How the ETF and SET promote professionalism


Tricia Odell

Tricia Odell, Head of QTLS and ATS at the Education and Training Foundation, talks about how the 
Education and Training Foundation (ETF) and the Society for Education and Training (SET) promote and support professionalism in the Further Education (FE) and Training sector. The two joined bodies aim to help teachers and trainers take ownership of their career development in supporting them to become even better teachers and trainers.


Demonstrating commitment to on-going professional development, collaborating with peers, continuously engaging with educational research to inform improvements in practice are key elements of professionalism.

Providing opportunities for peer collaboration is essential for the sector

Through initiatives such as the Professional Exchange Network groups and national recognition awards, the ETF and SET have developed different avenues for the FE teachers and trainers to build their professionalism and expertise. These schemes range from informal knowledge sharing groups to gaining Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status and Advanced Teacher Status (ATS). By collaborating with peers through peer observations and professional discussion, these initiatives aim to develop teachers’ and trainers’ practice and subject specialist knowledge and ultimately improve outcomes for their learners. These programmes, underpinned by the professional standards, also contribute to the improvement of the quality of teaching and learning in organisations and networks.

Starting the professional status journey

Engaging in on-going professional development is a key element of professionalism. Undertaking Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status and Advanced Teacher Status (ATS) offers the opportunity for FE teachers and trainers to improve their career prospects, improve their practice and gain deserved national recognition.

QTLS, the first of the professional badges for the FE sector, was initially introduced in 2008. The status, conferred by SET, was reformed by the Foundation in 2016 to be a developmental programme underpinned by the 2014 Professional Standards for Teachers and Trainers. The professional formation process enables teachers to develop their pedagogical skills in planning, delivery and assessment, as well as their subject specialist knowledge. Through feedback gained from QTLS participants in 2018, we learnt that 92% of participants believed undertaking the professional formation had some or significant impact on their practice and their learners. 83% also believed there had been some or significant impact on their organisation.

The QTLS reform placed working with peers at the forefront of the award to bring about the essential continual improvement in teaching and training. Practitioners are given the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues in their institutions or networks, during the “professional formation” process, and work closely with their mentor to help bring about developments in their practice and improve outcomes for their learners. Undertaking professional formation also provides an invaluable opportunity for teachers and trainers to reflect on their experience and skills and test out new evidence-informed teaching strategies. Over 22,000 applicants have now been awarded with QTLS since its launch.

Taking professional status further

In June 2017, ATS was launched as a badge of advanced professionalism in further education and training open to those who have already achieved QTLS status and have been qualified as a teacher for at least four years.
The second of the professional badges conferred by SET, ATS gives experienced teachers and trainers the opportunity to deepen knowledge and awareness about their own and others’ practice. The status forms a progression route from QTLS to a nationally-recognised status that recognises mastery in their practice.

This was further reinforced in November 2018 when it was announced, at the Society for Education and Training’s inaugural conference, that those who achieve ATS will be conferred with the Chartered College of Teaching’s Chartered Teacher Status designation. This announcement further heightens the professional status of ATS as badge of advanced professionalism and mastery in the Further Education and Training Sector.

Advanced Teacher Status recognises experienced professionals who can demonstrate:

  • mastery in teaching and/or training
  • an exemplary degree of subject knowledge in their area of professional expertise
  • effectiveness in sharing their expertise and working collaboratively to improve the practice of others
  • The award also gives teachers and trainers the opportunity to develop their leadership skills by contributing strategically to their organisation’s quality improvement.

The first 23 individuals to gain Advanced Teacher Status were announced in November 2018.

Providing a wider impact for organisations

More and more senior managers are recognising that in order to improve the quality of teaching and learning, they need to provide opportunities for teachers to critically reflect, self-assess and discuss with others the way they teach. Providing the time and space for this to happen is vital for increasing professionalism of their staff. Giving the opportunity for practitioners to work towards QTLS and ATS provides a framework to evidence the outcome and impact of this collaborative working that is having an impact on teaching standards.

80% of the first cohort who undertook ATS agreed or strongly agreed that participating in the process had had a positive impact on their practice. Quotes from some of the first practitioners to gain ATS support this: “Achieving ATS shows that I am committed to my role and the Professional Standards and that I can use my skills and expertise to support others. I am very proud to be able to say that I am one of the first in the country to achieve ATS”; “ATS was important to me as it facilitated the further professional growth needed to obtain mastery status in teaching and learning. It involved a steep personal journey which made me critically reflect and evaluate, then refine my practice” and “I am pleased that I undertook ATS and would encourage others to consider the programme”.

Next steps

The next cohorts for both QTLS and ATS start in October, however, teachers and trainers who are interested in working towards either badge of professionalism can register their interest via the SET website QTLS page and ATS page.

Join my breakout session ‘Promoting Professionalism: Exploring how colleges can create a culture where the practice of teaching is at its heart’ at the AoC HR and Employment Law Conference and Exhibition 15:15 on 5 March 2019 where we will be discussing areas touched on above and much more.

Further information on CPD and gaining QTLS and ATS status can be found on the Education and Training Foundation website and the Society for Education and Training website.


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