We all have our seasons, and the Institute for Learning (IfL) is no exception. After what feels like a temporary 'hunting season', with IfL cast in the role of prey by a vocal minority, the long seasons of professional development and service to our members, always there, are now rightly coming to the fore again. IfL celebrates its tenth anniversary early next year and is here for the long term.

Over 55,000 teachers and trainers already have renewed their membership of the professional body, IfL, which is over a third of the likely membership for the coming year, with three weeks still to go. Hundreds more are renewing every day. IfL listens to all its members about what they might want from IfL, including the 7,877 UCU members who recently voted in a UCU ballot not to accept IfL's reduced membership fee of £68 for a two-year period or £38 a year, with further reductions for those on low incomes, made possible by extra funding from the government. The full membership numbers will be achieved later this autumn.

A career in teaching or training has its seasons. IfL's elected Advisory Council discussed four stages of the profession and their characteristics and what they look to IfL as the professional body at each point. The four stages are:

1. Entry and initial training
2. Early stages of teaching and training
3. Experienced professional teacher or trainer
4. Seasoned professional teacher or trainer.

The stages of career as a teacher or trainer are not linked to whether someone works part or full time, nor tied to a specific number of years of practice.

IfL assesses and confers the full professional status of Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) or Associate Teacher Learning and Skills (ATLS) and by midnight on 30 June 2011 a further 1,000 IfL members had sent in their portfolios for assessment. Teachers and trainers gaining QTLS or ATLS are usually experienced or seasoned professionals.

Teachers and trainers carry out at least 30 hours of CPD a year across all stages of their career, although the priorities and focus for CPD are very different depending on the stage of their career and their subject updating and the kinds of programmes and learners they teach.

Experienced and seasoned teachers and trainers, as well as having an impressive and wide repertoire for their practice, often mentor and support others and seek to influence policy, drawing on their expertise and professional wisdom. Standards for professional excellence are needed for each stage of the teacher's or trainer's career. Many have asked for IfL's membership grade of fellow to be widely recognised for seasoned professional teachers and trainers, and some have suggested the introduction of an advanced QTLS status.

As we go forward, building up the revered profession of teachers and trainers working across the further education and skills sector, it is worth remembering the poetry and wisdom across the seasons throughout the ages: "To every thing there is a season" (Ecclesiastes, The Holy Bible, King James version); "Yielding its fruit in every season" (Qur'an); and about cycles "ordained to be viewed as a seasonal" (Upanishads).

Personally, I feel very inspirited for the coming seasons and years, with IfL stronger and closer with our membership. We will be helping teachers and trainers continue to do the very best they can at each stage of their career, as they continue to make a difference to millions of young and adult learners, for communities, employers and the nation.

Toni Fazaeli is the chief executive of the Institute for Learning (IfL), the professional body for teachers, trainers, tutors and student teachers across the further education and skills sector???

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