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Learning Skills Improvement Service Essay

In my position as a workshop trainer at Deerbolt young offenders’ institute, the education I deliver for The Manchester College as part of their Offender Learning is supported, monitored and shaped by various professional bodies.

The purpose of these bodies or sector skills councils vary however they all have a common goal in ensuring and enriching the quality of education being delivered.

LSIS or the learning and skills improvement service are such a body who umbrella over every organisation that delivers qualifications throughout the country, and they do exactly what they say on the tin. LSIS improve quality, participation and increase standards in education and training. A lot of their work involves developing resources, implementing schemes, sharing delivery aids that improve quality and achievement and tailoring support to learners needs.

“Colleges and providers helped by LSIS improved by one inspection grade at their next inspection.” (LSIS [ND] [online])

LSIS don’t just support the educational improvements though; in 2010 they recognised The Manchester College as a Healthy FE college, healthy initiatives offered throughout the college like loyalty cards, gym memberships and better eating schemes aimed to improve the health of students and staff.

Another group that oversee our work as teachers is the professional body the IFL or the Institute for Learning. Their role is to register everyone practicing as a teacher or trainer in FE on to their database. They promote themselves as supporting professional excellence; they aim to increase the status of teachers as professionals, requiring a membership fee and proof of qualifications which is supported by the employer.

They also champion the importance of CPD and require members to provide evidence of this and their teaching hours each year. This is seen to keep standards of teaching high, and promote quality and teaching as a profession.

Until very recently this is how the IFL worked but due to the loss in government funding and teachers reluctantly to pay their own subscription the number of people renewing their subscription to the IFL fell by over half to just 85,000 signalling a loss of confidence in the body and an end to its presences.

For many teachers and trainers in FE it was seen as a welcomed downfall as many believed the IFL did nothing for them, however now this professional body has collapsed there is no one regulating the qualifications or standard required to teach in FE which may lead to competiveness for jobs and or poor standards of teaching and training. These developments seemingly leave only Ofsted in place to assess the quality and standards of colleges and the individual teachers.

“Ofsted would be made responsible for ensuring that FE teachers were appropriately qualified through inspections” (TES [30/03/2012] [Online])

However I see a huge flaw in this method of assessing quality and knowledge, not every Ofsted inspector can have the depth in knowledge of every subject of every teacher he or she is going to observe. For example if I am teaching bricklaying and I’m teaching unacceptable practices how is that inspector meant to know I am teaching the wrong methods? Surely the only way to overcome this problem is to have employed properly qualified teachers and trainers and not just people with some subject knowledge. Now that the IFL is a voluntary body the employers themselves have discretion over this matter.

Construction Skills is another organisation that oversee and support the vocational training we deliver in offender learning. They are a massive organisation and have a lot of different strands from providing qualifications, courses and assessment and training support through CSkills as an awarding organisation. They also developing courses and provide support and training to local businesses through being an industry training board.

In 2003 Construction Skills were awarded Sector Skills Council status, this allowed them to deliver valued support across the industry. Their main aims are to help reduce a shortage in specialise skills and help to bring a diverse workforce into the industry. They are also involved in improving business performance and developing professional standards for construction occupations both trade and professional.

The other area that they cover is probably most relevant to my work as a vocational trainer; they have a large input on the improvement of education for apprenticeships and higher and further education. They achieve this by awarding grants for training, providing businesses with advice on getting the best from their work force offering card schemes, recognised qualifications and helping to link college learning with on the job experience.

Professionalism

As teachers, trainers, tutors or whatever you what to call us in FE we all have more than one hat we wear that makes us a professional. The IFL although seemingly no more used to keep everybody who worked as a ‘teacher’ under the status of a professional. They did this by having in place the requirement to achieve QTLS or ATLS within five years of working within the education sector.

QTLS stand for qualified teacher learning and skills and ATLS associate teacher learning and skills. Everybody working as a teacher was required to register as one or the other of these statuses depending on your level of teaching qualification, the full Cert Ed being a level 5, I myself would have had to apply for QTLS status.

However the following quote suggests that very little teachers working in the sector today have taken out the required status of QTLS/ATLS.

“Only a small number of lecturers have become ‘fully qualified’ under the current arrangements: between 2,900 (GHK, August 2011) and some 6,000 (IfL submission, 2012). Whilst this number may rise as the five-year watershed approaches, some 85 per cent of FE lecturers have not embarked on the final supervised practice phase, following the diploma. We do not believe that so slight a result after such a long delay makes this qualification credible as a licence to practise which, properly speaking, should be earned before starting work, as it would be in other professions.” (Bis [03/2012] [Online])

By making this a requirement the IFL aimed at ensuring each individual teacher had the ability to work at the standards expected of a licenced practitioner. To meet this requirement you were expected to submit evidence of your teaching practice, subject and background knowledge, your continued professional development and your own reflective practice. I feel this was affair approach to the matter They may say the “licence to practice should be earned before starting work” but the profession of teaching is like no other. Its not really something you can learn out of a book you have to get out there and do it then reflect on it, prepare and do it again.

