A Guide to Community Teaching and Learning

A Guide to Community Teaching and Learning

If you are currently training to be a Further Education teacher or already working in the sector, you may think your career will be confined to FE or Sixth Form colleges. However, Further and Adult education is one of the broadest and most versatile sectors for practitioners and learners alike. Here we look at the exciting opportunities available to teachers within the community, outside the traditional college environment.


In 2020, the government’s Education Committee announced a plan for an adult skills and lifelong learning revolution, pledging to invest £2.5 billion in the National Skills Fund, aimed at helping young people and adults to train and gain the skills they need to improve job prospects.

According to the Local Government Association, over nine million adults in the UK “lack functional literacy and numeracy skills” and there has been a significant dip in adults accessing training and education - particularly in poorer areas - over the last decade. The skills gap among young people and adults in a transformed job market has become a hot-button issue and there is now a huge drive to employ teaching professionals to help fill this gap.

Most adults have busy lives and caring responsibilities and cannot easily attend college within the traditional school day. Recognising this, more funding is being pumped into lifelong learning within community settings such as local authorities, workplaces, charities and independent training providers.

There are currently numerous community teaching roles available, with local authorities wanting to attract teachers who have trained and worked specifically within post 16 education. Teaching in a non-college training organisation is diverse, challenging and hugely rewarding. This type of role involves engaging with students in their own environment, which helps to give teachers a greater understanding of their lives and the educational challenges they face.  

Where and what can you teach?

  • Local authorities and work-based learning:

By far the largest providers of further education outside a college environment, local authorities play a vital role in the delivery of Post 16 community learning. As of 2017, 139 out of the 343 councils in England have offered 16-18 and adult community learning services.

When thinking about council-run courses, most people imagine flower-arranging or upholstery. However, although these courses are available, many councils now offer a wide range of employment-oriented vocational and academic programmes for both school leavers and adults including:

  • Apprenticeships
  • GCSE English and maths
  • Functional skills (English, maths and IT)
  • Business administration
  • Catering
  • Construction
  • Health and social care
  • Childcare
  • Digital skills
  • Employability skills
  • Languages

Most council-run programmes are offered to learners in dedicated campuses, workplace settings and online. Timetables are flexible to suit learners’ lives so you may find yourself teaching in the evening or visiting learners across a county.

  • Charities and independent training providers:

A number of charities such as the YMCA, NCFE and The Worker’s Educational Association offer a range of vocational and learning programmes and qualifications to young people and adults.

There are also over 1000 private, independent training providers (ITPs) offering community and work-based learning to young people and adults. ITPs are part-funded by the government and inspected by Ofsted.

Education charities and ITPs offer a wide range of courses, from English and maths to Apprenticeships. Whether it’s teaching for a large national charity or a smaller training provider, roles available are hugely diverse and you may be teaching in a local community or sports centre, online or mentoring and tutoring learners at their workplace.

Pay, hours and benefits

Adult and lifelong learning within the community offers teachers from all backgrounds a vast range of opportunities. Tutors can be employed on a term-time only sessional basis (hourly-paid) or offered permanent part-time or full-time contracts, depending on the needs of the provider.

Salaries for sessional teachers range from £21 to £26 per hour (depending on qualifications and experience) and start at around £24,000 p.a. for full-time or part-time (FTE) teachers. Holiday allowances for contracted teachers are generous and most providers offer over 25 days per year.

Working hours vary and you will probably be asked to work in the evening, to accommodate learners’ jobs and family commitments. A car and driving licence are usually essential for these types of roles, as you may be travelling between campuses and learners’ workplaces.

What qualifications and experience do I need?

Essential and desirable qualifications for teachers wishing to work in community learning vary widely by provider. Most require Level 2 qualifications in English and maths and a subject specialist qualification at Level 3 or above.

In 2013 the government lifted the requirement for FE teachers to have undergone formal teacher training, with responsibility for employing suitable candidates being transferred to providers. However, many providers do ask for a Level 5 teaching qualification or PGCE, depending on the subject area. Some providers also offer on-the-job teacher training.

Subject-specialist experience, gained through either previous employment or study is key to landing a role with a community learning provider. Many FE employers are willing to overlook the absence of a teaching qualification provided you have considerable expertise in your chosen field.

For more information on training to be a teacher in FE, check out our guide here.

Finding a job and further information

Your job search will depend on the area of community learning you wish to work in. You can find FE and lifelong learning roles here at college.jobs.ac.uk or find roles advertised on your local council’s job section  .

For further information on training providers check out these helpful links:

  • HOLEX: A network of community learning and skills providers.
  • AELP: Association of Employment and Learning Providers.
  • EducationUK/British Council: Overview of training providers in the UK.
  • British Accreditation Council (BAC): Providing accreditation to enhance the standards and quality of independent further and higher education.

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