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Lingfield, Tutor Qualifications and Adult Education

November 20, 2012

The final report by Lord Lingfield on ‘Professionalism in Further Education’ has now been published; this confirms the repeal of the 2007 Regulations (that set out the statutory basis for teaching in FE, that includes adult education) and the move to a self-regulated system via a new to-be-formed Guild.

Where does this leave us in adult education?

To start by saying that WEA provision (in common with that of other publicly funded adult education organisations) is taught by qualified professional tutors. This is much valued by students and members and distinguishes us within the adult education ‘market’ from – for example -U3A and the growing informal/freelance provision. Earlier this term, for example, we started a new  branch in South West WEA formed by a group of people who were more than capable of organising themselves but wanted courses taught by a specialist tutor, hence their interest in the WEA.

Not surprisingly the switch to self regulation proved controversial; the WEA however supports the proposed Guild whilst wanting to ensure strong Third Sector representation. Personally I think that Lingfield takes an over sanguine view of what a Guild can achieve in overcoming long term structural issues in further education such as, for example, the pay gap with school teachers. Whilst we who work or study in the sector are passionate about its value, further education lacks the political clout of schools or the status and influence of universities (although adult education retains a surprising number of friends in high places.) In my experience too, the intensification of work (to which Lingfield refers) has been driven by the funding methodology. It is an open question how far central government will  relax its grip on funding mechanisms as policy levers. Any system of professional regulation has to recognise these constraints whilst trying to influence policy makers and raise the standing of the sector. There’s quite a job to do there!

I argued in a previous blog that the 2007 regulations were ‘never going to happen’ given the structure of employment and provision in adult education so a self regulated regime clears the way to focus on the needs of tutors, students and members.

Tutors are adult education’s front line and enjoy, of necessity, a significant degree of autonomy. It is vital  to work with and develop tutors, not simply contract them ‘to deliver’. Historically  adult education and the WEA has played an important part in replenishing and building the adult education profession particularly by engaging ‘renowned local – or national – experts’  and enabling them to share their expertise and enthusiasms with adult students. 

Of great importance is the tradition of ‘growing our own’ tutors i.e. supporting suitable learners or volunteers in developing full or part-time careers in adult education. This is a significant way of supporting social mobility and self improvement and providing opportunities and experience for working class people enthused by the power of adult education.  The real value lies in what these tutors bring to the students through their capacity to engage, empathise with and inspire those contemplating a tentative step back into learning. To get this to work we must reduce barriers to entry whilst providing a comprehensive and flexible package of support/development and training/CPD.

A new preparatory qualification as part of an induction programme will be welcome. It will provide a framework for us to focus on the skills and values involved in ‘social purpose adult education’ building on work done in the WEA and elsewhere, for example Northern College. Delivery will have to be flexible so that it is proportionate to the amount of teaching undertaken by the tutor.

Professional qualifications at Certificate and Diploma level are essential, taking into account caveats above. However professional work in adult education involves a wider set of skills than teaching & learning, and ‘college management’  and this needs taking into account. Otherwise the qualification structure can distort the mission of the provider.

In effect there is a ‘dual labour market’ in adult education and the qualification and CPD structure needs to address this, whilst building routes between the two. Tutors are mainly part-time (and may work for various employers) and require first class induction and really varied and engaging CPD (bottom up and well as top down). The educational main professional grade (tutor organiser in its modern guise) is a mix of manager, organiser, community development worker and networker with skills in spotting and responding to educational gaps and opportunities in local areas. The rich complexity of this role needs recognising in any qualification system.

It may well be wise to retain a requirement for level 5 qualifications for literacy and numeracy tutors although pathways will be needed to ensure an inclusive approach. However I don’t accept the argument in Lingfield that this is ‘remedial’ work that belongs in schools; it seems to negate the ‘second chance’ mission that is such an important part of FE and, of course, adult education. A remedial approach assumes a stable ‘life cycle’ model (i.e. you reach certain levels at certain stages in your life) rather than a more dynamic (and realistic) ‘life course’ (i.e. people are different and there will always be demand for foundation skills amongst adults and community adult education is one vital way of responding to this). It also ignores the requirements of new entrants to the country whose needs are critical.

If you haven’t done so, I’d have a look at the Lingfield Report. It gives a current, albeit rather discursive perspective on further education from a broadly ‘Coalition’ point of view.

link to the Lingfield Report:


From → Adult Education

  1. John Wilson permalink

    I don’t disagree with your thoughts. I am concerned about the limited level of third sector involvement with eth proposed Guild. Having been to the consultation events, I am less than convinced about the Certificate and Diploma as they will be stand alone and so provide no real progression for learners. It seems that much of the drive for the new qualifications is being created by the colleges with no consideration given to those organisation who work in the community.

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