My personal two hats consist of my subject specialism, Carpentry and Joinery level 3 qualification, and hopefully in a couple of months my Cert Ed teaching qualification. Other training and development also comes into it, like holding a CSCS card, which is the Construction Skills Certificate Scheme. Another initiative that Construction Skills mentioned earlier are responsible for putting in place. It means you must hold a valid card to work on any building site in the country. To get a card you must pass a construction health and safety test, the cards also state on the back your profession and level of qualification. This is another method of keeping this industry safe, to required standards and professional.

“Professional formation allows teachers to describe how these standards are evidenced in their teaching practice, along with aspects of subject currency, teaching and learning, reflective practice and planning for continuing professional development.” (IFL [11/2008] [Online])

Professional formation isn’t just about your status or qualifications though. It’s a lot about your actions too. As professionals we are expected to present, conduct and discipline ourselves in a particular manor. However with this status we also have the benefits of being rewarded recognition for our work, enhancing collaborations, sharing good practices and having support and respect from our colleagues, colleges and partnering bodies.

The importance of engaging in CPPD

CPPD or Continuing Personal and Professional Development is something as professionals we should all be doing on a regular basis. It was a requirement of the IFL to record our CPPD hours each year and although a lot of teachers possibly never took this serious it is a good method of keeping in touch with current affairs and adapting to changing trends.

The key thing to remember is that this is not just about completing a list of activities undertaken during the year that add up to 6 or 12 or 30 hours. The time spent can be meaningless unless it makes a difference. (IFL [08/2009] [online])

Education is one such sector that never stands still, the requirement to change and reform is evident and we do this to keep things interesting, relevant and to continually push up standards.

From a personal point of view, if I’m teaching my subject specialism I want to be a fountain of knowledge in it, I think it’s important to have good subject knowledge and as I have been out of the trade a couple of years now this is something I aim the address on completion of the Cert Ed.

I will look at gaining further qualifications in my subject, or maybe completing an assessor’s award. I have even considered going back to construction site work to gain further experience and update my knowledge. Ideally being out in the field working on actual jobs with students would be the perfect scenario for continually developing myself and I feel this would also benefit the learners immensely.

As for CPPD in my teaching, I aim to complete all training events offered, for example we had smart board training at work the other day. I also aim to relish being thrown in at the deep end which regularly happens as a cover tutor. I’m lucky in the way my support role at the prison lets me observe a lot of different teachers each week and taking on their good practices and addressing learners needs is excellent CPPD for me.

The importance of reflective practice

Reflecting on our work as teachers is the best way to develop, its important to have regular teaching practice. We learn valuable things when were in lessons, under pressure and on the spot, however the real learning comes afterwards when we reflect and analyse the session. This is our time to put things right in our heads and prepare ourselves for the same scenarios the next time.

It would be extremely difficult to pre-empt every situation that could occur and almost impossible to prepare for each.

“teachers who explore their own teaching through critical reflection develop changes in attitudes and awareness which they believe can benefit their professional growth as teachers, as well as improve the kind of support they provide their students.” (tttjournal [ND] [Online])

Not only should we be reflecting from our own experiences but it’s also extremely valuable to reflect on observations, hearing opinions from another person’s point of view can really pin point things that may have been frustrating us for weeks.

Critical reflective practice is more complex than just reflecting. It’s about planning how you will evaluate a lesson or even a CPPD event; it is good practice to critically review these situations through different people’s points of view. Your colleagues, students, boss, or even a person in the field actually doing what you’re teaching or being taught. With this in mind reflection is one of our most important tools.

Bibliography

Bis [03/2012] Professionalism in further education [Online]
http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/further-education-skills/docs/p/12-670-professionalism-in-further-education-interim [Accessed 27/05/2012]

IFL [08/2009] Guidelines for your
continuing professional
development (CPD) [online]
http://www.ifl.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/5501/J11734-IfL-CPD-Guidelines-08.09-web-v3.pdf [Accessed 12/06/2012]

IFL [11/2008] Professional Formation [Online]
http://www.itslifejimbutnotasweknowit.org.uk/files/IfL-professional-formation-overview.pdf [Accessed 12/06/2012]

LSIS [ND] Our Impact in the Sector [Online]
http://www.lsis.org.uk/AboutLSIS/LSIS-impact/Pages/default.aspx [Accessed 20/06/12]

TES [30/03/2012] FE professionalism gets radical shake-up [Online] http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6202944
[Accessed 15/04/2012]

Tttjournal [ND] Towards Reflective Teaching [Online]
http://www.tttjournal.co.uk/uploads/file/back_articles/towards_reflective_teaching.pdf [Accessed 03/06/12]


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