A qualified workforce?

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30 January 2015 by ATL
Why a qualified workforce? Is this a question we should even be posing?

Does it make sense to talk of an unqualified workforce? How is it that teaching in FE colleges or academies, independent schools and universities, are free of regulation concerning qualifications for teaching?

In the case of independent schools and universities one can say there is an independence from the state in the former and a long established tradition of professional commitment in the latter.

The real thrust of the work in HE is research and publications. But FE institutions, unlike academies, are places of learning and development of new skills and study techniques for young and old alike. They are also, of course, places of training.

This may explain why there have been around 15 interventions into teacher qualifications since 1996. The relation between skills and academic knowledge has never been easy in the English education system and the divide between academic and vocational still holds. It has even been entrenched during Michael Gove’s period as secretary of state.

We cannot ignore the wider context that FE is placed within.

On the one side, FE relates to schools who have a deepening academic route being promoted and, yet, at the same time, an aspiration for higher level vocational and STEM subjects and apprenticeships on the other.

How is FE to cope with such demands with a deregulated workforce? A deregulated workforce lacks certain capacities, surely such as: confidence, ethos, the building of a collective expertise?

And it would also lack a voice around pedagogy and curricula, around entry requirements and assessment techniques. And the thorny questions of classroom observations and how to prepare for Ofsted.

Do employers have the capacity and leadership to meet such diverse aims? Is there not needed an educational understanding of how learning takes place in the workplace, how expertise is passed on in vocational courses, before we make the leap to putting employers in charge?

There is a dialogue needed, but it is not just a political one about control of educational targets and purpose, it is about the very core of what a balanced curriculum would look like. I think a regulated professional workforce is the backbone of that approach.

Dr Mary Bousted is speaking at A Qualified Workforce? This is the first in a series of FE stakeholder events to debate the issues facing the sector as we approach the general election.

For updates, keep an eye on #ShapeFE.

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