Ann Gravells, Author and Education Consultant

If you are a practitioner in the further education, training and skills’ sector, it can be confusing knowing which qualification you should hold.

I say ‘should’ hold, but you might not need one, since the deregulation of qualifications in England in 2013 (there are different requirements for the other nations).

It’s now the responsibility of the individual employer, college or university to make the decision as to what qualifications their staff should hold. However, there might be requirements to hold certain teaching and/or subject qualifications as part of the programme being taught and assessed.

Practitioners are ‘dual professionals’ i.e. they are a subject expert as well as a teacher, trainer, assessor or quality assurer.

Teachers and trainers

The most popular qualifications for teachers and trainers are the:

  • Level 3 Award in Education and Training (AET)
  • Level 4 Certificate in Education and Training (CET)
  • Level 5 Diploma in Education (and Specialised Diploma) (DET).

The AET can be taken pre-service i.e. before gaining a teaching or a training post, whereas the other qualifications are taken in-service whilst working with learners.

They are usually taken at colleges or training organisations, and are accredited by awarding organisations who are regulated by Ofqual. You can find out more about each qualification by clicking here.

The AET/CET and DET qualifications have been extended on the RQF until July 2020. The ETF has guidance documents and information here. A review process regarding the content is planned to commence in January 2019.

There are also Train the Trainer programmes which are short courses, often to help on-the-job trainers with their role. Not all of them are accredited i.e. they don’t lead to a recognised qualification.

For on-the-job trainers there are Awards, Certificates and Diplomas in Learning and Development at levels 3 and 4. These are often referred to as TAQA which is an acronym for Training, Assessment and Quality Assurance.

Other teaching qualifications include:

  • Level 5 Certificate in Education (Cert Ed)
  • Level 6 Professional Graduate Certificate in Education
  • Level 7 Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).

They are usually taken at a university, or a college which is affiliated to a university, and are monitored by the QAA.

The demise of the QCF and the introduction of the RQF in England in 2015 also meant that awarding organisations (AOs), if they wish, could devise their own qualifications in addition to those listed above. An example is an award for assessors, listed at the end of the following section.


The current qualifications for assessors are made up of three units which, depending upon your assessment role, will lead to the:

  • Level 3 Award in Understanding the Principles and Practices of Assessment. This is a theory unit only. 
  • Level 3 Award in Assessing Competence in the Work Environment (ACWE)
  • Level 3 Award in Assessing Vocationally Related Achievement (AVRA)
  • Level 3 Certificate in Assessing Vocational Achievement (CAVA).

These have also been extended to July 2020 and guidance and documentation can be found here.

A qualification for assessors who are involved in the end-point assessment of apprentices is the:

  • Level 3 Award in Undertaking End-Point Assessment.

Quality assurers

There are qualifications for those who internally and externally quality assure the work of assessors. Depending upon your quality role, these will lead to:

Internal quality assurance (IQA)

  • Level 4 Award in Understanding the Internal Quality Assurance of Assessment Processes and Practice. This is a theory unit only.
  • Level 4 Award in the Internal Quality Assurance of Assessment Processes and Practice.
  • Level 4 Certificate in Leading the Internal Quality Assurance of Assessment Processes and Practice.

External quality assurance (EQA)

  • Level 4 Award in Understanding the External Quality Assurance of Assessment Processes and Practice. This is a theory unit only.
  • Level 4 Award in the External Quality Assurance of Assessment Processes and Practice.
  • Level 4 Certificate in Leading the External Quality Assurance of Assessment Processes and Practice.

These have also been extended to July 2020 and guidance and documentation can be found here.

You can find further information regarding all the above qualifications by clicking here.

The difference between qualifications and standards

A qualification demonstrates you have met all the criteria required for a particular role, and is formally accredited.

Standards are a set of criteria which can be demonstrated on-the-job, and are often produced by professional associations for their members to refer to. They are a way of checking and confirming what you are currently doing.

Professional standards

Professional standards are either mandatory or voluntary. In England, the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) has a set of Professional Standards for teachers and trainers which were launched in 2014.

Professional standards give teachers something to aspire to, or to use as a form of self-assessment. If none are available where you work, it might be useful to refer to these as a guide.

National occupational standards

These are often produced by sector skills councils and they are not qualifications.

However, they are often used as the basis for awarding organisations to produce a qualification specification, such as those for Learning and Development.


Gaining ‘status’ is a demonstration of your professionalism in the sector.

If you are a member of the Society for Education and Training, you can work towards Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status. This is a badge of professionalism.

Advanced Teacher Status (ATS) was launched in June 2017 by SET and is open to those who have already achieved QTLS. It is the badge of advanced professionalism and mastery. Those who achieve ATS will be conferred with the Chartered College of Teaching’s Chartered Teacher designation.

Ann Gravells, Author, Creator of Teacher Training Resources and an Education Consultant

This text has been adapted from Gravells A The Award in Education and Training (2014 Revised edition) London Learning Matters SAGE Publications Ltd. Copyright © 2018 Ann Gravells

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