital that teachers are supported to refresh their skills and share knowledge throughout their careers, so they can remain at the cutting edge of both industrial innovation and pedagogical developments.
Sally Hunt is the general secretary of the UCU