Skills for Life Teacher

The Job and What's Involved

Skills for Life teachers (also known as basic skills teachers) teach and support adults who want to improve their skills in reading, writing and spelling (literacy), maths (numeracy) and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages).

As a Skills for Life teacher, your work would typically involve:

  • Carrying out skills assessments.
  • Discussing individual goals with students.
  • Designing learning programmes to suit the needs and abilities of students.
  • Preparing teaching materials.
  • Using a range of resources such as worksheets and computer packages.
  • Delivering individual and group teaching sessions.
  • Keeping records.
  • Guiding and supporting learning support assistants and volunteers.

You would usually specialise in literacy, numeracy or ESOL, although you could teach more than one of these areas.

You could work full-time or part-time. As a part-time teacher you may only have a temporary contract. As a full-time teacher you are likely to work up to 37 hours a week, with around 25 hours spent teaching. Evening work is common.

You could be based in a college but, as outreach and community-based classes are increasing, you could also teach in community centres, schools, libraries or prisons.

Skills for Life teachers can earn from around £18,000 to £25,000 a year. With experience there may be opportunities to progress to more senior roles and higher pay scales.

Starting salary can depend on experience, qualifications, and whether the teacher is employed in a further education college, a charity or a private training provider.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

You could find work in colleges or adult education centres, or with private training providers and work-based training organisations.

Education and Training

To qualify as a Skills for Life teacher you will need both of the following:

A full teaching qualification.

A qualification in teaching literacy, numeracy or ESOL.

Some courses combine both qualifications. This is known as the 'initial' route. On this route you can choose either of the following:

PGCE (if you have a degree) or Certificate in Education (if you do not have a degree) in literacy, numeracy or ESOL
Level 5 Diploma in Teaching English (Literacy), English (ESOL) or Mathematics (Numeracy) in the Lifelong Learning Sector (often known as an 'integrated DTLLS').

If you cannot find one of these combined qualifications in your area you may be able to take both qualifications on what is known as a 'concurrent' route. This involves taking a separate full teaching qualification and a literacy, numeracy or ESOL qualification, but completing both at the same time.

You would complete one of the following full teaching qualifications:

PGCE or Certificate in Education (Cert Ed)

Level 5 Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector (DTLLS).

At the same time you would also complete a Level 5 Diploma in Teaching English (Literacy) English (ESOL) or Mathematics (Numeracy).

The PGCE, Cert Ed and DTLLS are available full-time (one year) or part-time (two years). The additional Diplomas are one-year, part-time courses. If you want to do a part-time course and are not already teaching you will need to arrange some teaching hours, possibly on a voluntary basis, so that you can comply with the course requirement for teaching practice. On a full-time course the course provider will arrange teaching placements.

To be accepted on any of the courses you will be expected to show your own competence in English and/or Mathematics - this could be assessed by previous qualifications, on-course assessments or national tests. You should contact course providers for details.

To find out if you are suited to this type of teaching, you could do some voluntary work, and perhaps complete the Level 2 Certificate in Adult Learner Support before applying for a teaching course, although this is not essential.

The Skills for Life teaching qualifications are part of the qualifications for further education teaching which were introduced in September 2007. You should contact the LSIS Information and Advice Service for details of the qualifications or advice on how qualifications you already have will fit into the new framework.

If you have skills and experience but are not qualified, LSIS Information and Advice will also advise you on how to have your skills and experience recognised towards becoming qualified.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

If you already have an adult teaching qualification and want to qualify to teach literacy, ESOL or numeracy, or have a qualification in teaching literacy, ESOL or numeracy, and want to qualify in an additional specialist area, you can do one of the following qualifications:

  • Level 5 Diploma in Teaching English (Literacy)
  • Level 5 Diploma in Teaching English (ESOL)
  • Level 5 Diploma in Teaching Mathematics (Numeracy)

Contact the LSIS Information and Advice Service for details.

As a newly-qualified teacher you would join the Institute for Learning (IfL) and apply for Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status.

Qualifying as a Skills for Life teacher does not give you qualified teacher status (QTS) to teach in schools. See the Primary School Teacher and School Teacher job guides for more information.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A skills for life teacher needs:

  • Excellent communication and listening skills.
  • The ability to get on well with people of all ages and backgrounds and understand their needs.
  • Patience and tact.
  • Creativity to devise appropriate, interesting and meaningful learning activities.
  • Enthusiasm and the ability to motivate and encourage students.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience, you could be promoted to head of department, or move into training other teachers.

Get Further Information

Graduate Teacher Training Registry (GTTR),
Rosehill, New Barn Lane,
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL52 3LZ
Tel: 0870 112 2205

Institute for Learning, First Floor,
49-51 East Road London N1 6AH
Tel: 0844 815 3202

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