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What will be the impact of the new FE and skills teaching diploma?

27 June 2024

By Caroline Dunstan, lead learning and development practitioner at Riverside College and a Research Further Scholar.

In September 2024, the new Diploma in Teaching (Further Education and Skills) (DiT) qualification comes into effect. The new guidance applies to anyone delivering further education (FE) initial teacher education (ITE) qualifications at Level 5 and above.

To secure public funding, qualifications must follow one of three routes:

  • the Level 5 DiT,
  • qualifications that are compliant with the DiT validated by higher education partnerships at Level 5 and above, or
  • the learning and skills teacher apprenticeship.

Recognised FE ITE courses eligible for public funding must also be consistent with the learning and skills teacher (LST) occupational standards.

As the course leader for the PGCE Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) and Certificate in Education (Cert Ed.) within an FE college I welcome teaching qualifications that provide rigour and challenge. Teaching requires self-discipline in any phase and new teachers should be prepared as much as possible for the demands they will face.

The new qualification requires teachers to be able to analyse and critique theory, and value research and work towards expert practice, all of which I support. However, I have concerns about the new qualification, and worry it may limit choice and equity for those seeking to teach within FE. There are three changes I worry might create barriers.

Changes in mandatory teaching hours

In its previous iteration, trainee teachers in FE were required to teach a minimum of 100 hours. This has now been raised to a minimum of 250 hours, of which 100 hours can be made up of meetings, observing lessons, marking etc.

At the moment, 100 hours can be achieved through teaching three hours a week over two years, which allows our trainee teachers to come into college one day a week, teach a class in the morning, spend some time with the department and attend their PGCE or Cert Ed. class in the afternoon or evening. We always strongly suggest that trainee teachers spend more time than this in college to understand the full role a teacher plays, however some of our trainee teachers continue to work full time, often supporting families and negotiating childcare whilst training to teach. For them, this one full day and evening in college gives them the opportunity to continue to work (usually in the trade they hope to teach) whilst training as a teacher. The government has suggested that dual professionalism is an ideal profile for FE vocational teachers, but I’d argue that this isn't supported within the teacher training phase.

Changes in entry requirements for maths

Trainee teachers are now required to have achieved a Level 2 in maths before they start the course. This was previously advised, although they have always been required to have a Level 2 in English. I agree that all teachers need a good standard of English and maths to support their learners, but some of those who will make wonderful vocational teachers and who have excellent skills in their own areas do not already have a Level 2 in maths.

Indeed, they often belong to the large group of young people and adults who have negative experiences of maths and of resitting their GCSEs countless times. Out of our current first year cohort of nine, three trainee teachers do not have a Level 2 in maths. We are supporting them through the excellent Multiply programme, encouraging them to take their Level 2 functional skills this year and, should they not achieve it, retry again next year.

These are often people working for themselves who have the maths skills they need for their jobs and to run a successful business. Should we be limiting access to teacher training in FE for these often highly skilled people? It is also noted that for the learning and skills teaching apprenticeship trainee teachers do not have to have Level 2 English and maths prior to starting the course, but according to the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education: “apprentices without Level 2 English and maths will need to achieve this level prior to taking the end-point assessment.”

Changes in credits required at Level 5

There is a change to the number of credits needed at Level 5, from 80 to 90. Whilst this may seem a small change, in the Cert Ed. course we deliver through Staffordshire University, our trainee teachers – who are often coming back into education after years of working in industry – will no longer have the opportunity to step back into education at Level 4 and move onto Level 5.

It is a big step to go straight into academic writing at Level 5. Many of our trainee teachers value the chance to work on and improve their academic writing and analytical skills at the beginning of their two-year programme and all are working at least at Level 5, and often at Level 6, by the time they complete the course.

The current government marketing campaign to encourage people into teaching in FE suggests that “teaching in further education is incredibly flexible. You can teach full-time, part-time or even on an ad-hoc basis”. This is a positive aspect of teaching in FE, but should this flexibility not also extend to trainee teachers, given the teacher recruitment and retention crisis?

Teachers who are highly skilled and passionate about their subjects and trades are so valuable for our students, and we need to make sure we are doing everything to encourage them into the profession rather than creating barriers.

The views expressed in Think Further publications do not necessarily reflect those of AoC or NCFE.