From education to employment

What new professional standards mean for FE

A real buzz occurred in our sector on 20th May when the new Professional Standards became available on the Education and Training Foundation‘s (ETF) website. According to the ETF, over 1000 people viewed the standards in the first week.

It’s been seven years since the previous standards from LLUK were launched, which comprised of over 150. The new standards are much more simplified, are on one page, and only comprise of 20. They should help teachers and trainers to maintain and update their specialist subject knowledge, as well as their currency of practice.

Almost 1,000 sector professionals and partner organisations were involved in developing the standards. I hope these were a different 1000 to those that viewed them in the first week! Mapping to the 2013 Education and Training qualifications was carried out as part of the consultation process, and this revealed close alignment between the standards and the revised teacher training qualifications (Award, Certificate and Diploma in Education and Training).

What do they look like?

There are 20 standards, which are numbered for ease of reference, and which relate to three areas:

  1. Professional values and attributes – 6 standards aimed at developing judgement of what works and does not work in teaching and training
  2. Professional knowledge and understanding – 6 standards aimed at developing deep and critically informed knowledge and understanding in theory and practice
  3. Professional skills – 8 standards aimed at developing expertise and skills to ensure the best outcomes for learners.

An example is the first standard:

1 – Reflect on what works best in your teaching and learning to meet the diverse needs of learners.

This is straight to the point and gives a teacher or trainer something to work with. They can become aware of, and critically appraise their own practice of what does and doesn’t work with their learners in their own teaching and learning context. They can then consider how to develop their practice through continuing professional development (CPD), and share their findings with colleagues.

What is their purpose?

The standards recognise the value of teachers and trainers to use their own autonomy and judgement. They :

  • Set out clear expectations of effective practice in education and training
  • Enable teachers and trainers to identify areas for their own professional development
  • Support initial teacher education
  • Provide a national reference point that organisations can use to support the development of their staff

Who are they for and how can you use them?

The standards are designed to be used by:

  • Teachers and trainers
  • Teachers and trainers / managers supporting the development of others
  • Leaders and managers

The standards summarise the expectations that teachers and trainers set for themselves. Rather than being prescriptive, they offer a framework to evaluate and develop practice, and enable collaboration and the sharing of findings with peers. They are meant to be aspirational and developmental and are based on the model of a reflective practitioner. This means you can use them as a reference tool for reflective practice and professional development. You can consider what has worked, what hasn’t, and what could be improved in your practice. The result should be a real benefit for yourself, your learners and others.

The standards should not be used as a competence assessment checklist by managers. An example of how a manager and a teacher could use them would be a discussion about current practice and how CPD can help improve it. They could therefore be used holistically rather than individually.

If your organisation is inspected by Ofsted, they will be referring to the standards as part of their Initial Teacher Education (ITE) inspections.

Deregulation of qualifications

Since the requirement to hold a teaching qualification for post-16 teachers was deregulated in 2013*, there is an expectation that the sector will define and regulate professionalism for itself. The standards will therefore help employers, teachers and trainers achieve this.

Previous professional standards

You might be familiar with the previous New Overarching Professional Standards for teachers, tutors and trainers in the lifelong learning sector (2007). They were developed to provide standards for professional performance, to be the basis for new teaching qualifications at the time (PTLLS/CTLLS and DTLLS), and to create the foundations for high quality CPD. In my opinion, I felt there were too many standards, there was a lot of repetition, and they seemed to become ‘lost’ as the teaching qualifications took the focus of performance and achievement. I wonderhow many teachers and trainers actually knew how the standards related to their role, to their teaching qualification, or even knew of their existence.

The 2007 standards were not updated when the teacher training qualifications were revised. They were therefore a key activity for the ETF, whose aim is to improve professionalism and standards in the further education and skills sector.


If the standards are referred to by teachers and trainers when performing their job role, and when taking a teacher training qualification, they should raise awareness and improve practice. They should also help teachers and trainers understand their role, perform it effectively, and identify their own CPD requirements. I like the idea of a set of standards, it gives us professionals something to aspire to, as well as a professional identity. However, it will be interesting to see how the standards are used and what impact they have upon the sector.

Ann Gravells is an author and education consultant and can be contacted via her website:

* The exceptions are teachers of English, maths and those working with disabled learners who should hold specialist teaching qualifications.

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You can access the full standards, along with guidance for each, on the ETF website.

The previous LLUK standards can be downloaded from the useful links section of this webpage.

The next article from Ann Gravells will be: Gaining employment in the FE and Skills sector

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