Teacher Training on the Job: Working as an Unqualified Teacher in FE

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Teacher training on the job

If you want to teach in Further Education (FE) but have no formal teaching qualifications, don’t give up. FE is one of the few education sectors where you can gain your qualifications after you get your first teaching job.

In 2013, the Government lifted the requirement for newly-appointed teachers to have undergone formal teacher training before working in FE. The responsibility for employing suitable teaching staff was transferred to FE organisations, allowing them to set their own criteria. This has allowed FE employers to widen their net to employ staff from outside the teaching profession, thereby tapping vocational expertise and talent.  

FE Teaching Qualifications

The main teaching qualifications currently sought by FE employers are:

  • Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training (DET) – allows you to teach learners aged 14+
  • PGCE Secondary – allows you to teach in both schools and the FE sector.

Depending on the employer and their criteria, the DET can be gained part-time while working as an FE teacher (see below in ‘What to Expect’).  A PGCE is generally a full-time course and cannot be completed while working full-time as an FE teacher. For more general information about FE qualifications see our article ‘A Practical Guide to FE Teaching’

Requirements for Non-Qualified Teachers

It is possible to teach in FE without formal teaching qualifications, but bear in mind that you won’t be able to walk into a job teaching, for example computing, if you have never used a computer. Many FE employers are willing to overlook the absence of a teaching qualification provided you have considerable expertise in your chosen field. To be considered, you would be required to have the following:

  • Level 2 (GCSE or equivalent) in English and Maths.
  • Significant industry experience.

FE employers often ask for ‘industry experience’ in the subject you wish to teach. Indeed, the FE sector actively seeks individuals who have experience in other industries. Therefore, you would need to convince an FE employer that your work experience is relevant.

How? Here are some examples of turning ‘industry experience’ into teaching:

  • English teacher: You may have worked as a journalist, copywriter, editor or in a profession where you have been required to read and write to a high level. An English degree is also highly desirable.
  • Business teacher: You may have worked as a manager, or in retail or have run your own business.
  • Catering teacher: You may have qualified and worked as a chef or ran your own catering business.

What to Look for In a Job Ad

Many FE employers specify a PGCE or Level 5 DET in their ‘essential’ criteria. In this case you would have little chance against fully-qualified candidates. However, you might also see something along the lines of:

Teaching qualification such as a PGCE or Level 5 DET, or willingness to gain this qualification within two years.

In this case, if you think your experience fits the role and you have a Level 2 qualification in English and Maths, it’s worth applying. Ensure you track the person specification with your work-based skills and also emphasise your commitment to gaining the teaching qualification in the specified timeframe.

What to Expect as a Non-Qualified Teacher

There’s no doubt that unqualified teachers face a steep learning curve. You may know everything there is to know about your subject, but being in the classroom for the first time can be nerve-wracking, especially if you have never taught before.

Your employer, whether it be a college, charity or a private company, should have training initiatives designed to support you as a new, unqualified teacher. They will probably provide you with a mentor to help you through the first months, which can be invaluable to your progress and development.

Crucially, the organisation should also help you gain the relevant teaching qualifications while you are ‘on the job.’ Many FE colleges partner with local universities to provide the Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training (DET). Typically, you would be expected to attend the course once a week and pay the tuition fees, which can range between £1,500 to £3,000 per year.

If you are invited to an interview, ask about how the Level 5 DET (or equivalent) is provided at the organisation and if it is not, how the employer will support you in gaining your teaching qualifications.

Once employed as an unqualified teacher, you would start on the ‘bottom rung’ of the teaching ladder, usually as an hourly-paid sessional lecturer. However, starting a career in FE as an unqualified teacher means you get to teach, earn and get qualified while actually doing the job. For those who learn best on the job, this can be one of the most rewarding routes into FE teaching.

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