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Inverness College lecturers on strike today and tomorrow to 'protect the lecturing profession' in Scotland

By Louise Glen

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Inverness College lecturers virtual picket line.
Inverness College lecturers virtual picket line.

College lecturers from Inverness College are striking today and tomorrow over, what it says, are plans to replace professional lecturing posts with trainer/assessor roles.

Staff from the EIS-Fela (Further Education Lecturers Association) Union are striking "to protect the professional standards of lecturing staff which are being degraded across the country with the practice of replacing professional lecturing posts with trainer/assessor roles".

Lecturers held a one-day strike last week.

Inverness College management said it found the strike "extremely disappointing" given both sides agree that there is no national plan to replace lecturers with tutor/assessor/instructor roles, nor any other support staff roles.

Virtual picket lines are being conducted today and tomorrow, with unions saying further strike action is planned following the Easter holidays if Colleges Scotland, who speak for college management, fail to provide clear guidance on the use of trainer/assessor roles.

A spokeswoman for the striking lecturers said: "College principals and Colleges Scotland have yet to confirm a deal agreed by both parties negotiators on March 12, and since agreed by the EIS-Fela executive committee on March 15, which would have prevented strike action.

"The continued practice of replacing professional lecturing posts across the country with alternative positions, places a 35–hour teaching week upon staff, resulting in no time for preparation of teaching, no GTCS (General Teaching Council for Scotland) registration, no formal teaching training, putting staff in these reduced contracts in a very difficult position to deliver a high quality of learning for Scotland's college students."

Karen Mackay, computing lecturer and convener of the local Inverness branch of the EIS-Fela Union said: “Students in our colleges deserve the highest standard of education and we recognise that a variety of roles support this.

"We believe our students deserve to be taught by professionally qualified lecturers and that any erosion of these standards will drastically affect the student experience. We call on college principals to put their students education first and ratify the agreement made March 12.”

Mark Sutherland, economics lecturer and branch secretary of the EIS-Fela Inverness branch said: “There is a deal on the table that recognises the need for both roles in our colleges, but provides a clear delineation between the two.

"For our members to be forced into industrial action by the reticence of college principals and Colleges Scotland to agree to the March 12 deal.

"It provides clear structure between the differing education roles within our colleges is extremely disappointing, particularly given the current situation where students and lecturing staff have been operating under such difficult conditions already this year.”

Professor Chris O’Neil, principal and chief executive of Inverness College UHI, said: “While I fully support the positive role unions play in protecting workers’ rights, the strike action being taken by members of the EIS –FELA trade union is extremely disappointing given both sides agree that there is no national plan to replace lecturers with tutor/assessor/instructor roles, nor any other support staff roles. "The action also follows requests by Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association to suspend action whilst talks continue.

"We are doing all we can to support students at this difficult time and minimise disruption caused by this strike action.”

A spokeswoman for Inverness College added: "Tutor/assessor/instructor roles are not new to the college sector; they have been in place within colleges across Scotland for a considerable number of years to deliver a diverse curriculum and qualifications which best suits the needs of the learner and the subject matter being taught.

"Inverness College UHI employs assessors to help students and apprentices achieve work-based qualifications.

"The role of an assessor is different to that of a lecturer and one does not replace the other.

"An example of this is our increasing number of construction apprentices who still have the same time in college with lecturers but also have assessment carried out on-the-job by our work-based-assessors."

She added: "The college sector is not unique in using a variety of different roles to deliver their services."

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