Robinson, Denise and Rennie, Sandra (2012) Volunteer teachers: testing the professionalisation agenda in the lifelong learning sector. Journal of Further and Higher Education. ISSN 0309-877X

Volunteer trainee teachers (trainee teachers who teach on an unpaid basis and not on a pre-service course) are present in a number of institutions across the lifelong learning sector (LLS) in England, giving the opportunity to gain entry into the teaching profession to those who might otherwise face difficulties in accessing paid teaching. Whilst statistics on volunteer trainee teachers are not collected, it is difficult to determine whether the numbers of such trainees are a constant across the sector or if they are a minority or a substantial proportion of total trainee numbers. However, the backdrop of a severe economic recession and consequent public expenditure cuts to education, resulting in real or perceived threats to employment for teachers in the LLS (IFS 2011), may have increased the numbers of volunteer trainee teachers. The paper explores the introduction of voluntary teaching practice in a large university/college partnership and raises questions about the consequences for the organisation and teacher educators in terms of the profile, motivation and experience of the volunteer trainee teachers and any differing perceptions of their teacher educators. These include tensions around the professionalisation agenda, the equality of access (including those with disabilities) agenda, and whether voluntary teaching opportunities facilitate this. Questionnaires and interviews with volunteer trainee teachers, teacher educators and mentors were undertaken. This study contributes to the discussion about the evolution of professionalism within the context of increased pressures on staff arising from cuts and strains on the present teaching qualification system.

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