IFL : a personal history


I joined IFL back in April 2007 when it first reverted from a voluntary organisation to a regulatory one for FE tutors. At this time I wasn’t aware that it had existed as a voluntary organisation since 2002 but I was certainly interested in what was on offer from the IFL.

My role at the time was a Senior Tutor for Skills for Life, and in the new academic year from September 2007 the Senior Tutors from each curriculum team agreed to take responsibility for one aspect of cross college staff development (previously we had worked purely within our own curriculum teams). With a fellow ST I took responsibility for designing and delivering sessions on CPD & the then new Reflect portal. These sessions were delivered to different curriculum teams across the college throughout the year.

Initial reactions from staff regarding IFL and the Reflect portal we’re mixed. In these early stages there were a lot of technical issues that needed to be addressed, I became quite well known by the IFL support team as there would invariably be some technical hitch during our sessions.

At the beginning of the sessions staff would be share their concerns about how they would fit 30 hours of CPD into their busy FE lives. After exploring the kinds of activities that IFL were defining as CPD most staff recognised that they were doing more than 30 hours already, but now the concern was how this would be evidenced.

The Reflect Portal
I did use this to evidence my CPD for the first three years as a member for IFL and every year I was able to evidence more than the required 30 hours. Having used Reflect consistently in previous years helped me in completing my Professional Formation, as all the evidence I needed was readily available. However, I haven’t used the portal since it’s not been a requirement to evidence CPD anymore, and I recall the last time I did submit my CPD record it mainly contained links to my Twitter feed and blog & it hadn’t really felt meaningful to use the portal at all.

I really had only used the portal to evidence my CPD, and I remember using the Action Plan button and the Journal button I think. I didn’t really engage with any other aspects of it, although I was aware of its other features, such as the CV section. I didn’t really see the purpose of those wider sections if I’m totally honest.

In September 2008 I had a new role in a newly merged college and took one of the first opportunities to undertake Professional Formation and apply for QTLS. I worked with a group of fellow Skills for Life tutors and we all supported each other through the process. This was done informally in the offices simply asking how it was going and where we were up to and more formally where we would meet and read through each others portfolios and peer assess this. As the deadline approached I organised for our local IFL rep to come to our final meeting and it was useful to have some guidance on what and how much information we needed in each section.

One thing that I really benefited from during my QTLS was engaging with other professional bodies. It was not something that I had really explored previously & it was at this time that I joined RaPAL and NATECLA. The RaPAL journal is a great practitioner-centred journal and they are very supportive of tutors submitting articles and giving very constructive feedback. I submitted an article on the use of blogs and wikis on my CELTA course which was published in …… & then a follow-up piece to this was accepted in a digital literacy special edition.

After joining NATECLA I started attending local conferences, delivered a session at a day event, joined the committee and am now Chair of the NATECLA Yorkshire & Humber branch. So I guess I have IFL to thank for that small push!

IFL Volunteer Connection
After I gained QTLS I then replied to calls from IFL to join their volunteer connections. This was a bit of disappointing experience. I recall getting an email acknowledging my application, then nothing. Some time later a second email arrived and I remember as I read it not really being sure what it was I had ‘volunteered’ to do. Maybe it was an idea IFL had that never really took off.

IFL as a voluntary professional body
As a member of a union I feel quite strongly that, even if you don’t necessarily agree personally with a course of action, that you should always support the union’s decisions. For me that’s kind of the point of being in a union. So when the union voted to boycott IFL I initially complied, although I struggled during this time with the arguments that were raging. However, I did renew my membership, just for the year, and evidenced my CPD activity for the year. I think this will have been in July 2011.

I don’t recall a renewal coming through and as my membership has lapsed I’m not sure that I can honestly say that I have noticed. Thinking about it now, I realise that the email newsletters have stopped dropping into my over crowded inbox and I no longer receive In Tuition, the IFL magazine. The job of evidencing my CPD was never added to my summer to do list and I didn’t have any kind of IFL conversations with others.

IFL and the college
I am aware of people in the college undertaking Professional Formation and when someone dropped into the Teacher Development Centre for support on this I found the Reflect Portal familiarly cumbersome. I’ve heard that there are as many people in the college applying for QTLS as before and we have a support system in place within the teacher education department, which makes sense when so many of the trainees on our in-service ITT are our own staff.

All signs lead to IFL
Since attending the FE Teaching and Learning Conference and meeting Toni Fazaeli, the chef exec of IFL, I have thought a lot about the IFL. After having a period of non-membership maybe it is time to re-join and give the organisation a chance to support me in my CPD. What would that support look like. I think that’s a who other post.

  1. Sam Shepherd says:

    This is interesting because I followed more or less the same route to non-membership, with some of the same questions, although a different take on the union approach where I did agree with the union’s decision but not their knee jerk “it’s suddenly bad because we have to pay” reaction.

    I’m intrigued that you say you haven’t noticed the absence IfL from a CPD perspective, but are still considering rejoining. Did Toni Fazaeli say something tremendously convincing? I’m still unsure of the benefits of membership, and indeed where things are going to go with regard to IFL and the proposed FE Guild.

    • Cathy says:

      Toni’s keynote at the FE Teaching and Learning Conference was a great start to the day and I was impressed by the things that she was saying, so yes, I guess it is what she’s said that has started me to reconsider.

      Three events I’ve been to this term have all had similar themes around professionalism in FE and the role of research and CPD has in this – the Toni Fazaeli speech, the How2s session and the residential in Sunderland this week. Add to that conversations with colleagues and the PTLLS presentation last week on the IFL – I think there is a role for a generic professional body. If your not a member you can’t have any say in what that could/would/should look like.

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