From education to employment

Will the real teacher please step forward

There are days in the world of FE when the bureaucracy of systems and approaches start to wear me down. Why you ask? Well, in this week alone, I have been notified about the significant increase in fees for potential PGCE students of the future, I have received a letter from one of the major trade unions regarding the Institute for Learning and I have also interviewed somebody for a teaching post who at face value seems student focused, dynamic and entrepreneurial, but doesn’t have a teaching qualification. If I take this candidate on, can I or they afford the fees for them to become a “qualified” teacher?

It is an interesting conundrum and reminds me of a programme on television last Christmas where a famous chef had to choose the best tasting turkey, and was highly embarrassed when he chose the budget brand. I never fully understood why he was so embarrassed … quality first or, excuse the pun, are we all turkeys? There is a key message here, however, and that is that the Government must support Further Education in identifying how to source the most able teachers and to encourage them into the profession. I am reminded of an event many years ago when I observed a lecturer teaching a rather challenging group of male learners.

“What are we going to discuss today lads?” was the challenge.

“Sex, sir”, was the reply.

The teacher’s response of “Actually I wanted to talk about something you know about” took a few seconds to register, and then the mirth broke out. More importantly the teacher had sourced the attention of the group and learning ensued!

I am conscious that I am full of anecdotal stories this week, but perhaps it’s because it’s almost time to have a fortnight off – the mind wanders and I may be in danger of losing focus. The reality is that I now need to look at the on-costs of learning because I have decided that if I am to put the learner first – and I passionately believe in that – then I will have to invest in supporting my new entrant to the profession. The applicant has plenty of experience in the vocational area, had a good rapport with the students in the teaching practice session but does need to be helped in teaching methodologies and approaches. You thought I was going to dismiss the professional teaching qualification didn’t you? Actually quite the converse – I want the very best for my learners so I have to ensure the teaching is outstanding.

“Ah,” you say, “he’s in to Ofsted speak now.” Actually I am not, but it has just dawned on me that not only does my College have to deliver more for less with enhanced quality, but it may now have to fully fund the teacher training for some staff. We work very closely with our local university in terms of delivery of teacher training and the standard PGCE/Cert Ed is delivered alongside CTTLs and DTTLs. I want a better deal now if I am paying in terms of a qualification which is even more hands on, but less time consuming and costly. Another conundrum for the FE world but perhaps a glimmer of hope for the future.

So what’s the message to the outside world? The design of teacher training has to change, the role of Colleges will most definitely alter and can we please have some common sense with regard to registration? Meanwhile to the thousands of dynamic and entrepreneurial lecturers and teachers out there, have a good summer break and recharge the batteries – I have a feeling we will need them.

Paul Phillips is principal and chief executive of Weston College, Weston-super-Mare

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