Becoming a tutor

September 28, 2015


This great article from the BBC looks at the routes to becoming a tutor and considers the skills and qualities that help.


Are you interested in helping adults with learning English and mathematics? Do you want to be a teacher, tutor, lecturer, instructor? All these words may be used to describe the same role. There are also teaching assistant or learning support assistant roles in many organisations, although these would not be for those who want to be seen as a specialist in ESOL, literacy or numeracy. It is also helpful to be aware that some people start their teaching careers in paid employment while others find volunteering roles. 

Your own skills and qualifications 
It is probably not a surprise to learn that you do need to show that you have certain minimum skills to be a teacher. All teachers in the post compulsory sector need to show certain English and mathematics skills. These are set at Level 2 in the national curriculum and qualifications framework (NCQF). You may find it helpful to get qualifications at this level before starting the application process. Some people can show these skills at an entry process rather than having to sit qualifications although it can be more advantageous to have the qualifications in your CV when you apply for jobs. 

If you want to teach English (literacy and ESOL) then you will also need to demonstrate skills at Level 3 in this area. This does not necessarily mean having an A Level English qualification but more that you are able to show that you know and understand language at a higher level. In a similar way for mathematics (numeracy) you need to show Level 3 skills but this is more about using GCSE content in answering complex questions than applying A level concepts. 

You will find descriptions of the entry requirements and standards for teachers on the Excellence Gateway website, here: 

Are you suited to teaching?
Apart from having certain skills in academic subjects, you should also think about whether you are suited to teaching. There has not been a great deal of research on the characteristics that help teachers in their work but there are a few things that should be thought about. Learners have stated that they find teachers with patience the best. And you can probably imagine that along with patience you will need some listening skills so that you can really understand what your learners are thinking. 

Along with these personal qualities, you should be aware that there is plenty of paperwork attached to a teaching career. You will do so some careful planning of sessions, you will need to record the progress of your learners and you will need to mark and give feedback on work. To make this work you will need some good organisational skills. It may not surprise you to realise that good computing skills are expected in today’s teaching career.  

What teacher training courses are there?
There are a few routes and different courses that you can take to become a specialist teacher for adult literacy and numeracy. 

You can either take a programme that covers the requirements of a Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector (DTLLS) and then follow this with a subject specialist ‘Additional Diploma’ or you can find a programme that integrates both courses in one. The integrated route saves a lot of time and money but there are many more general programmes available than the specialist ones. Note that there may be a number of different names for these qualifications; Diplomas, Certificate in Education (Cert Ed), Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) - but in the end they all qualify you to teach. 

The DTLLS programmes are either taken in one year as a full time course or as a part time two-year programme. The Additional Diploma is usually a one year part time course. The part time courses are intended for those who are already employed as a teacher. Talk to your providers about what they require for their part time progammes. 

Some people try out teacher training through the much shorter Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS) courses. These courses are usually about six sessions long and, being much cheaper, offer the opportunity to try out the profession before committing too much time or money. You may also find it is easier to get a job teaching with this qualification, after which you can progress onto the part time programmes mentioned above.   

Where do you find information about courses? 
There are a number of places you can find information on courses. The TALENT website is probably the best starting point. This was set up bring together information on English (ESOL and literacy) and mathematics (numeracy) teacher training courses. You will also find a list of qualifications and centres that have been approved for running such courses. This does not mean that all these courses will run every year but it is also a good place to start. 

At the moment there are two main sorts of awards that trainees can take. These are either by national awarding bodies, such as City and Guilds, Edexcel, OCR, and so on or higher education institutions/universities. These awards may be delivered in a range of institutions including further education colleges, training providers, and universities. They are all equivalent to each other. 

You will need to check with the providers about what current arrangements are for fees, and whether financial support is available. 

What are job prospects like?
This is a difficult question to answer. The need for skills development among the UK population has been demonstrated and is well accepted. The evidence suggests that many more tutors are needed to deliver courses: however, the current financial climate is working against this and the need is not necessarily being turned into jobs. Bear in mind that there will be a mixed picture across the country.

The other thing to consider is that much teaching for this area of work is part time. Full time jobs do exist and are advertised in the national press - look in the Times Educational Supplement every Friday or online. But it is more likely that part time jobs will be found via a range of routes. Part time jobs are advertised in national and local press and via the TALENT website. But you can also get work by sending a CV through to local colleges, adult education centres and training providers. They will probably put you on a list in case any work in your specialism arises.

You might also consider volunteering for a period of time in a local institution to gain experience and make yourself known.  

What sort of career pathway is there? 
The different organisations and structures make it difficult to give a simple answer here. Aside from teaching, there will be opportunities to act as a mentor to other teachers, to become a learning ‘champion’, of some sort to manage provision and to become a teacher trainer yourself. 

The world of post compulsory education and training is a fast changing one. There is a need to grow and develop the workforce and new teachers are always encouraged to come forward. 

Do consider your own skills and understanding: you may need to take another course first to be prepared. 

Bear in mind that training will take time and money, although the rewards can make it worth it. Do your research, look to see what sorts of jobs come up in your area. Find out about the options for training in your area.   

Training Adult Literacy, ESOL and Numeracy Teachers (TALENT)

Times Educational Supplement (TES)

National Research and Development Centre for adult literacy and numeracy

The standards for teacher of English (literacy and ESOL) and mathematics (numeracy)

List of providers of teacher training from TALENT website

BBC WebWise – a beginner's guide to computers and the internet

The Skills for Life survey (note that the 2010 update survey will report shortly until then the 2003 report is still useful)
DfES (2003) The Skills for Life survey: A national needs and impact survey of literacy, numeracy and ICT skills. HMSO DfES ISBN 011271160X

Research from the National Research and Development Centre for adult literacy and numeracy
Cara O, Litster J, Swain J and Vorhaus J (2010) The Teacher Study The impact of the Skills for Life strategy on teachers NRDC London

Cara O, Casey H and Mallows D (2010) Recent trends in the initial training of teachers of literacy, numeracy and ESOL for the further education sector in England LLUK 


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