Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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Work in progress

Published By: The Times Educational Supplement - 24 Apr 2009

Recent moves to put the training and qualification of teachers, tutors, trainers and instructors onto a more professional footing are making themselves felt among those providing work-based learning.

The new regulations have an impact on virtually everyone working in this sector, since they apply to anyone delivering a Learning and Skills Council-funded programme.

The regulations say that teachers must be professional registered, that new staff must be licensed to practise by the Institute of Learning, and that by next year every teacher must be working towards an SVUK endorsed qualification. They also demand that teachers and trainers undertake 30 hours of CPD a year.

But people delivering work-based learning wear many hats at once. They may spend part of their time teaching large and small groups, and part of their time as assessors, or reviewing learners. They may have responsibilities for recruiting learners onto programmes, spend time liaising with colleges, or be in charge of workplace coaching and mentoring programmes. All of which means they do not fit as easily into neat qualification boxes as those working in other parts of further and continuing education.

Even so training providers are supportive of the reforms – with some caveats. Paul Eeles, director of sector reforms and 14-19 at the Association of Learning Providers, which represents independent training organisations explains, “The ALP welcomes the reforms, we support them and are working hard with LLUK to get the message out about them. We certainly support the professionalisation of the workforce. But we want it done in an appropriate way, and, for us, teaching is only one element of what our front-level staff deliver.”

The work of a further education lecturer and the work of a trainer/assessor, he points out, can be very different but both now have to have the same professional teacher qualifications. “And that’s right, we wouldn’t argue with that.”

However those delivering work-place learning might also need an assessor’s qualification, a qualification to do health and safety audits, and training to do learner review. “They have a whole series of roles, and it varies enormously. Every provider works differently.”

For new staff, the situation can be particularly confusing. What do they do first? Do they get their assessor award to assess NVQ? Or the teaching qualification that they now have to have? Some providers are adapting their in-house training programmes so can both be done together, but many more providers buy training in from outside and aren’t in a position to do this. However with programmes like Train to Gain expanding fast, working out such questions is urgent.

“It’s not yet joined up,” says Paul Eeles. “There are these practical problems we have to look at and we feel that there should be an overarching framework in which to place provider staff, which would recognise the suite of qualifications that they are currently expected to have. But LLUK have now recognised this and are looking into it and we will get there in the end, although it will probably take a year or more.”

Meanwhile, he says, training organisations are increasingly turning their backs on existing training awards to focus on the new professional teaching qualifications. “There are those who embrace them, those who feel they ought to do them, and those who might be reluctant but who are doing them anyway because of the way things are moving. At present the new regulations only apply to post 2007 staff but people are saying that they are going to put their other staff on them anyway. They are saying they are already giving their staff the 30 hours of CPD, so why not?”

What this will mean for teaching standards in work-based learning remains to be seen. At present the evidence is only anecdotal, with some chief executives saying they can see a difference, and others saying they can’t. “It probably depends how the provision is provided, the background and experience of the staff involved, and the context in which it is being delivered,” says Paul Eeles.

Ofsted is currently the evidence, but until its findings are made public no-one will have a very clear picture of how things are changing.