From education to employment

Professional teaching and training is crucial to the nation’s economic and social ambitions

There is a strong consensus that, across the public sector, protecting and investing in the front line is the top priority. Further education and skills teachers and trainers – members of the Institute for Learning (IfL) – have an excellent vantage point on what really matters for the front line and for learners and employers, with whom they work closely, week in, week out. We will be seeking their views about responses to the Treasury’s nine important questions.

IfL has evidence from teachers and trainers on the importance of good teaching and learning for students and trainees, and why the very challenging, highly skilled and difficult job of teaching and training is a profession that deserves proper recognition; proper initial teacher training; proper ongoing professional development; and the support of a professional body.

It is worth remembering that about half the teachers and trainers in the sector are part time, and many work across several colleges and providers, so professionalism is a vital safeguard for highquality learning. It can reduce the need for detailed oversight or checking by management.

IfL already offers significant savings to the sector, including an electronic system, REfLECT, designed specifically to help teachers and trainers plan, record and review their continuing professional development (CPD). REfLECT also enables them to readily share aspects of the CPD with other teachers and trainers, and with their manager. Teachers and trainers speak for themselves, and more than 95,000 of them have chosen to use REfLECT as a benefit of IfL membership. They can use it on mobile phones, including through an iPhone application, to fit in with their busy timetables and while on the move. A growing number of colleges and providers are choosing to use REfLECT across their whole organisation – a major saving for them. IfL’s review of CPD showed that those using REfLECT demonstrated impact of CPD on their practice and for learners.

Because of its large membership, IfL has also been able to secure special price reductions with major hardware and software suppliers for members, so FE teachers and trainers are now eligible for discounts previously given only to schoolteachers.

IfL considers that high-quality, professional teaching and training in our sector:

  • Is the essential springboard to real opportunities and personal growth for all, which aligns with government priorities to boost the economy and strengthen society.

  • Is a public good, in Adam Smith’s terms, and needs public funding.

  • Is a challenging and highly skilled role that should be recognised for its valuable contribution to the economy and society, and funded accordingly. Teachers and trainers have to be dual professionals, expert in their subject or vocational area and in teaching and training methods that work effectively, with an extremely diverse range of learners. This needs investment and support so that teacher and trainers can keep up to date, and fulfil their crucial role in preparing young people and adults for tomorrow’s world and economy, not yesterday’s – and this gives economic value and good return on investment.

  • Addresses the learning needs of a very wide range of young people and adults, including those who are disadvantaged, those most in need, and those for whom initial education has not worked.

  • Is more cost-effective than learning provision in schools and higher education.

  • Can exploit new technologies for cost-effectiveness. Also, constant improvements to teaching and training practice through CPD minimises wasteful drop-out of learners and failure, and saves employers or society having to pick up the pieces and reinvest afterwards.

  • Is commonly delivered in partnership with businesses, local bodies and other learning institutions to meet local needs, provide local solutions and give individual people and their employers the learning they want or need.

  • Is carried out by colleges and a range of providers, many from the third sector, and through competitive tendering processes, to deliver against specific government priorities.

  • Works locally and is a major contributor to the local economy.

Teachers and trainers will have their own ideas about where and how savings and greater efficiencies might be created, as well as being able to pinpoint areas where there is no further scope for reductions.

In recession, we do not want to set in motion what economists call ‘downward multipliers’. IfL believes that we must avoid a destructive spiral of driving down costs; driving up teaching and training loads; and failing to support teachers and trainers in keeping up to date in their subjects and their practice. The consequence would be to drive out the modern, high-quality teaching and training that boosts the nation’s skills and knowledge. That would be an own goal.

Toni Fazaeli is the chief executive of the IfL, the professional body for more than 200,000 teachers, trainers, tutors and student teachers across the Further Education and Skills sector

Read other FE News articles by Toni Fazaeli:

Collaboration in action

The curious world of politics, further education and skills

What makes a brilliant teacher?

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