September 13, 2008

Institute For Learning

Institute For Learning

This morning I had yet another missive from the irritating government police force for the FE sector the Institute for Learning. It is the sort of thing that gets government run organisations a bad name. It requires me to re-register for an organisation which I registered for by force only a few months ago. What kind of waste of money is that, as well as my valuable time?

The introductory blurb to this government inspired and controlled organisation provides the usual drivel about "stakeholders". Now I don't have a problem at all with the incorporation of "stakeholders" when it comes to planning for example. The sort of thing which Patsy Healy writes about. The concept of the stakeholder here is a notion that planning decisions concern large numbers of people and there must be due process, consultation and transparency. This developsa very Habermassian notion of the public sphere.

The Insitute for Learning states that it is  a professional organisation organised along the following lines:

We are run by a Council, over half of which is elected from the membership.

We are supported by a wide variety of stakeholders across the sector. Please see our Stakeholders Details page.

Now just consider a true profession, dentists, doctors, planners, engineers, lawyers all have their own professional organisations to which they subscribe and which are self-regulating. None of these will be run by stakeholders and none of them will be run by government sponsored cronies who happen to subscribe to the government discourse of the day. Now check for yourself whether RIBA or the BMA for example is 50% run by non-Architects and non-Doctors. You will notice that there is none of that waffle about "stakeholders" here".

Even more importantly you will notice that these are truly professional organisations maintained and operated by the practitioners to develop and oversee and represent the profession as a whole. Now the IfL simply is not that kind of organisation. It is not operating in the interests of the profession it is operating in the interests of the government. The fact that only around half the ruling council is elected by the membership as absolutely apalling. It is not for industry, parents or anybody else to try and control practitioners about how they practice it is for practitioners to do this. It is one thing for professional bodies to consult with other stakeholders it is quite another to be run by them.

Continuing Professional Development

Now I don't have a problem at all with the concept of continuing professional development. It is clearly very important. Knowledge is always moving in whatever sphere of practice one is in and it is important to try and keep abreast of developments. The fact that I do this blog, researching its content, and learning how to manage and develop it more than satisfies by a considerable margin any demands for the tokenistic 30 hours a year for a full-timer demanded by the IfL (read government). Furthermore I have got lots of bits of paper accreditation. Lee Davis the "Operations Manager" of the IfL explains CPD quoting David Blunkett at length:

Why is professional development important? After all we have completed our teacher training and are recognised as being qualified to do the job we are employed to do. When I first started to respond to this question I quoted David Blunkett, who made the case for the continuous professional development by comparing teaching with other professions. Nobody expects a doctor, accountant or lawyer to rely for decades solely on the knowledge, understanding and approach which was available at the time when they began their career. Good professionals are engaged in a journey of self-improvement, always ready to reflect on their own practice in the light of other approaches. This is certainly true of the very best of our teachers...”

Please believe that I hadn't read this before starting this posting. What do I find? The example of doctors, accountants, lawyers being cited by Blunkett.   There is though a significant difference between teachers and lecturers in the FE sector and the aforementioned professionals.  All these practitioners are run by self-governing bodies!  Another significant difference is that members of these fully established professions are paid significantly more than the Cinderella section of education! Large numbers of people I work with do other work to generate the income. You don't see lawyers and doctors needing to have "Key-Worker status" to find somewhere to live! Certainly large numbers of people working in the sector are not paid according to their paper accreditation.

funding continuing Proffesional Development

Most colleagues that I know would really like to participate in a professional development course tailored by them. As practitioners we are probably more aware of change in subject areas and potential shortcomings in our knowledge / skills base than anybody else. If the government was genuinely interested in in developing a properly professional stance within the sector (they obviously don't think there is one at present) they would seek practioner advice.

For myself I would like to see the government fund individual training programmes for one week courses which are suited to specific subject areas. Each lecturer should be given a specific budget allocation which can be administered by their own employer. This should be used each year. This should also mean that a specific time after summer exams is set aside for training purposes.

A proper week long course with no other concerns would be an extremely productive time. As one would be likely to be doing it in the company of other practitioners there would be a highly productive cultural milieu established. As it is, there are training budgets but frequently one day courses which may well be very good in themselves are often too short for longer-term learning to take place.

Should Lecturers Have an Independent Professional Organisation?

Yes is the short answer with the emphasis on independent. Perhaps those people who are practitioners on the IfL Council could use their previous knowledge to put in place the bones of a properly democratic structure, because I don't remember being asked to vote for them!

The IfL so Far

It seems like a product of governmental box-ticking control freakery. It is neither democratic, nor independent, nor is it likely to achieve maximum effectiveness in terms of its core aim of maintaining and developing professional development at the deeper levels needed.

Lets organise ourselves discuss our CPD needs and get the government to fund it. The trouble is, the government clearly doesn't trust us otherwise there wouldn't be threatening things like 'you might lose your teaching licence' if you don't re-register. You already treat the sector badly, and the crass managerialist discourse which has taken over is a de-professionalisation. The IfL is yet another police-dog not to be taken seriously in terms of its intent. We want professional pay and conditions and we want to be treated as autonomous and serious people not pushed around thanks!

Oh and while I'm at it I wish to be associated with EDUCATION not Learning and Skills. As Goering was heard to say "everytime I hear the word skills I reach for my pistol".

- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Norman

    I agree with all of the above. It particularly irritates me that the Ifl constantly mentions how the government is funding our membership. Why do they fund it? – maybe it is fear that the Ifl would be simply ignored by hard-pressed and underpaid teachers. It is also clear that this is just for now: as soon as everyone is locked in so that you can’t teach without Ifl membership they will stop funding it and we will pay. I would only support this type of compulsory membership if it was run ONLY by teachers wholly for the profession’s benefit. Overall this actually looks like another stick to beat teachers with and fits well with the rest of the government’s efforts to de-professionalise the sector: removing responsibility from teachers, enforcing one closed style of learning – teaching as training (yes – just like doggies at Cruft’s and with similarly bizarre outcomes) not education – open, discursive and exploratory. Hrrumph – now what else shall I complain about?...

    20 Sep 2008, 11:51

  2. Thanks for these thoughts Norman good to see that concern is beginning to be expressed. My understanding is that the FE lecturers Union UCU is currently committed to supporting this government led initiative. Rather than thinking of something else to complain about right now lets get union members to start questioning this support at branch level with the intention to revoke it.

    The more people and organisations refuse to play the government game and develop their own agenda the better.

    Your comments about cloning teachers and homogenising learning styles reminds me of the days of the White Lion Free School –,M1
    Wheels in the Head: Educational … – Google Book Search

    20 Sep 2008, 15:59

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