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April 2018

Too much wriggle room?

Final graph NILE

As the EL Gazette revealed last month, over 500 non-graduate teachers were working at UK language centres at the time of their last British Council inspection. This averages out at just one teacher per centre, a very small proportion, but the numbers are not evenly distributed.

Overall, just over 40 per cent of centres employ non-graduates, although the exact proportion of centres varies by sector: 76 per cent of summer school operators have such teachers compared to only 10 per cent of boarding schools and universities. The accreditation handbook states: ‘All academic staff will have a general level of education normally represented by a Level 6 qualification.’ Level 6 is the level of an undergraduate degree.

However, centres are allowed a little wriggle room. The handbook goes on to say: ‘Exceptionally, the employment of any academic staff without the appropriate general level of education may be acceptable with the provision of a valid rationale.’

In reality, inspectors accept 95 per cent of rationales submitted – only exceptionally do they turn them down. Our research found only 24 rejected rationales out of a total of 530.

So, what kind of rationales are accepted? We analysed the results of the 98 reports that detail the grounds for accepting rationales. Those working towards a qualification of Level 6 or higher formed the biggest group. These included seventeen teachers currently studying for an undergraduate degree and nineteen teachers enrolled on a Level 7 Diploma course in EFL.

As Nile’s Thom Kiddle so eloquently argues on this article (see here), these are probably the kind of teachers the profession actually needs. But how about the teacher who was planning to enrol on a Diploma? Or the one who had already failed it?

Not to mention the fifteen teachers whose rationales were accepted because they had enrolled in a Level 6 programme and then dropped out?

Perhaps the most perplexing case is the sheer number of teachers whose rationales are accepted on the basis that they had undertaken ‘post-school learning’.

The examples we found included a Level 4 certificate in hospitality, a web design course and training undertaken while in the police force. It is hard to understand what any of these have to with language teaching.

The question remains: how far from being a Level 6 graduate do you actually have to be to fail to get your rationale accepted?

The answer comes in this extract from an inspection report. ‘The rationales for the more recent employment of two teachers without Level 6 qualifications were not accepted, as there was no evidence of any relevant academic training before employment and no plans to help these teachers improve their academic profiles.’

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