Education Quandary: 'Why do you have to have a qualification to teach adults?

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The Independent Online

'Why do you have to have a qualification to teach adults? Won't this simply deter people from sharing their skills?'

Hilary's advice

Since September, all new teachers of adults in colleges and community settings have been required to take qualifications that form part of something called the Qualified Teacher: Learning and Skills framework. All teachers need an Award in Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS), at level 3 or 4, which leads on to the Certificate in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector (CTLLS), which can be at level 3 or 4. If you're already teaching, your PTLLS can be integrated with your CTLLS in a fast-track version... There's more, but I won't go on. This stuff can make you lose the will to live.

Does it put people off teaching adults? I suppose it must. When I trained as a basic skills tutor, the college had to lay on extra sessions just to show us how to fill in the paperwork; it made me want to hurl down my pen and never come back. On the other hand, a former computer company manager who switched to teaching IT in an FE college says he loved his training and found it made a world of difference to his teaching skills.

Of course standards have to be maintained, but there must be plenty of linguists, plasterers, hairdressers and cooks, not to mention musicians and art historians, who want nothing to do with it. Although, as funding for adult education is being pared to the bone (and that's a scandal), maybe it doesn't matter.

Readers' advice

I, and many others like me, teach computer skills to the over-fifties (on a voluntary basis) at an Age Concern drop-in computer centre. As far as I know, none of us has any special teaching qualifications, or indeed computing qualifications. I certainly don't; I am entirely self-taught.

It is extremely enjoyable and satisfying to do, and it helps the ever-increasing take-up of the internet and computing by the older generation who missed out on learning these skills through school or work.

I hope that your correspondent will investigate further, and find a way to pass on her skill to others.

Rosalind Gleeson, Surrey

Teaching adults is not just a question of passing on skills. It is a profession in its own right.

Just as we do not want our primary and secondary schoolchildren taught by anyone who happens to be able to read or write, or who knows a bit about biology and geography, so we, as adults, should be able to sign up for classes confident that the people teaching them will have a full array of skills.

Melanie Knight, West Sussex

When I go to my weekly Pilates class, I want to know that my teacher is properly trained and that she knows how to tailor what we do according to how much people want to push themselves, or whether they have shoulder or back weaknesses. I went to a yoga class where a girl pulled a ligament so badly that she was on crutches for nearly a month.

Gina Bellavera, Bristol

Next Week's Quandary

Dear Hilary, I believe this country needs a national community service scheme for school leavers, with every leaver doing at least six months' work for the common good. It would be egalitarian, help to foster a sense of society, and get things done. People tell me it would infringe personal liberties, and that it wouldn't work. Isn't it at least worth talking about?

Send your letters or quandaries to Hilary Wilce, to arrive no later than Monday 11 February, to 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or email Please include your postal address. Readers whose letters are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition