I have suggested that professionalisation refers to an intentional process of changing the occupational culture of a particular group of workers. And that in the case of basic skills it has been ‘policy’ rather than ‘practitioner’ driven.
There are competing discourses that surround the process which remains a hotly contested term. It may be that’professionalisation’ leads to the development of professionalism and a professional culture and so should be welcomed, associated with increased democratisation and accountability. The status, security and conditions of service of the occupation terrain is improved as well as the capacity to fulfil their vocation – occupational calling.
On the other hand these same features may be experienced as loss – loss of autonomy, loss of capacity to control the epistemic boundaries of a specialised area of expert knowledge, loss of capacity to control those who enter the terrain, loss of bargaining power in employment terms and conditions, loss of status as esoteric knowledge – the ‘secret garden’ is exposed and subject of bullet point specification.
Both sets of theorisations are unsatisfactory for capturing the shift I want to explore in basic skills teaching.
The 2nd framing – that it leads to loss – is easiest to caste aside. It is my suggestion that the autonomy previously enjoyed by basic skills teaching was not based on high regard for their esoteric knowledge or high status. The knowldge of the basic skills teacher very rarely amounted to more than comment sense. FE has been dominated by the view that – subject expertise was a sufficient requirement for good teaching. Given that the subject of basic skills was an everyday subject – reading, writing and communication – the status of basic skills teaching was equally every day – quote PMS. Government attention – professionalisation – has not lead to loss but rather has led to an enhancement of sorts.
It is the 1st that requires more detailed exploration. This is the strand of thought I develop to consider whether the professionalisation of basic skills teaching is ‘possible’. That is in 1999 with the first wave of policy effervescent surrounding Skills for Life – their existed in the occupational terrain distinctly anti-professional strands of thought.
Blunkett (check) suggests a shift towards evidence based practice as one that follows a template – uninformed practice, to uniformed prescription to informed prescription leading to informed practice.