Teachers will no longer have the statutory obligation to register with the Institute for Learning (IfL) under plans revealed today by the government.

The news follows the release of recommendations in the interim report of the independent review of professionalism in the further education and skills sector, which was chaired by Lord Lingfield.

As a result of the recommendations, the government will “set in motion a formal process of consultation” with the “view” to taking away the obligation for teachers to sign up to the membership body, which has been a regulation since 2007 and is in place until September 2012.

The government will work with sector bodies, the IfL and other organisations directly affected by the review’s recommendations, before making a more detailed statement on its response and plans for implementation.

Minister for further education, skills and lifelong learning John Hayes said: “Moving away from an approach that enforces professionalism through regulation, to one that gives colleges and providers the freedom to decide how best to achieve high standards of teaching and learning is consistent with our policy of giving colleges freedom and power.

“It is also important that we empower staff to take responsibility for their own professional development – supported where they choose by voluntary professional body membership.”

A final report, which will consider professionalism more widely, will report in the summer.

The main recommendations from the interim report are:

  • Continued phasing out of state grant funding to the IfL, with support for professionalism among FE staff to be provided by the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) from September 2012
  • The last increment of transitional funding for the IfL should be used to refund part of the second year of fees paid by FE staff
  • Revocation of The Further Education Teachers’ Continuing Professional Development and Registration, England Regulations and The Further Education Teachers’ Qualifications, England, Regulations, replaced with largely discretionary advice to employers on appropriate qualifications for staff and continuous professional development
  • Simplification of and re-naming the in-service teaching qualifications
  • An appropriate government body should take on responsibility for keeping a register of staff who have been found guilty of gross misconduct by the authorities, so that they may be excluded from future employment in the FE sector.

Mr Hayes said: “With the benefit of this interim report, we can take the necessary steps to ensuring further education professionals are at the forefront of teaching excellence.”

The IfL, meanwhile, has confirmed it will again operate as a voluntary, professional membership organisation.

Toni Fazaeli, IfL’s chief executive, said: “IfL has done everything asked of it in terms of the regulations, and more: registering teachers and trainers; supporting teachers’ continuing professional development (CPD); conferring the professional licensed practitioner status of Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS); and undertaking additional research and development to support professionalism in the sector.

“The review’s report makes the mistake of conflating IfL with the regulations and in condemning the latter criticises IfL as if it were responsible for them. This is not the case. Governments make regulations and are responsible for ensuring that they are enforced.”

Sue Crowley, IfL’s elected chair, added: “Despite my grave concerns about the recommendation that initial teacher training should be optional, I am optimistic about the future of the teaching and training profession in further education and skills.

“This optimism is born of witnessing the expertise, deep professional commitment and resilience that teachers and trainers demonstrate in their practice, week-in, week-out, for the benefit of millions of young and adult learners.”

The University and College Union (UCU), which has campaigned against fees for membership to the IfL, has welcomed the news.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “We are pleased that the panel has recognised compulsory membership of the IfL is a bad move. We are also delighted that the relatively small number of people who did pay the fee will now be reimbursed.

“Boycotting the IfL was not a decision UCU members took lightly, but to be effective as a professional body it must enjoy the confidence of the majority of practitioners.

“Today’s recommendations are a vindication of the members’ boycott and we look forward to playing a full part in the review of professionalism in further education.”

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Jan Korscak

    The idea of a professional body which champions teaching and learning in FE remains a compelling one. The IfL was too remote, self-aggrandising and high-handed. It made little attempt to reflect the everyday working lives of FE teachers – the unmanageable workloads, excessive admin, benchmarks that did not reflect the diverse needs / backgrounds of the FE students, collapsing morale. Rather, the IfL peddled a kind of glossy professionalism that excelled in the rhetoric of ‘excellence’. There was little attempt to offer anything meaningful to the members – no sense of a genuinely reflective / critical professionalism. The reflect tool was burdensome and pointless. The IfL leadership were aware of the deep distrust of its membership but did little to address these concerns, including the democratic deficit at its heart. In effect, IfL became just another quango – one whose fat salaries ordinary teachers were expected to fund. Probably this was inevitable. IfL was wedded to a highly corporate idea of professionalism. But the hidden drivers in the report are clear: deregulation, localism, cost saving. Are we back in the days pre-IfL, when college managers will determine CPD, most of which will be focused on performing for Ofsted and unqualified teachers were recruited on increasingly sub-standard contracts? With senior college managers increasingly made up of accountants rather than educators, the educational tradition that shaped FE at its best is being occluded. We need a genuinely member-led, democratic professional body that can link an aspiration for ‘best practice’ to a critical engagement with the daily erosion of teacher professionalism in practice, whilst re-envisioning further education as a community resource.

