Teachers don't work in isolation: there are specific guidelines they are expected to follow which were issued by FENTO (Further Education National Training Organisation) in the late 1990s. The FENTO Standards of Teaching were created in response to a need for uniformity in the guidelines teachers in adult education should adhere to.
In fact copious legislation is in place to guarantee that the rights of the learners are protected: teachers needs to abide to such legislation. Of course some pieces of legislation will be more relevant than others, in the teaching environment: for example the 'Health and Safety at Work Act' (1974) will be of relevance if teaching an acupuncture class, where the handling of needles is required; or a construction class, where protective equipment such as boots or helmets may be needed. The 'Protection of Children Act (POCA)' (1999) will be of relevance when working with children up to the age of 19, regardless of the subject taught. Other legislation in place is constituted by the 'Equality Act' (2006); the 'Copyright Design and Patents Act' (1988); 'Data protection Act' (1998); 'Disability and Discrimination Act' (2005); 'Sex Discrimination Act' (1975).
Interestingly all this legislation is relatively recent, the oldest entry being a mere thirty-eight years old: this is testimony to the fact that there has been a distinct shift towards recognition of diversity, equality and inclusiveness in the learning environment.
In practical terms, the teacher may not be able to meet all the needs of the learners, and as mentioned before it might be appropriate to refer to other professionals within the lifelong learning institution. The relationship between the teacher and other professionals should be one of cooperation, as the main aim is to meet the needs of the learners: it's also true though that there are boundaries. The boundary is where the other professional's duty begins. A practical example: a student may have financial problems, and may raise the issue with the teacher.
The teacher is not the person who can deal with the problem, although of course the problem may affect the attendance and concentration of the student: the teacher will refer to the finance officer, who may be able to provide financial help to the student. In this contest, the teacher may also contact the officer, advising that a student will need to meet him/her: but the teacher's job ends there.
It can be very demotivating for a student to feel that there is no support: the institution providing the course should make sure there is plenty, on an emotional/mental level and in terms of resources. After all learning is a complex process and part of the role of the teacher/institution is to help remove barriers to learning, internal or external, to support people in their learning and progress.
Hayes Amanda (2006). Teaching Adults, Continuum. London.
Wallace Sue (2003). Teaching and Supporting Learning in Further Education. Learning Matters. Exeter.
Rogers Jenny (1989). Adult Learning. Open University Press. Buckingham.
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