'Seeking QTLS doesn't mean I want to jump ship'

I was astonished when my internal application for funding to gain the Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status was rejected by my college.

It seemed such a good thing to me, so I was taken aback that others didn’t view it the same way. I met with management to chat through the reasons, which left me surprised at an alternative view of QTLS.

QTLS, it seemed, was viewed as an opportunity to jump ship to another sector, rather than seen as a respected badge of professionalism in FE. This wasn’t just the view at the top – a friend and colleague has also asked me if my intention is to move to work in the primary sector.

Presumably this feeling has come about because QTLS was given parity to Qualified Teacher Status in schools. But, in my opinion, it should have equal status. Am I any less of a teacher in post-compulsory education than my colleagues in primary?

And this was not necessarily intended, I don’t think, to cross sectors – although in these difficult times of austerity squeezing FE and holding our salaries far below our school colleagues’, I can understand why people would.

It seems, certainly in my college anyway, that once a level 4 teaching certificate is achieved, then teaching requirements are met, and there is no need for or recognition of QTLS.

Neither jumping ship nor teaching requirements were my intention when I first contemplated completing the professional formation process leading to QTLS.

Demonstrating professionalism

I’ve been teaching in FE and adult education for 18 years now, and it is a long time since I achieved my Cert Ed. It was never about a qualification for me, but about recognition of the amazing work going on in our sector and in my own expertise as a teacher.

Attending the inaugural Society for Education and Training conference back in November, I was inspired by the keynote speech and by the conversations around professionalism. I’ve had a difficult few years since becoming part-time and I feel it is easy for part-time staff to miss out on opportunities within the teaching profession in general.

For example, I’m not able to attend our weekly team meetings as it’s on a day when I’m not working, so therefore I am unable to contribute.

My motivation for completing QTLS is to demonstrate to my employer that I am committed and to demonstrate my professionalism, but I also hope it’s a small call to arms for professionalism in our sector.

‘We need to value ourselves’

We need to speak out and defend our sector. The Society for Education and Training has the opportunity to do this in a way that the Institute for Learning never did. As a voluntary membership organisation, it can truly represent us in FE and help raise the profile of professionalism in the sector, but only if we first value our own professionalism.

If we are ever going to be valued, first we need to value ourselves. Only then can we raise our voices.

We need to join together and speak up for our profession and for our professionalism. Having made the decision to fund myself, I am aspiring to share my own QTLS journey, and hopefully next year my Advanced Teacher Status journey, in the hope it inspires others to follow a similar path.

What if the majority of FE practitioners had QTLS status, making it the norm? What if we all combined our voices to stand up for the existing professionalism in our sector? Would it be so easy to pass us over then?

Kerry Scattergood is an adult literacy specialist and functional skills English tutor at a college in the West Midlands. 

This article first appeared on the Tes website.

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