Is the Professionalisation of Adult Basic Skills Practice Possible, Desirable or Inevitable?

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Carol Azumah Dennis


This paper explores the meaning and implications of a policy-driven professionalisation of adult basic skills practice. Written amidst competing theoretical conceptualisations of professionalism, the paper focuses on a particular policy moment in Adult Language, Literacy and Numeracy (ALLN) practice in England:  Skills for Life. The paper argues that the possibility of implementation of this policy is limited. The policy is filtered through the fragmented nature of the field, the embeddedness of literacy and what this paper calls an 'anti-professional' stance of ALLN practice. For policy makers, professionalisation is desirable, and its impact is far-reaching. It enables control of a key aspect of the service sector implicated in the supply of flexi-workers required by a globalised economy. In discussing the inevitability of professionalisation the paper draws on a small-scale research project to locate a space for the professional imagination, a space in which ALLN practitioners express motivations at odds with policy imperatives and enact professionalisation in ways that arguably hijack the momentum and resource that the policy provides.

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Author Biography

Carol Azumah Dennis, University of London

Carol Azumah Dennis recently a Doctor of Education degree at the Institute of Education, University of London. After working for some years as a teacher and manager of adult basic skills, she left further education and started working in higher education. She is currently employed as a Programme Director for Post Compulsory Teacher Education at the University of Hull. Her research to date has focused on policy and practice surrounding quality in teaching and managing adult literacy. Her email is