An alternative education trainer coaches students to become certified teachers of a specific form of alternative education.
An alternative education trainer is responsible for teaching adults to become educators who employ unconventional techniques for learning instead of traditional classroom education. Alternative education can include any school of learning that falls outside mainstream teaching methods, including freedom-based learning, spiritual development schooling, outdoor schools and holistic education. An alternative education trainer is responsible for teaching the philosophy to their curriculum as well as effective teaching methods and environment settings.
Alternative education trainers are required to be an inspirational influence on the adults they are training. They are required to be passionate about their form of education and to show the benefits over traditional teaching methods.
Often non-classroom based, alternative education trainers will work in a variety of environments, usually representative of the educational method they are preparing their students for. Although alternative education trainers work with adults, experience with children in both a traditional and non-traditional learning environment can be extremely beneficial.
The salary of an alternative education trainer will depend on employment status and experience. Working within a company, Level 3 practitioners can earn between £80 and £160 a day. This is dependent mainly on experience in running and managing projects as well as the input required for that particular course.
Level 4 Associate Trainers, employed by a company (this is a position only attainable through Archimedes Training Ltd) can earn a salary of between £24,000 and £28,000 a year. From there, trainers can go on to become training managers and can earn up to £35,000 a year.
Freelance Level 4 Trainers will be able to attain a salary that fluctuates significantly depending on participant fees, accreditation quality, training material used, number of people on the course and frequency of courses. This means income can be extremely varied and can appear seasonal.
An alternative education trainer is first and foremost an educator and is therefore responsible for all tasks regarding the learning of their students. These include:
- Promoting the ethos of the education method they are teaching
- Providing a creative method of training their students in alternative education in accordance with the establishment’s procedures and with a view to complete the recommended criteria for enabling the group to qualify
- Producing a training plan of the proposed method of instructing trainees
- Communicating effectively with the training team and training assistant as well as the learners
- Keeping up to date records of all those enrolled on training courses and their progress
- Utilising equipment and resources for training and maintaining the standards of these resources
- Identifying potential environments for training courses
- Identifying potential risks and drawing up a risk assessment plan
- Taking responsibility for personal health and safety and that of the group being trained
To be an alternative education trainer, a level 3 NVQ/ONC/BTEC or equivalent qualification in a related field (such as Early Years, Adult Training or Creative Arts Therapy) is a necessity. Preferred qualifications also include a teaching or adult training degree, ITC First Aid and any qualifications relevant to the position. Before pursuing a position the applicant must often gain the qualification that they will be teaching and/or assessing.
Being an alternative education trainer requires a lot of passion for the job as first and foremost, it is considered as an inspirational role. Beyond overall enthusiasm, the position requires a good interpersonal skill set. Alternative education trainers need to:
- Be eloquent and articulate, and able to break down explanations and instructions simply and clearly
- Have the ability to communicate with a wide range of people
- Understand and employ a variety of teaching styles
- Be an enthusiastic and motivational leader
- Possess the ability to work effectively in a team and communicate efficiently with that team
- Have a basic knowledge of computer programmes used for recording student data and risk assessments
- Be friendly and approachable as a person, and be able to create a warm atmosphere where everyone in the class feels equal and valued
- Be a hands-on person who is willing to take an active and demonstrative role in their classes
- Possess a practical understanding of a child’s development and of a variety of learning styles
The working environment for alternative education leaders varies depending on the ethos of the educational programme being taught. The job involves continuous interaction with people which requires you to maintain a focused yet creative atmosphere amongst the people you are training. Alternative education trainers must be prepared to constantly encourage discussion between groups and sustain the interest of the group by providing environmental and educational stimuli using the working area they are in.
Often, alternative education takes place outside a classroom environment meaning that working conditions can be outdoors. With this in mind, trainers need to be prepared not only to work in a variety of weather conditions, but also maintain the engagement of trainees at the same time. The work is moderately demanding as demonstrations of activities are necessary to provide a kinaesthetic example of teaching. Work based outside can involve risks to health and safety. Alternative education leaders are responsible for keeping themselves and their group safe by formally assessing the risks in their particular working environment.
