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QUB - United Kingdom, Northern Ireland

Queen’s University Belfast - School of Education

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As part of the UK Government strategy for improving adult literacy and numeracy skills, a tutor education framework was developed at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) to provide professional development opportunities for new and existing literacy and numeracy teachers.

Designed specifically for adult learning tutors, the Essential Skills range of programmes offers the recognised requirements for teachers of literacy and numeracy in the post 16 sector. This includes further education colleges, training organisations, the community and voluntary sector and alternative education programmes.

69/71 University Street
Northern Ireland
United Kingdom
Tel.: +44 (0)28 9097 3323 / 5941
Fax: +44 (0)28 9097 5066

Work environment

The International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), carried out in 1996, showed that 1 in 4 adults in Northern Ireland have poor literacy and numeracy skills.

The IALS results showed that the incidence of the problem in Northern Ireland was higher than all but one of the 14 countries participating in the survey. Research indicates that the number of working age adults in Northern Ireland with no qualifications is the highest in the UK, by some margin.

The reasons for this are partly due to the large number of young people that leave school without a good qualification English or Mathematics. People who did not learn to read, write or carry out simple numeracy tasks in childhood are often reluctant, unwilling or unable to improve their skills as an adult.

In October 2002, the ‘Essential Skills for Living’ strategy was launched and marked a radical new approach to literacy and numeracy in Northern Ireland and began a long-term programme of improvement. The strategy addressed the issues of capacity and quality as well as approached to engagement.

It planned for the introduction of a regional curriculum; accreditation for adult learners; and improved tutor qualifications. The Essential Skills Tutor Education programme was developed at QUB to provide professional development opportunities for new and existing literacy and numeracy teachers.

Queen University of Belfast

Aims, missions and goals

The QUB programme is based on the new overarching professional standards for teachers, tutors and trainers in the lifelong learning sector.

The focus of the course is on teachers’ knowledge, understanding and professional practice in the subject specialist areas of literacy and numeracy.

This focus recognises the changing learner population in Northern Ireland, with growing numbers of immigrants for whom English is a second or additional language, and increasing numbers of young people enrolled in Essential Skills classes.

The course offers strategies for addressing the needs of this range of learners, contextualising learning and including learners in communities of practice of learning. At the heart of the course is its value base, which acknowledges diversity and the contribution which this can make to the learning process. Ethical aspects of practice are explored throughout the course.

The standards on which this course is based encompass the following domains:

  • professional values and practice
  • planning learning
  • generic learning and teaching
  • specialist learning and teaching
  • assessing learning
  • access and progression

Structure of the institution

Shelley Tracey is the coordinator for the literacy tutor-training courses and overall coordinator for the Essential Skills Tutor Education programme. Jim Mullan is coordinator for the numeracy courses. Joe Allen is coordinator for the Eur-Alpha project in QUB

Examples of Achievements

A key aspect of the programme is the engagement of all students in practitioner research to enhance local knowledge and to develop their professional confidence and identities. Students investigate an aspect of their practice and write a research paper, which is collated in a handbook and shared with peers.

The themes of the practitioner research projects include motivating and engaging learners in Essential Skills, as well as explorations of the contexts in which practitioners are teaching. Some past papers have achieved a wider readership.

A recent publication, Practitioner Research in Essential Skills: perspectives on engagement in learning (LSDA and QUB, 2008), includes nine past student’s papers and may be found here

See online : Queen’s University Belfast - School of Education

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.

This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Education and Culture DG