Skills for Life teachers’ qualifications and their learners’ progress in adult numeracy: Research summary

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In this summary report we look in detail at the relationship between teacher qualifications and learner progress in adult numeracy. Since the Skills for Life strategy was introduced in 2001, most research has focused on learners and their progress. Few studies have paid attention to the teachers, tutors and trainers.

However, a core aim of the Skills for Life strategy is to improve the quality of teaching (and hence of learning) through a new infrastructure of teaching qualifications. In the period from 2002 to 2007 new Skills for Life teachers were expected to have a generic teaching qualification such as a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) or Certificate in Education (CertEd) and a subject specialist teaching qualification in the subject they were teaching. Existing teachers were also encouraged to take these qualifications with the aim that, by 2010, almost all existing teachers in the post-16 sector should be qualified.

The assumption behind these reforms, and those that followed in 2007, is that better qualified teachers will deliver higher quality teaching. But what is the evidence for this assumption? What do we know about the impact on learning of teachers’ other qualifications? And is it necessary for a numeracy teacher to have qualifications in numeracy? If so, what level of numeracy qualification appears to have the most positive effect on learner progress? And what about learners’ attitude to and confidence in maths – is that also related to the qualifications that their teachers hold?

By combining data on the characteristics of teachers and tests scores of learners we can assess the extent to which teacher qualifications are related to the progress learners make between a first assessment, prior to their course, and a second, conducted once the course has finished. We can also look at whether the relationship differs according to the type of qualifications held.

Cara, O. & De Coulon, A. (2008) Skills for life teachers’ qualifications and their learners’ progress in adult numeracy: analysis of data from the skills for life teacher and learner studies: research summary, October 2008. NRDC: London