    • Joel

      An excellent analysis Jan. IfL is probably dead, current movement little more than corpse twitching, but there are a few people inside it trying to salvage something from the mess in order to create something like you describe that is non-mandatory & democratic. Resignations of IfL leadership first necessary step I’d suggest.

  2. I am simply appalled by this. As a tutor of four years i was brought into the industry with the Ifl in already in place.

    I actually like the idea that QTLS mean something (a professional recognition) and that i belonged to governing body which maintained standards and put me on an equal footing with teachers.

    The thought that I wasted a year training for a dead qualification (DTTLS) fills me with anger. Because actually that is what this means… it’s a hard fought battle to get anybody in a teaching establishment to recognise DTLLS (or QTLS) as a worthwhile qualification as it’s hardly established and often unfairly compared with the PGCE.

    Once again this Jeeves and Wooster government are maiking a moutain out of a molehile. OK, the fees were a pain, and the CPD heavy handed.. but do we really want to go back to a system most people thing you’ve bumbled into teaching as a convinient stop-gap? I don’t. I chose to teach. I gained what i thought was a decent teaching qualification, went through QTLS – hoping one day we could have parity with school teachers and that government, employers and society would look more favourably on FE lecturers.

    The ill feeling towards the annual fee is not worth rewriting the script, it’s not worth the abolition of the Ifl and it certainly isn’t worth us being devalued by this totally hopeless bunch of coalision cut-throats that we have in Government. Wise-up people and do something about it!

    Think about it. Any revision will not be in FE lecturers interests will it?

    • Surely you determine whether your DTLLS qualification is a waste of time or not based on the course content and whether it helped you to become a better tutor. I knew that my PGCE was pointless when I did it and will be delighted to see it disappear or at best be replaced with a qualification that actually ensures that tutors are literate and numerate and have a decent grasp of their subjects. If IfL really has anything useful to offer then it will thrive as a voluntary organisation.

  3. Andrew

    I think that this is fantastic news. The IfL was a hideous white elephant which needed to be put out of its misery. I am glad that this government has actually listened to teachers on the front-line rather than swallowing the empty rhetoric of IfL. I am grateful that the democratic process has actually worked for once!

    • Jack Smethurst

      Democratic process? of course..! 🙂 waiting for the Government to consult with us to reach a sensible consensus and implement decisions via a democratic vote… becasue they always have the interests of teachers and lecturers at the heart of any policy change. GET REAL.

      • Andrew

        Yes, democratic process. I wrote several times to my local Member of Parliament objecting to the compulsory fee levied by the IfL. I felt (as a teacher) that the IfL provided me with absolutely nothing and I didn’t see why teachers should be forced to pay a further ‘tax on teaching’ for a nonexistent service. I have read the interim report and I am pleased that the IfL has been found to be completely unfit for purpose and has been made voluntary. If the organisation can’t be sustained via voluntary contributions then it should be wound up. Yes, that’s a democratic process!

        • Jennifer

          Oh Andrew!
          Get off your soap box and get real! All this report is aimed at is saving the government some money! I welcome having QTLS and the parity it should bring with QTS. I find Reflect easy to use and the professional formation process was easy to complete. I really valued having the opportunity to reflect on my progress in my teaching career to date.

  4. Andrew

    It may save the government some money… it will also save me £38 per year! You will still have the opportunity to reflect to your heart’s content Jennifer, but don’t expect other hard working teachers to pay for that privilege!

    • Saves you £38 perhaps. And i agree IfL had a long way to go before they could be called credible. But scrapping IfL was just one tiny little bit of a report with much bigger and more serious implications than a few quid in teachers’ pockets. A childish and narrow minded UCU campaign plus a government looking to save money (in this case by no longer having to underwrite initial teacher training because such courses can now be described as nonessential) and score a few easy points with the left has led to what pretty much entails at least a decade of progress undone.

  5. Annie

    If FE professionals value what the IfL provides,they can continue to be voluntary members. If the membership reverts to what it was before the days of coercion-backed-by-treat-of-sacking, every voluntary member will have to pay something over £ 1000 a year to keep the IfL’s £5 million-plus income rolling in. But that will no doubt be acceptable, as employers scramble to employ people with QTLS.

    A likely scenario? We shall see.

    • Definitely, ITT programme is vital for quality assurance learning, particularly if the teacher also holds a high grade in his subject specialist. Employers will still run after trained teachers.