Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills status – helping you take the next step in your teaching career

Are you a teacher or trainer working in the Further Education (FE) and Training sector? Gaining formal recognition for your professionalism can be a real boost to your confidence and open doors to your next career steps.

Are you a teacher or trainer working in the Further Education (FE) and Training sector? Gaining formal recognition for your professionalism can be a real boost to your confidence and open doors to your next career steps.


On 1 September, the window opened for the latest round of registrations to work towards Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status, the definitive mark of professional status for those teaching in the FE and Training sector in England. Teachers and trainers from all parts of the sector – including colleges, independent training providers and local authorities – will be registering to join over 26,000 colleagues who have already gained QTLS status to mark their career development.

This nationally recognised status is conferred by the Society for Education and Training (SET) on behalf of the Education and Training Foundation (ETF), the expert body for professional development and standards in the FE and Training sector in England. QTLS status confers a number of significant benefits for those seeking career progression in the sector:

  • Formal recognition for being a professional, capable teacher
  • An opportunity to demonstrate that professionalism to colleagues and managers
  • Parity with QTS to teach in schools on equal pay and conditions
  • An opportunity to evaluate and invigorate teaching practice through the QTLS professional formation process
  • A chance to network and build relationships with colleagues

A vital part of the professional formation process in the sector

The ‘Skills for Jobs’ white paper published by the government in January 2021 emphasised the need for continuing professional development for teachers in the FE and Training sector in order to uphold quality and enable progression.

QTLS is a vital part of that ongoing professional development, offering a next step in the journey for those early career teachers who have recently completed initial teacher education. It is equally relevant for experienced teachers and trainers seeking formal recognition of their professionalism and progress. Whether new to teaching or experienced, the professional formation process at the heart of QTLS provides a valuable opportunity to reflect on practice and explore new approaches.

Head of Professional Status and Standards at the ETF, Andrew Dowell, explains why QTLS status has become so popular with practitioners: “Undertaking a period of professional formation with SET is the perfect next step to build upon your initial teacher education and provide a solid foundation for your future teaching career. Successfully gaining QTLS demonstrates to future employers that you are committed to your professional development and will set you apart from other teachers and trainers going for sought after teaching roles.”

Tracey Bedford, Curriculum Lead for Health and Social Care and Functional Skills for GB Training, took QTLS three years after completing her Diploma in Education and Training (DET): “I have always been passionate about personal development and enjoy any kind of CPD, so I enjoy setting myself a target every year to achieve something on a professional level. I’ve loved the QTLS journey – it’s been such a positive experience, and I take all learning as positive.”

Nick Chadwick, Education and Assessment Manager at Train Aid and former Head of Sports Development at Reigate College, completed QTLS straight after his PGCE qualification: “Teacher trainers who knew about QTLS said it was a fantastic progression route for all trainee teachers. From my very first teaching session in 2012, I always knew that QTLS was a pathway to go into and that it was the golden standard for practitioners in FE to increase the scope of teacher training and opportunities.”

What is involved in QTLS?

QTLS is gained after successfully completing a six-month period of professional formation which enables you to show your progression and commitment to excellence. The formation process is self-guided and requires you to complete a forward-looking online portfolio demonstrating the skills and knowledge you have gained since your initial teacher education qualification. You will be asked to nominate a colleague who can act as your supporter. If you have not already done so, you will need to join SET and this will give you access to advice, an online community of those undertaking QTLS, and a range of free CPD resources.

Once you submit your portfolio and gain QTLS status, you will be able to use the designation MSET QTLS after your name and you will be added to the professional register where future employers can check your status.

How does the professional formation process work?

The professional formation process is focused on developing and collating evidence for an online portfolio. There are nine sections which enable you to take stock of your current teaching practice and focus on an area of interest for your development:

  1. About you
  2. Qualifications
  3. Roles and responsibilities
  4. Self-assessment
  5. Professional development plan
  6. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) record
  7. Critical reflection on impact
  8. Final action plan
  9. Final supporting statement

Typical evidence will include observation reports of your teaching practice, with supporting documentation such as a lesson plan and a self-evaluation of the session.

After you have completed your portfolio, you share it with your nominated supporter to add their supporting statement before submitting to SET for review.

Rooted in shared Professional Standards

At the heart of the professional formation process is a self-assessment which relates your practice to the shared Professional Standards for Teachers and Trainers in the FE and Training sector. These Standards are maintained by the ETF on behalf of the sector. They consist of 20 aspirational statements, first launched in 2014 and updated in 2021, which have been developed collaboratively with organisations and practitioners from across the sector, with review by key sector bodies and the Department for Education.

According to the ETF’s Andrew Dowell, the Standards provide a clear set of aspirations for the post-14 teacher throughout their career: “The Professional Standards were written specifically for the FE and Training sector and are mapped to three key career stages – early career teacher, experienced teacher and advanced teacher. Those who regularly self-assess against the Standards using our reflection tool will be able to craft a well-informed professional development plan and identify professional development to support their areas of development, which is at the core of the QTLS professional formation process.”

