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Allison O'Sullivan - ‘The Cinderella Sector’ – Going to the Ball?

Initial Teacher Training Qualifications for Further Education Lecturers/Teachers in Wales

Alison osulivan article imageIn April this year the status of Welsh Further Education (FE) teachers/ lecturers was publicly acknowledged through their registration with the Education Workforce Council (EWC). This places them in line with Welsh school teachers and was a positive move to raise the professional standing of those who teach in FE colleges.

However, it also raises an important question:

What teaching qualifications do FE lecturers/teachers hold to ensure that they are adequately equipped to teach in this dynamic environment?

And, at present, there is no simple answer.

In recent years both English and Welsh FE initial teacher training (ITT) has been subject to numerous government interventions which have led to a confused picture (as illustrated)

England Wales
1997–1999: DfES consultation on introduction of standards and qualifications for FE teachers.  
1999: Formation of FENTO and publication of the national occupational standards.  
2001: Statutory instrument
New teachers required to gain a teaching qualification based upon approved national standards (FENTO).
Ofsted given responsibility for inspection
2002: Subject specifications for teachers of adult literacy, numeracy and ESOL. 2002: Statutory instrument: New teachers required to gain a teaching qualification
2003: Publication of the critical HMI national survey on the initial training of FE teachers and DfES consultation on future reforms  
2004: Publication by DfES of Equipping our Teachers for the Future – reforming initial teacher training for the learning and skills sector  
2005: DfES pilots – subject mentoring, observation of teaching practice and so on. The LLUK and SVUK replace FENTO  
2006: Publication of LLUK standards for teachers in the learning and skills sector. Publication of draft criteria for the award of CETT status. Publication by DfES - Professionalisation of the Learning and Skills Sector announcing plans for a compulsory CPD requirement for FE teachers.  
2007: Publication of LLUK mandatory units of assessment for ITT (England). Regulations introduced by DIUS (Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills) introducing QTLS and a compulsory CPD requirement. First member joins professional body the Institute for Learning (IfL) 2007: Publication of New overarching professional standards for teachers, tutors and trainers in the lifelong learning sector in Wales.
2008: Implementation of reforms – ITT providers go through SVUK endorsement

and commence teaching and assessing ITT qualifications based upon the new LLUK standards and assessment units.

2008: ITT providers go through SVUK endorsement and commence teaching and assessing ITT qualifications based upon the new overarching professional standards.
2010 – Collation Government Elected 2011 - Welsh Labour Government elected
2011: Abolition of LLUK and SVUK  
2012: Revocation of the 2007 Regulations.  
2013: Creation of the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) – with responsibility for setting professional standards and codes of behaviour, and develop qualifications.  
2014: IfL creases to operate and its legacy passed to ETF. 2014: Consultation of Wider Workforce regulations.
  2015: Education Workforce Council created as an independent regulator

The most recent legislation requiring Welsh FE teachers/lecturers to be teacher-trained goes back some thirteen years. The then National Assembly for Wales introduced Statutory Instrument 2002, No.1663 which required that all FE teachers should to be qualified by completing a ‘recognised’ ITT qualification.

However, whilst the FE landscape has changed - the legislation has not. Today, there is no clear government definition of what is meant by a ‘recognised’ ITT qualification.

During the last thirteen years Welsh Government has cherry picked and adapted some of England’s reforms – for example, the requirement for Welsh FE ITT providers to map their individual qualifications against the Overarching professional standards for teachers, tutors and trainers in the lifelong learning sector in Wales (LLUK 2007) and have their provision endorsed by Standards Verification UK (SVUK), which was a subsidiary of Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK) came to an abrupt end in 2013.

By contrast, English FE ITT was subject to significant government scrutiny over the same period. FE teachers and ITT providers have been constrained by external controls and regulations which did little to improve the professional status of FE teachers. Successive governments used professionalism to impose bureaucratic control, through external regulation on those that that teach in the sector. The increasing tension between the sector and government resulted in the publication of Lord Lingfield’s report in October 2012 ‘Professionalism in Further Education’. The publication of the report was greatly anticipated as it was hoped it would improve FE teacher’s professional standing after years of state control and intervention.

However the report’s recommendations came as a shock to the sector - but were immediately accepted by the Collation Government, removing the legal requirement for English FE teachers/lecturers to hold a teacher training qualification, with discretionary advice to colleges on appropriate qualifications for staff.

Welsh Government has adopted a markedly different approach, through the creation, in April 2015, of EWC as an independent regulator.

So, in Wales, what is the current situation?

Since the demise of LLUK in 2013, Welsh Universities have been working collectively in partnership with their FE College partners to offer a suite of FE ITT qualifications ranging from level 5 to level 7 to meet the requirement to provide highly qualified teaching staff. Currently the majority of Welsh FE colleges encourage their teachers/lecturers to hold a Post/Professional Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) or a Certificate in Education (Cert Ed). Within this curriculum framework, Universities have the flexibility to build on best practice to promote practitioner research and innovate practices, which have received high praise from the sector.

In Wales we now have a unique and exciting opportunity to build on these areas of outstanding practice, to inform future developments and address national education priorities.

Moreover it would seem appropriate, following the publication of John Furlong’s report ‘Teaching Tomorrow’s Teachers’ in March of this year, that any developments of new professional ‘standards’ for initial teacher training should encompass FE ITT with providers subject to the new accreditation procedure, in line with their primary and secondary ITT colleagues.

This would provide a ‘seamless’ teaching workforce for all learners, irrespective of whether they are studying at school or in a Further Education college; it would also place college teachers/lecturers on an equal footing with school teachers.


Allison O’Sullivan

Allison O’Sullivan is a Principal Lecturer within the School of Social Science and Education at Glyndwr University. After graduating, Allison worked in retail management for a large national company, working throughout the UK. After qualifying to teach she spent a considerable amount of time working in the Post Compulsory sector, teaching business studies and working with local schools on progression projects. She then made the transition to teaching Initial Teacher Training and CPD programmes.

Allison oversees the Post Compulsory Education provision at Glyndwr University and is Programme Leader for the Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) and the Certificate in Education (Cert Ed) with a particular focus on developing teacher trainees’ critical reflection.

Allison’s research interests are on the professional development of the wider education workforce. She is currently completing her Professional Doctorate, investigating the transitional development of Further Education Teachers.

In her spare time Allison likes to keep fit by exploring cycle routes in North Wales.