Education & Family

FE college teaching 'must improve', says Labour

Exam hall
Image caption A third of students going to university come from FE colleges. There are calls to raise teaching standards

A group advising Labour is calling for a tougher line on teaching standards in further education colleges in England.

Teaching staff in further education should have at least good GCSE grades in English and maths, says Labour's Skills Taskforce.

There are also calls for all teachers of vocational subjects to spend time each year in industry.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said "decisive action" was being taken to "transform vocational education".

The report, set out by Labour shadow ministers Stephen Twigg and Chuka Umunna, argues that further education colleges are important for providing skills, but there is a need for higher standards of teaching.


Figures from the Association of Colleges show there are many more 16 to 18 year-olds studying in FE colleges than in state school sixth forms.

A third of people going into higher education also come from FE colleges.

But the opposition spokesmen are calling for improvements in the quality of teaching.

"Labour is unapologetic in seeking higher standards in vocational education and training. We would be relentless in driving up the quality of teaching in further education, particularly in English and maths," says Mr Twigg, shadow education secretary.

Under the opposition's plans, teachers would need to have grades A* to C in English and maths or their equivalents.

Mr Umunna, shadow business secretary, emphasised the need to integrate colleges with the "world of work, business and industry".

He backed calls for further education teachers to carry out their own form of work experience each year, "gaining first hand experience in the workplace so teaching can be better aligned to business needs".

Chris Husbands, director of the Institute of Education and chair of the Skills Taskforce set up by Labour, said: "Skills matter. The 21st Century will make enormous demands on levels of skill as economies change: we must get our skills policy and our skills infrastructure right."

The report warns of problems including insufficient employer engagement, poor careers advice and an "increasingly fragmented" education system.

University and College Union general secretary Sally Hunt warned that this "cannot be done on the cheap" and said Labour would need to "commit to properly fund these choices".

"We desperately need better options for our young people. Record numbers of them are not working or in education and politicians are right to be looking to education to solve that problem," she said.

Gill Clipson, deputy chief executive at the Association of Colleges, said that teaching staff in further education colleges already have full teaching qualifications.

And she says colleges would like to have the "significant investment" that has supported teaching in schools, which would allow college staff to spend more time on secondments to industry.

She says the report "tells a familiar story".

"It sets out the problems caused by a funding system which restricts the courses colleges can deliver; the prevalence of competition between institutions rather than collaboration and the low levels of employer involvement in the skills system."

A Department for Education spokesman said: "We are already taking decisive action to transform vocational education so young people can succeed in today's job market.

"We are reforming apprenticeships, introducing traineeships and overhauling vocational qualifications to recognise only high quality courses that lead to a skilled trade or profession.

"Studio Schools and University Technical Colleges already allow employers help shape the curriculum, while our Technical Baccalaureate places high-quality vocational education on a par with A-levels to finally give vocational education the status it deserves.

"We are also making major changes to the way colleges are funded so they can expand work experience and work more closely with local employers, and allowing the best colleges to take on 14-16 year olds to study courses taught by industry specialists."

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