Basic Skills Tutor Careers

How to become a basic skills tutor

What does a basic skills tutor do?

Skills for Life tutors, also known as basic skills teachers, use a variety of teaching methods to help adult learners improve their skills in reading, writing, spelling, maths and, sometimes, information technology. They work with adults that have not reached the national standard for literacy and numeracy, which is usually considered to be a level 2 qualification, eg GCSE A* to C or equivalent. They may also work with adults that have specific learning difficulties, social barriers to learning, disabilities or English as second or foreign language. Tutors are usually qualified to teach either:

  • numeracy
  • literacy, or
  • English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).

However, some tutors may teach more than one subject if they are suitably trained. They could also teach financial literacy and life skills.

Tutors can teach people with a range of abilities and will need to plan group and individual activities to reflect this. Their role will depend on the environment in which they teach, eg. further education college, community centre, learning centre, workplace or prison.

Their day-to-day activities include:

  • planning and preparing teaching materials and programmes
  • assessing learners’ skills and discussing goals
  • creating an Individual Learning Plan
  • using resources for practical excercises, eg worksheets or computer packages
  • using techniques to manage the learning process
  • providing learners with ongoing support
  • monitoring and assessing students’ work
  • keeping records of learners’ progress and providing encouragement
  • keeping up-to-date with professional issues and attending meetings.

Qualified Skills for Life tutors may work alongside skills mentors, support workers and volunteers that provide extra classroom support under their supervision, eg giving one-to-one support to a student with a disability.

What's the working environment like for a basic skills tutor?

Skills for life tutors can work in full-time, fractional or part-time positions. Tutors in fractional posts work on a permanent contract for a fraction of the week. Part-time tutors may only have a temporary contract. Full-time tutors are likely to work up to 37 hours a week, with around 25 hours spent teaching. Evening work is common.

Tutors could teach stand alone courses or the Key Skills portion of a vocational training course. These courses may be delivered part-time, full-time or through self study, which can affect the teachers’ hours of work.

Skills for Life tutors usually work indoors in college classrooms but, with the increase in outreach and community-based classes, they may also teach in community centres, schools, libraries, prisons, or learners' homes.

What does it take to become a basic skills tutor?

To be a Skills for Life tutor you should:

  • have an excellent understanding of English (spoken and written) and/or maths
  • have the ability to share that knowledge through teaching
  • be approachable and personable with a wide range of students
  • have the confidence to lead group work
  • be enthusiastic and able to motivate students
  • be well organised, with good planning and preparation skills
  • be able to express yourself clearly, both in speech and writing
  • take an interest in the welfare of others
  • be committed to promoting equal opportunities
  • be IT literate
  • be capable of reflecting on your own performance
  • have patience, tact and a sense of humour.

Given that you will be teaching core subjects like English and maths you'll need a minimum of a Level 3 qualification in the subject area you're teaching. In addition to this you will need a teaching qualification as well as a specialist diploma. 

If you've graduated with a degree then you can work towards a PGCE (Postgraduate certificate in education) or a diploma in postgraduate education. This can be to teach disabled students, literacy, ESOL or numeracy.

There may be opportunities to work towards higher qualifications in certain subjects during your teacher training. 

Basic skills tutor career opportunities

Skills for Life tutors and support workers can work in colleges, adult education centres, community centres, voluntary organisations, prisons, private training providers, and work-based training organisations.

There is a growing demand for basic skills tutors, since new initiatives to improve adult literacy and numeracy are constantly being developed. You can get information on the latest programmes and volunteer schemes from the Basic Skills Agency (England and Wales) and other government agency websites listed below.

With experience, basic skills tutors could move into management, or adult education strategy and development posts. Those working in colleges could be promoted to senior lecturer or head of department.

Further information

If you would like to find out more about becoming a basic skills tutor that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK) (formerly FENTO)
5th Floor
St Andrew’s House
18-20 St Andrew Street
Helpline: 020 7936 5798

Department for Education and Skills

Basic Skills Agency

University of Cambridge ESOL Exams
1 Hills Road
Tel: 01223 553355

Trinity College London
89 Albert Embankment
Tel: 020 7820 6100

Department of Employment and Learning Northern Ireland (DELNI)
Adelaide House
39-49 Adelaide Street
Tel: 028 9025 7777

Scottish Executive, Education and Training Department
Area 2A North
Victoria Quay
Tel: 0845 345 4745