Paul D. Jagger, Business Area Manager for IBM Learning Development (Europe), takes a reflective look at Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector, an entry-level qualification in adult learning.

Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS) is the entry-level qualification required of anyone teaching in the further education sector on publicly funded programmes.

The qualification became mandatory for new entrants to teaching in 2007, and by the end of 2010 all existing tutors, trainers and lecturers in further education are required to achieve this qualification.

The qualification is mapped to the Qualification Credit Framework (QCF) at level 3 or 4, with the student and tutor agreeing at the outset of the programme which level to aim for. The learning outcomes remain the same, the only difference being the assessment criteria for each of the assessed components of the qualification.


The qualification is directly relevant to anyone who aspires to be a better tutor, teacher, trainer, lecturer, instructor, facilitator or, as I prefer, L&D professional.

Candidates for the PTLLS qualification do not need to be working in the further or higher education sectors and the award is equally valid (with some limitations explained later) as an entry level qualification for those L&D professionals working in the third or private sector.

The content of the programme aims to provide a solid grounding in the theory and practice of adult learning, irrespective of subject matter. It is, in many ways, a ‘back to basics’ experience, but a rewarding and worthwhile one nonetheless.

In 2008, the Institute of IT Training (IITT) announced that its Trainer Performance Monitoring and Assessment (TPMA) programme would be aligned with the QCF Level 3 or 4 competencies identified by the PTLLS qualification.

In short, this means that TPMA assesses against the same competency model as PTLLS. Also, the IITT has recently begun offering PTLLS as a qualification through its Academy, whilst TPMA assessment, leading to the IITT/ BCS Institute Certified Training Practitioner (ICTP) Award, is delivered through the IITT’s authorised centres.


The PTLLS programme requires a total of 30 hours of classroom contact time. A typical part-time evening programme will last 10 weeks, with each class lasting three hours, with an average of two hours a week of additional study and assignment writing. Having completed the programme, I would recommend others to follow a programme spread out over a number of weeks, as time is required between classroom sessions to conduct research, write up assignments and prepare lesson plans and presentation materials.

The precise structure of the programme differs slightly from one provider to another. However, all PTLLS programmes will include elements such as the teacher’s role, responsibilities and professional boundaries; some theories of adult learning; motivating learners and strategies for dealing with barriers in learning; referral and support for learners with special needs; planning a programme of learning; planning a learning session; differentiation in the teaching environment; assessment methods; and a micro-teach (short teaching) session.


The PTLLS qualification is achieved through the successful completion of a series of assignments. These include several written assignments, the completion of a reflective learning journal, planning a short teaching session, delivery of a short teaching session and the completion of a portfolio of evidence.

The micro-teach session is a 30-minute opportunity for the student to practise what they have learned in front of their colleagues. Students are expected to apply the lessons learned in the courses to plan, develop, deliver and evaluate a lesson on a subject of their choice. Typically the micro-teach session will be recorded and feedback will be gathered from the fellow students and tutor immediately after the micro-teach.

There is no formal examination in the PTLLS programme; however, it should include a series of informal assessments during the teaching alongside the assignments. These assignments are gathered in to a final portfolio (sadly still required in paper format) that will be assessed and sent to the awarding body for moderation. Throughout the studies, there is also great emphasis on personal reflection as well as giving and receiving feedback.

Recognition and follow-on

There are two primary awarding bodies in the UK who accredit providers to deliver the PTLLS programme, the OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations) and City and Guilds.

Successful students generally receive their qualification (strictly speaking, an ‘award’ in the terminology used by the Qualifications Curriculum Framework), from one of these bodies. Then there are two relevant professional bodies that recognize PTLLS as a qualification criterion for membership at various grades, namely the Institute for Learning (IfL) and the IITT, when PTLLS is taken at QCF Level 4.

There are two follow-on qualifications, one aimed at those seeking Associate Teacher Learning & Skills (ATLS) registration and another aimed at those seeking Qualified Teacher Learning & Skills (QTLS) registration:

  • Certificate in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector (CTLLS), a QCF Level 4 qualification leading to ATLS registration through the IfL;
  • Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector (DTLLS), a QCF Level 5 qualification leading to QTLS registration through the IfL, equivalent to a Professional Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).

There is also a qualification entitled the Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), which is a QCF Level 7 academic qualification conferring post-nominal letters - just to confuse matters. QCF Level 7 is equivalent to FHEQ Level M. It takes some very clever academics to create this cats’ cradle mess of qualifications all addressing the same fundamental need - a teaching qualification.


One of the drawbacks of the PTLLS programme is that it is centred on the assumption that all learning takes place in a physical classroom setting, facilitated by a professionally qualified teacher, tutor or trainer. There is no coverage of informal learning, social learning tools or technology-based learning. There is no discussion on the validity of learning styles theory or wider issues of adult and workplace learning.

It also ignores the ‘elephant in the room’ of learning programme evaluation. There is an implicit assumption that once the needs of the learners have been fulfilled, the learning programme has been a success. No consideration is given to the needs of the sponsoring employer, the organisation funding the learning, or stakeholders outside the classroom.

A perfect example of this omnipresent ‘elephant’ was demonstrated in my programme: One of my fellow students was responsible for a course aimed at giving young offenders an alternative to a custodial sentence.

The programme was judged to be a success if the students turned up each week, completed the assignments and the end-of-course exam. No consideration was given to whether the student immediately reoffended after the programme, re-entered the criminal justice system and ultimately ended up in jail.

In conclusion

To be fair to the programme, my views are those of a consulting L&D professional in the private sector. I believe that the programme would be best served if the preparation was for best practice in L&D as the starting point rather than being based on a qualification that was relevant more than 20 years ago (the curriculum for this type of award has not changed much in that time).

The programme itself is a rounded foundation in adult learning that complements the experience I gained earlier in my career as an IT trainer.

For those L&D professionals who spend a significant part of their working year delivering learning, the programme is ideal. For those in roles such as learning project management, instructional design, content development and learning consulting, the programme is less relevant and other qualifications may prove more applicable.