There has been a buzz in the air in the Further Education (FE) and Training sector this autumn and with winter on the horizon, it’s the perfect time to celebrate our sector and everyone who works in it. On Wednesday 6 November, the Society for Education and Training (SET) hosted its second national conference in Birmingham under the theme of Promoting Professionalism.
Professionalism is central to the mission of SET. Our purpose is to provide Continuing Professional Development (CPD) support and practical guidance for FE teachers, trainers and educators to support, develop and improve skills to enhance their professional standing. As part of the Education and Training Foundation (ETF), we champion the quality of teaching and training across further education, vocational teaching and training and campaign to raise the status of the profession.
Dan Williams, who finished his tenure as Chair of SET this month (October), previously wrote in FE News that:
“Professionalism is a highly contested, socially constructed concept that means different things to different people. Tummons identified two distinct discourses in professionalism within the lifelong learning sector. One of an imposed and narrow professionalism and the other of autonomous and emancipatory professionalism. In my opinion, the Society for Education and Training (SET) is certainly making ground in the latter.”
Since Dan wrote his piece the FE sector has evolved with new government focus, increased funding and implementation of the new Education Inspection Framework (EIF) for example. The latter aims to help reduce ‘teaching to the test’ which will help the unique value of FE staff be utilised further: their dual professionalism.
Teachers and lecturers in learning providers are professionals in their industry field but also professional teachers at the same time. A carpentry teacher must have mastery of the skill which they will have learnt and developed in the industry, but they also have the knowledge and skills needed to successfully teach their students to become carpenters.
SET has a membership base of 20,000 and growing. Members have to commit to and follow a Code of Practice that states what it means to be part of SET as well as the levels of professionalism that are required and encouraged of all of our members. The Code is in place to uphold the reputation of the profession and ultimately benefits learners.
Demonstrating commitment to on-going professional development, collaborating with education and industry colleagues, engaging regularly with educational research and putting this into practice is at the centre of professionalism. By supporting and building expertise and dual professionalism, we will improve our learners’ experience and outcomes which will positively impact on society, employers and the economy.
SET promotes this unique professionalism, not just at our conference, but also by conferring, through the ETF, the two badges of professional status for the sector’s workforce. Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status, recognised widely as the badge of professionalism for the FE practitioner, is underpinned by the Professional Standards for Teachers and Trainers. For those looking to prove advanced professionalism and mastery, Advanced Teacher Status (ATS) offers the platform to be able to do this. Those who hold ATS also achieve Chartered Teacher Status through SET’s collaboration with the Chartered College of Teaching.
More than 320 delegates were in attendance at our conference to hear from Joe Withey, QTLS holder, and Ruksana Patel, an ATS holder, discuss what they’ve learnt through undertaking the badges of professionalism and what the impacts have been on their learners.
As you’d expect with the theme of Promoting Professionalism, SET’s Annual Conference celebrated our sector’s professionals and their practice, showcased inspirational work, and promoted the FE workforce’s valuable contribution to society. The event was a physical demonstration of this desire to promote professionalism.
The conference agenda was shaped by our members, including feedback on last year’s event. We are confident delegate, who came from a huge range of employers and organisations from our sector and beyond, benefited from the updates on key topics affecting the post-14 education landscape and the networking opportunities that were available. There was lots of practical takeaways from talks, breakout workshops and discussions available for attendees across the day.
For those unable to attend the conference, SET will aim to share as many of the insights from the conference as possible through FE media, our Twitter account (@SocietyET and #SETCONF19) and our quarterly membership journal, inTuition.