When is a PGCE not a PGCE?

Who knows?

Today we were set an advance task in pre-selected groups to read a given journal article (one per group) which focused on the issue of professionalism in education particularly in the LLS.

The format of the lesson had to change due to some shuffling of timetables and so we didn’t have as long as we were supposed to have to formulate a seminar paper and deliver to the class so we gathered in our groups and had a quick chat and each were able to jot down some key points from the paper to share with the class.

What emerged was confusing, just when you think you have got your head around all of this stuff. The paper the group I was in was about the changing legislation and guidance around the need for FE teachers to have a teaching qualification. It consideredImage how the government changes the goal posts so often that nothing has a chance to become embedded and really tested for its fitness for purpose.

It also considered how the different types of teacher training qualifications are administered differently by universities with no standardisation or consistency nationally. Some qualifications have a few modules with higher credit values and some have more modules with lower credit values, some include 40 masters credits, some 30 masters credits. This inconsistency was measured by considering if a trainee teacher studying a teaching qualification for LLS in one university could easily transfer to another university and concluded that this would be very tricky to do simply because of the lack of consistency.

It was discussed that this inconsistency and shambolic botched together approach may contribute to the reduction of perceived professionalism of teachers in the sector.

It also considered how inequitable the placement experience is across the country but with a common experience of FE colleges Imagehaving been stripped back so far financially that they do not have the resources to provide trainees with an optimum placement experience.  Mentoring is an additional strain on an already strained staff. Also the inconsistencies in the qualification means that mentors are unable to map the placement experience and their support to the qualification as they often do not understand the composition of the course. Even if they hold the same qualification they may have been awarded it at a different university and so have very little insight into its actual composition. It was suggested then that this also contributes to the lack of perceived professionalism while still a student and upon becoming a teacher in the sector.

I did finally figure out with the help of my tutor that currently the list of possible qualifications an FE teacher could sit looks like this:

P(preparing)TTLS – is a level 3 qualification – equivalent to an A level

C(certificate)TTLS – is a level 4 qualification – equivalent to a national certificate level

D(diploma)TTLS – is a level 5 qualification – equivalent to a diploma level

Cert Ed – is a level 5 qualification – equivalent to a diploma or foundation degree level sometimes interchangeable with DTTLS

P(Professional)GCE – is a level 6 qualification equivalent to a BA degree level and with no masters credits. This used to be called a PCE

P(Post)GCE – is a level 7 qualification and will contain masters credits against a masters in education only

All of the above qualify a teacher to work in the LLS in the UK. But then of course you don’t need a qualification to teach in LLS at all! AND as long as you have level 3 in a subject you can teach it in LLS.

I can’t help but wonder, without giving away my master argument for my professionalism essay (but you saw it here first) if the lack of cohesion in the staff group which was discussed today (NB in general not being specific or relating this to the local college where we are Imageon placements) is in part due to this lack of commonality in terms of the road traveled to teaching. Thinking of traditional professionals I’ve worked with and have as friends, doctors, lawyers especially, there is common ground in that they know and share a route into the profession. OK there may be some deviations along the way, particularly with law, but at the end of the day, the things they had to do, the conditions they had to satisfy to become ‘qualified’, in the sense of being fit for registration was the same. They are glued together by their common passage to their professional status and out of respect for what they had to do to get there.

A level 7 PGCE student will appreciate how hard a fellow level 7 PGCE student had to work to achieve his/her qualification but then the level 7 PGCE holder may work with a staff group made up of level 3, 4, 5 and 6 teaching qualification holders. The level 3 may feel looked down on, even if they are not or they may feel less accomplished, the level 6 might hold the level 7 in unsolicited awe, the level 7 might assume top dog status if they are status oriented.

The range of qualifications could create friction, snobbery, an imagined pecking order and be prohibitive to nurturing a cohesive staff group.  This could in turn create bad feeling, demotivation, feelings of inadequacy or even stress from trying to prove yourself constantly against your peers and this could then lead to poor retention rates and high staff turnover.  Of course all of this unnecessary behaviour leads to a perception of unprofessionalism which is hard to shake off.  Ultimately all of this is unnessecary as a level 3 teacher may be a better teacher than the level 7 and perhaps just not as academic or even in this day an age not able to afford the qualification. Indeed a teacher with no qualifications could be more effective in the classroom than a level 7 PGCE holder.

Achieving a higher level qualification says a lot of things but is one of the things it says relating to your ability to do something well other than academic study? I suppose this is where the second part of the debate comes in which we are encouraged to enter into in our essay. I know people who worked hard for a  first class degree and who have been unable to or wanted to do nothing with it, I know people who struggled to achieve a 2.2 and who have gone on to achieve great things for themselves, indeed people with no degree who went on to achieve great things. I’ve met doctors who struggled through their university years academically, who had to resit and risked near expulsion from their course but who are now fabulous doctors and the same with lawyers.

It’s a good area for debate and a shame our word count is so low but maybe it will help me to be concise, that’s not something I’m good at.

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