UNISON welcomes the opportunity to contribute
to the debate on enhancing professionalism in Scotland's colleges.
By providing support for the professional development of staff
it is envisaged that a professional body would promote best
practice in the interests of staff and learners alike.
UNISON believes that the consultation does
not adequately address the needs of all staff working in FE,
particularly support staff. There is therefore a necessity for
further trade union consultation for the proposals outlined
in the consultation document.
UNISON Scotland is Scotland's largest trade
union, representing the majority of support staff working in
Scottish Further Education Colleges. Our members include managerial,
administrative and technical and support staff. This includes
workers dealing with business development, finance, personnel
matters, support services, admissions, information provision,
advertising, European Social Fund; board secretaries, librarians,
staff in flexible study centres, careers staff, nurses, nursery
nurses, drivers, personal assistants for students with learning
or physical disabilities, general administration, secretarial
and clerical staff, janitorial, cleaning, catering and maintenance
This paper constitutes UNISON Scotland's response
to the consultation document issued by the Scottish Executive;
The Need for A Professional Body for Staff in Scotland's Colleges.
UNISON Scotland recognises the importance of
the quality of the skills, knowledge and understanding of lecturers
and related support staff in colleges. If staff in colleges
are to maintain a high level of performance, they must continue
to develop and update their academic and vocational expertise,
and their professional learning and teaching skills. Of course,
many lecturers and support staff such as librarians already
register with a professional body which covers the specialist
vocational area in which they teach. UNISON fully supports the
proposal for a Professional Body which could help to support
the career development of college staff and raise the standards
of learning and teaching throughout the sector.
Changes in the Further Education Sector
UNISON recognises the new and ever-changing
demands on college staff, all the more reason for the new Professional
Body to extend its remit to cover support staff as well as lecturers.
The Executive's consultation does acknowledge other staff,
"Other groups of staff such as librarians,
support staff, guidance staff, instructors and technicians also
make an important contribution to the learning process. If they
are to play their part to the full, they need to be properly
trained and to have opportunities to develop and enhance their
skills and knowledge".
UNISON fully agrees with this statement. The
support staff's contribution to college life is equally important.
Without them, the FE sector, as a service sector, would not
be able to function.
UNISON supports the proposal that the,
"…need for and desirability of such
a body should be judged on its potential for levering up standards
and helping to improve the quality of learning and teaching
across the whole sector".
Students have the right to a high quality standard
of teaching and services in FE. Having a Professional Body that
monitored standards would go some way towards ensuring staff
provided this standard. In order that colleges maintain these
standards in a joined-up approach across all areas of the sector,
all college staff, would have to be included in any proposals
for quality improvements. All staff should be able to gain access
to continuous training, updating and improving skills and knowledge.
The government's drive to improve learning
through its Lifelong Learning Agenda for all, has ushered in
a new approach to learning. UNISON Scotland has been at the
forefront of the Lifelong Learning Agenda, with many members
already benefiting from many courses offered through the union.
UNISON therefore believes that all staff working in FE, can
and should benefit from professional development. UNISON's major
concern with the proposed Professional Body, is that it may
not be able to adequately service FE as a whole. UNISON proposes
a more inclusive Professional Body, which would be able to incorporate
the needs of all staff in FE.
UNISON generally supports a new Professional
Body in FE. If however, there is to be a new Professional Body,
it must be open to support staff, as well as lecturers. Support
staff play a vital role in providing a quality service to learners
and the FE sector as a whole. As there has been an increasing
collaboration between the secondary and tertiary sectors, it
is important that confidence in the professionalism of staff
is maintained and that the quality of educational provision
is not undermined for financial expediency. Anecdotal evidence
suggests that FE employers are reluctant to release staff to
undertake TQ(FE) qualifications purely on cost grounds. If standards
are to be improved in the FE sector, then employers must recognise
the need for time and money in order to achieve this goal. There
is a need to maintain standards, learning and teaching to be
enhanced, and professional responsibilities to be clear. In
relation to this, UNISON proposes that membership of the Professional
Body should be extended to include support staff.
For further information please contact:
Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141 342 2835