Work hours are usually average office hours but sometimes courses can run outside of those to cater to an establishment’s training needs. This may mean working at weekends or later into the evenings. Being an alternative education trainer can require travel and overnight stays away from home as courses can be relocated to suit customer needs.
To be an alternative education trainer, experience with young people is required as this enables understanding of learning styles and comparative teaching methods to combat potential difficulties. Knowledge and prior experience in a traditional classroom setting is beneficial as this provides an understanding of problems encountered in the classroom and can be a stimulus to find creative methods to tackle those.
Any previous experience surrounding the ethos of the alternative education scheme will count towards employability and will show eagerness for the position.
- Private alternative education companies such as Archimedes Training
- Self-employed trainers can be contracted by schools and educational establishments to train their staff
Career progression opportunities for alternative education trainers are limited within companies. There are often opportunities to become the team leader or manager of other trainers which means taking on the responsibility of overseeing trainer programmes. Alternatively, trainers can move into an area of expertise such as special needs campaigns, and run specialised training courses. Other opportunities include sideways moves such as becoming the head teacher of an alternative education establishment, or running your own alternative education company.
Sarah Blackwell is the CEO and founder of Archimedes Training Ltd, which trains Forest and Beach Schools practitioners. Here’s what she has to say about being an alternative education trainer:
What made you start Archimedes?
Archimedes was started in 2001 in order to satisfy the increasing demand for alternative education that meets the need of young people who were struggling in the mainstream school system because of their lack of development in key areas of emotional literacy. This was having a massive impact on behaviour and opportunities to learn.
I had a desire to contribute to the education of children based on personal experiences and offer a successful alternative to a mainstream system that was not meeting the needs of a number of young people who had had difficult experiences of life, who had been traumatised through family conflict or abuse, those in care or those unable to cope for many other reasons that for some were unknown. The programmes we offered were extended to nursery aged children in order to support the foundation stage curriculum and to provide them with an opportunity to flourish in their formative years through using the natural environment (children are becoming more estranged from nature than at any other time in our social history).
Archimedes established itself as the largest programme provider of this specific long term outdoor approach in the country. Due to the demand for programmes we set ourselves up as a training provider for people looking to become practitioners.
We are going through a process of flux at present and on the cusp prospectively of establishing a number of new training programmes and associated arms of the business.
What did you do before you started training people to be Forest Schools Practitioners?
I have had a series of employments throughout my time, which really all focussed around jobs that helped make a difference to people’s lives. I have worked as the environmental education development officer for Sheffield City council, as a specialist outdoor development officer for Stockport Youth Service, and as a Day Centre Officer for adults with learning disabilities. These all relate directly to what I do now. But I’ve also been a care worker in an old people's home, and ran my own business as an entertainer, attending corporate events as a juggler/fire eater/stilt walker and unicyclist.
What's a typical day like for a Forest School Trainer?
Trainers generally arrive at the venue and set up their equipment. They’ll then do practical training using natural resources in a woodland environment and will deliver theoretical information via multimedia in a classroom environment. They need to relate to the group creatively and understand each member individually to assist learning. A trainer has additional responsibilities such as monitoring the progress of their students as well. What do you like about training adults to become Forest Schools Leaders?
When adults train with Archimedes, they often say that their lives and values and beliefs have been fulfilled. They feel as though they can heal negative childhood experiences and facilitate a method for young people to work in a whole new way. We know that these people have been enlightened and inspired to go away and make dramatic changes in the educational establishments they work in; this will enable them to make amazing progress with young people, their families, their communities and then hopefully society.
What do you dislike about it or find particularly challenging?
As a trainer there is a great deal of travelling and as such there is an inordinate amount of pressure on family life. It can also be emotionally exhausting as there is a massive investment in each individual who takes part and you feel connected to them and somehow responsible for the journey they’re about to make.
What skills do you gain from training people to be Forest Schools Leaders that you could take to another job?
Being a Forest Schools Trainer gives you environmental understanding and knowledge of ecosystems on the one hand and interpersonal skills on the other – comprehension of learning theories and group dynamics, child development theory and emotional literacy. Trainers also learn how to plan and prepare their materials, how to manage groups and relate to them individually and how to motivate others to make change.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of training people to become practitioners in alternative education?
Make sure you go through the right channels to train and join a successful company such as Archimedes rather than try to freelance.