Bedford found the self-assessment process invaluable as part of her QTLS formation: “When I went through the professional formation process, it helped me to challenge my practice by using the Professional Standards. I had already been using them to self-evaluate as part of my DET, so this helped me to look at what I needed to develop and fine tune my teaching practice so I could make constant improvements to my practice.”

Samantha Ziegenfuss teaches at a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) at Kent Health Needs Education Service and decided to build on her initial teaching qualification with QTLS to progress her career. She found the self-assessment in QTLS helpful to develop her reflective practice: “The self-assessment was an effective method of identifying my strengths and areas for development against the Professional Standards for Teachers and Trainers. This enabled me to benchmark my abilities against a set of criteria and establish a professional development plan within my workplace.

A valuable CPD opportunity

Above all, QTLS provides an opportunity to take positive action towards personal and professional goals. Feedback from those who have gained the status indicates that participants find it a useful process of self-reflection and improvement.

Like many others, Dance teacher at Philip Morant School and College, Charity Burgess, believes that QTLS has had a significant impact on her practice. After completing a PGCE she decided to undertake professional formation leading to QTLS to strengthen her portfolio and gain recognition in the industry: “I believe my professional formation has absolutely impacted my practice for the better. It made me analyse the areas of my teaching I could improve upon, and practical ways to implement changes.”

Taylor Hennah, Lecturer in Health and Social Care at Oaklands College, enjoyed the opportunity to revisit educational theory: “I really liked the fact that it forced me to look at myself and my own practice and consider what practice is working and what isn’t.”

Kyle Kirkpatrick, Deputy Head of School: Arts and Media at Milton Keynes College,

enjoyed how the self-directed formation process allowed him to identify areas for investigation in response to the sector’s Professional Standards, as well as his own interests: “It allowed me to consider and challenge my own pedagogy and how my practice can and does have an impact on my learners, colleagues, and organisation.”

For Ziengenfuss, reflection has led to innovation: “I have learned to be a more reflective practitioner, using my knowledge to experiment with more innovative approaches and alternative ways of engaging students.” This is echoed by Liam James, Lecturer and Course Co-ordinator at Weston College: “It has given me the chance to try new innovative teaching methods which my learners have enjoyed. Trying new things and reflecting has strengthened my teaching skills and allowed learners to contribute, creating a positive learning environment.”

For Bedford, QTLS re-ignited her passion for learning: “I am always learning and looking at how we can make the learner have a better experience as an individual, as well as becoming a better practitioner.”

Growth in confidence

Growth in confidence as a teacher is one of the main outcomes that QTLS participants report.

Hennah found it was a real confidence booster as a new teacher: “QTLS has grown my confidence which has led to better outcomes for my students because I’ve stopped second guessing myself. My students have benefited from my confidence growing because I’m more authoritative and less scared of change.”

Qualifications and Development Lead/Lead IQA, Jeminiyi Ogunkoya took QTLS to increase her understanding of the value of embedding practical knowledge in further education through in-depth teaching and learning: “Knowledge is power and with my QTLS achievement I feel more confident in my practice and how I support my team.”

Chadwick has seen the impact of increased confidence: “QTLS has improved my confidence and profile in the college and has helped me through any progression routes or course leader roles I’ve gone for.”

Opening doors to wider employment opportunities

In addition to opening doors to career progression in the FE sector in England, QTLS opens doors to opportunities in schools and overseas in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA.

Since April 2012, teachers and trainers holding QTLS status who are also members of SET have been recognised by law as equivalent in status to teachers with QTS in schools. Holders of QTLS can teach across all subjects on equal pay and conditions. This is particularly relevant with the introduction of the new T Level qualifications into schools, requiring teachers with technical and vocational teaching experience.

Hennah has used her QTLS to move to a new role at a secondary school teaching health and social care. For Chadwick, parity with QTS was always a key draw for QTLS: “I knew I wanted to undertake QTLS, primarily because of the changing landscape of FE and to increase the scope of my teaching opportunities, but also so I had the option of moving into the secondary teaching sector or going to an independent school.”

Am I eligible for QTLS?

To apply for QTLS status you need to be a SET member and meet the following criteria:

  • Hold an eligible teaching qualification at Level 5 or above 
  • Hold eligible Level 2 maths and Level 2 English qualifications 
  • Hold a Level 3 qualification in all subjects that you teach during professional formation 
  • Be teaching or training in a Further Education and Training setting for a minimum of four hours a week, throughout the professional formation programme 
  • Be regularly teaching groups of five or more post-14 learners throughout the professional formation programme 
  • Have identified a suitable supporter

Learn more and apply for QTLS

To find out more and to join the next QTLS cohort, visit the SET website. Registrations close Thursday 30 September for an October start. https://set.et-foundation.co.uk/your-career/qtls

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