FE or not FE?

On Friday February 8th I attended an excellent consultation session on the proposed FE Guild.

It was excellent because the thirty or so people in attendance represented a very diverse sector and because there was a proper debate about who the guild is for and therefore what it should be called and how it should be constituted.

Our view was that the new organisation should be for the workforce in the adult learning and skills sector.  If it is to get early traction and credibility it must be an alliance – representing practitioners with different roles and embracing teachers, trainers, tutors, coaches, assessors and outreach workers. It must be inclusive and engage specialist areas of work such as family or offender learning and it must be able to engage owner entrepreneurs and SMEs.  It must have all the attributes of a proper professional body and could have both an individual and corporate member offer. Indeed without both it is hard to see how standards can be set and met.

We much preferred the title to include the word alliance rather than a ‘guild’ which has historical and perhaps misleading connotations. We also preferred a broader terminology rather than FE which could convey a predominance of FE College influence.  Furthermore we did not agree that the new body should be restricted to organisations funded by the SFA.  Clearly funding will change in the future and many new players will enter the field. It is in everyone’s interest if they subscribe to the same professional standards and behaviours.  Smaller operators also have the most to gain from becoming members.

We agreed that the proposed organisation would ‘develop, recognise and enhance the professionalism of the workforce and the sector’ ( quote from the consultation document issued by AoC, NIACE and the AELP ).  We spent some time discussing what members will most need including professional advice and support, on-going CPD, networks and online resources.  Our visual image of the new body was a hybrid of the HE Academy and the Open University.  We also supported the idea of the new body investing in R&D and promoting and sharing international best practices. We also thought the new Alliance should be prepared to accredit learning using the QCF framework and to provide shared services.

All of the above will ensure the new body adds value and builds on the legacy of LSIS which many of us have valued.  Such a compelling service offer would also help to build a self-sustaining business model over the medium term.  In terms of corporate governance we would like learners, practitioners and employers to be represented at the most senior levels and for the collective alliance to therefore speak out about the issues which may compromise the professionalism of the sector, promoting quality and standards. There is understandable and real concern that without such a body we could see competition driving standards downwards and practitioners being squeezed between a rock and a hard place. There is nothing worse for professionals than wanting to do a good job and then not having the resources or the respect from the wider community to be truly effective.  If this is the central purpose of the new body whatever it is called it will be warmly welcomed.

Access to high quality learning is vital to sustain economic growth.

If you think competence is expensive, try incompetence.

Ruth Profile


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