Although further education courses can be at traditional universities, they are generally taught through colleges that are exclusively venues for further education courses. These institutions are sometimes called "community colleges" after the American institutions that are similar. (Although American community colleges offer both post-secondary education as well as further or continuing education classes.) Other institutions that offer further education courses may offer a variety of work-based learning classes while campuses that offer adult and community learning coursework also frequently offer further education coursework.
As is appropriate -- and indeed perhaps necessary -- for further education programs designed to ameliorate the skills of a profession as important as teaching (as well as other professions such as social work, medicine, or law), there is an agency tasked with ensuring that teacher further education aligns with national goals for the profession's standards. The Learning and Skills Improvement Service (the LSIS was formerly titled the "Quality Improvement Agency and Centre for Excellence in Leadership") has the authority as well as the responsibility to develop "excellent and sustainable" further education programs and courses that apply to all teachers. In general, the goals of the LSIS include instilling in every teacher in the United Kingdom a desire to achieve and maintain excellence.
But -- and this is an absolutely essential aspect of further education in the United Kingdom -- the goal of the LSIS and further education teacher programs is not simply aimed at "improving" or changing teachers but in across the learning and skills sector. Its aim is to accelerate the drive for excellence and, working in partnership with all parts of the sector, builds on all institutions in society that can support the educational process. This includes schools themselves, of course, but also any other public and private institutions in the United Kingdom that can be recruited to help support teachers, students, and the nation's need for and commitment to educating each new generation of students to meet their as both citizens and workers.
Qualified Teacher Learning Skills
Beginning in September 2007, an important change for further education for teachers was instituted. From this point on, all teachers who are working within any further education program must be designated as having achieved "professional status." This professional status is more formally designated as Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills or QTLS. This qualification process is divided into different stages, beginning with a "passport to teaching" module. From there the program progresses to the full teacher training segment. This second stage might actually take a teacher up to five years to complete. This second phase includes both skills acquired through instruction as well as skills acquired through practice. Each year of this second phase has as one of the central requirements thirty hours of continuous professional development. A teacher is recognized as being capable of provided consistent, inspiring education to the entire diverse array of his or her students is awarded the designation of Training Quality Standard.
The degree to which these new regulations has affected the composition of the British teaching force can be assessed (at least in some measure) from the following statistics:
in September 2009 there were over 550,000 teachers registered with the GTC
over 35,000 trainees were provisionally registered with the GTC by March 2009
over 2000 teachers who qualified in the EEA received QTS during the 2008 -- 09 period more than 1100 who qualified outside the EEA were also awarded QTS during this period.
The GTC summarizes the ways in which this ongoing process of improving the support for and ongoing education of teachers through the increased use of both licensing requirements and further education:
[Teachers'] provisional registration means that they are accountable to the profession and the public for their conduct and practice standards alongside their fully registered colleagues with qualified teacher status (QTS).
Teaching in England is also increasingly attracting qualified professionals from abroad and teachers who qualified outside the European Economic Area (EEA) can take a variety of courses that lead to QTS.
It is important to clarify here that the requirement that teachers meet higher standards to be qualified is in some measure distinct from the changes in further education for teachers. That is -- they are different formal processes that occur at different points of the teaching career. However, more importantly, they are both a part of the same political process that is aimed at increasing the quality of education that is offered through the United Kingdom's publicly funded schools.
Lifelong Learning UK provides oversight for the teachers who provide pedagogical support as instructors in teacher further education. Further education teachers are affiliated with the University and College Union along with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. Further education teachers who are employed by sixth-form colleges, schools or secondary schools are, in addition, eligible to join the teaching unions that are attached to other secondary schools. These unions also provide support for teachers throughout the course of their professional lives.
As is true of many aspects of British public life, there is more than one agency that has oversight and input into the learning and skills sector. Beginning in June 2009, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills also gained some authority over the field of further education. This department also provides oversight for prison education and workplace education along with several other categories of non-school, non-university training and education.
This raft of recent reforms to further education across this entire sector of society has included as a central concept the institution of the status of Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills.
Before a teacher can be recognized as being a qualified teacher under this act, that teaching candidate must first have successfully completed a teacher training course that has been approved by Lifelong Learning UK. After the successful conclusion of this course, the teacher next registers with the Institute for Learning.
The Institute for Learning, which is in charge of assembling and maintaining a list of all accredited teachers, then awards a "license to practice" to the teacher. However, this is not the end of the process. After the teacher has received this license to practice, she or he must undergo annual Continuing Professional Development.
The following provides an overview of the ways in which teachers are now certified -- and recognized -- as being fully qualified:
Teachers in full teaching roles to hold appropriate qualifications and QTLS
5. -- (1) Subject to the following paragraphs, no person may be employed in a full teaching role unless that person
(a) holds the Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector at Level 5 or above approved by the Secretary of State, or its equivalent; and (b) holds a specialist's subject qualification approved by the Secretary of State, where the Secretary of State has decided that such a qualification is necessary, or its equivalent.
(c) has completed such programme to the satisfaction of the IfL or has obtained such award as may be approved by the Secretary of State, for the purposes of demonstrating that a person has the necessary literacy, numeracy and information and communications technology skills to teach;
(d) has completed, to the satisfaction of the IfL, a process of professional formation; and (e) holds QTLS status.
Professionalization of a Profession
It is important to note at this point that the increasing requirements for formal training and certification arise from a number of different sources. One of these is the polity: Politicians (sensitive both to constituents' explicit demands and general social and cultural pressure to emphasize the importance of education) push for educational reforms on a regular basis. Teachers themselves are supremely aware of the challenges that their jobs present them with and so also petition the state (and to a lesser extent their unions) to improve their chances both to succeed in supplying a quality education and to improve their own working conditions.
The following description summarizes the statutory language that governs the latest reforms in teacher further education programs:
In September 2007, the Government introduced new regulations to reform the training, qualifications and development of teachers, tutors, trainers and instructors. The reforms included changes to initial teacher training (ITT) and continuing professional development (CPD), and impact on all those delivering learning within the further education (FE)sector
2. The reforms are statutory for FE colleges, but other providers who are in receipt of funding from the LSC must also comply with the requirements as part of their contractual obligation. The reforms therefore impact on those who deliver adult and community learning (ACL), offender learning and skills, and the organisations they work for.
The Government is committed to having a fully qualified workforce by 2010. This means that since 1 September 2007 all new staff employed as teachers by LSC funded providers are obliged to: