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Inverness College lecturers strike to 'protect the lecturing profession in Scotland'

By Louise Glen

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Inverness College staff joined lecturers across Scotland who are striking in protest at the increasing nationwide practice of colleges replacing professional lecturing positions with trainer or assessor roles.

Striking staff members claim Colleges Scotland, who represent management, appear in support of schemes which are downgrading and de-professionalising lecturing posts in colleges across Scotland.

Colleges Scotland said there was "no national plan" to replace lecturers.

Lecturers said they were disappointed that Colleges Scotland had failed to ratify a previously agreed outcome from negotiations held last week.

Inverness lecturers said colleges in the central belt have already replaced many lecturer posts and UHI colleges, including Inverness, are also advertising for trainer/assessors rather than lecturers.

A spokeswoman said: "The trainer/assessor posts involve 35 hours teaching per week, allowing no time to prepare for lessons and no GTCS (General Teaching Council for Scotland) registration, or requirement for formal teaching qualifications.

"As trainers are classified as support staff, the plans involve moving teaching from professional lecturers to support staff."

Karen Mackay, computing lecturer and EIS-FELA (Further Education Lecturers' Association) convenor, Inverness branch said: “Management are taking advantage of the timing by pushing staff to strike during Covid–19. We want the public to understand that this is not about pay, it is about protecting the right of all college students to be taught by professional lecturers.”

Economics lecturer and secretary of the EIS-FELA Inverness branch, Mark Sutherland, said: “Regrettably, strike days impact on students as they do not have access to their usual online or physical classes or receive any communication or support from their lecturers. In

the longer term, however, students will suffer significantly if this dispute is not resolved as their future teaching will be from support staff without lecturing experience or qualifications.”

Lecturers said they had previously suspended industrial action last week in good faith, following an agreement in principle between lecturing staff and employers, which it says employers have since reneged on.

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 action being taken by members of the EIS FELA trade union is extremely disappointing given what has already been a very difficult and challenging year for staff and students.

"Colleges Scotland and employers have given a clear commitment that there is no national plan to replace lecturers with tutor/assessor/instructor roles, nor any other support staff roles, and we hope resolution can be found before further strike action proposed.

"We are doing all we can to support students affected by this strike action and minimise disruption.”

A spokeswoman said: "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 continued: "The college sector is not unique in using a variety of different roles to deliver their services."

To read more on Inverness College, click here.

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