Becoming a CELTA centre

Apparently some people spend their free time trying to get through to boss levels of platform games. I prefer to spend my weekends trying to get through to page seven of the form that is the first stage of becoming a CELTA centre by pretending to be a Tokyo-based school called Fried English, in order to get some of the information that Cambridge seem to be more and more sparing with every year.

More seriously, I mainly recommend the Cambridge CELTA just because that is what employers want and their management don’t say that I am a “mean-spirited, narrow-minded person who…just generally dislikes people and things that have had more success in life than you have.” (as far as I know), but I thought I ought to know a little bit more about it, and as it takes a fair amount of effort to find out some of this stuff I thought I may as well share it too.

The school

“Institutions applying to run courses need to have been operating as an English language centre/department for at least three years and must be accredited by the relevant local accreditation agency.”

Cambridge also ask about being “provider of any other English language assessment services… For example: Cambridge ESOL, OCR, CIE, TOEFL, TOEIC, Trinity College London, City and Guilds, Pitman, Edexcel, etc”, the number of permanent teaching staff, the number of administrative staff, and the number of students.

The school must have:

– “a good range of resources from the recommended list for CELTA”

– “multiple copies of core books readily available for candidates”

– “class sets of course books for trainees to use to prepare for teaching practice”

– “supplementary materials for trainees to use in teaching practice”

– “a suitable number of reference books for a dedicated course library”

– “an appropriate room which can serve as a base room for input…able to accommodate, with ease, 12 trainees, 2/3 tutors and an assessor.”

– “at least two appropriate rooms for teaching practice…large enough to accommodate the students, the teaching practice group, the trainer and assessor(s)…in a reasonable condition and in an acceptable state of decoration…. suitably furnished and equipped for educational purposes.”.

– “a study room/area for trainees’ preparation”

– “a relaxation/refreshment area”

– “a private room for tutor discussion/tutorials with trainees”

“Normally institutions are approved to deliver only one Teaching Award in the first instance.”

The staff

It seems that there must be at least two fully trained-up CELTA tutors on each course, whatever the number of trainees. The trainers on the courses almost always have to have previous experience of teaching on an actual CELTA course and being trained up by experienced CELTA tutors, which means schools wanting to set up as a CELTA centre for the first time have to employ people from outside for at least a course or two while their own staff are trained up or (much rarer I imagine) arrange for their staff to train up as CELTA trainers in another centre. Apparently “If you already employ experienced teacher trainers with experience of practice-based teacher training, Cambridge ESOL can provide induction programmes to familiarise your trainers with the administration and standards of the Cambridge awards.” over at least two days, but I know people who’ve had problems actually making this happen.

Potential CELTA trainers are required to:

• “have substantial (normally 5 years) varied and current classroom-based ELT experience preferably in more than one context. Experience of teaching a range of levels and different types of class is a requirement.”

• “the Cambridge ESOL DELTA, the Cambridge/RSA DTEFLA or Trinity Dip. TESOL.” (MAs in ELT with a strong practical focus may also be acceptable provided the other conditions are also met) “(Please note that if the proposed trainer-in-training does not hold an in-service ELT award they would not be considered suitable for training.)”

• “evidence of professional commitment (involvement in staff development, conference attendance, etc.)”

• “be familiar with the kinds of classes that trainees will teach and the materials trainees will be using.”

“You may have tutors who have very good academic qualifications but they may not be ideal for CELTA training purposes. CELTA is classroom based and trainers need to be able to bring a practical focus to their teacher training.”

“CVs… must be submitted to the Cambridge ESOL Centre Approvals Administrator for approval.”

“Your institution will also need to provide details of a Centre Administrator. This is a person appointed by the institution and permanently employed by the institution whose role is to deal with all queries relating to the running and administration of the course. The Centre Administrator is responsible for ensuring that all courses are administered according to Cambridge ESOL regulations.”

“The role of the centre administrator is to:

• Process applications from potential trainees

• Organise selection procedures, register candidates

• Arrange assessment visits, send results to Cambridge ESOL

• Follow up post-course queries from candidates or from Cambridge ESOL

• Ensure that re-approval and approval forms and letters are returned to Cambridge ESOL…”

“Please note that a member (or possibly two) of the teacher training team is required to supervise the selection procedure for applicants to the course and to interview prospective candidates.”

“You must also be able to organise six hours of observations of experienced ELT professionals who can provide beneficial observation experience for CELTA candidates.” (Often Delta-qualified, in my experience).

The course structure and materials

“Centres applying to run CELTA should use the CELTA course timetable for at least the first three courses that they run. If the centre wishes to use a different CELTA programme, this should be discussed with the Centre Registration Unit and this programme should follow the specifications outlined in the CELTA Syllabus and Assessment Guidelines”


“before final approval is issued, we do ask centres to ensure that all advertisements include the statement ‘Subject to final approval by Cambridge ESOL Teaching Awards’.”

Assessment of the courses

“In general, a CELTA assessor will have a minimum of two years’ experience of CELTA teacher training, with experience in all aspects and components of the CELTA, including course administration.

An applicant should have significant experience of running courses and show evidence of continuing professional development in the field of ELT”

“all centres will be asked to apply for re-approval every three years”

The approval process

After those 7 pages of forms…

“The Cambridge ESOL Centre Registration Unit will now liaise with the Development Manager for your area and discuss your enquiry further. A Cambridge ESOL Development Manager (DM) is responsible for a country or region and works with centres to promote and develop Cambridge ESOL’s exams and Teaching Awards. The DM may want to discuss issues relating to your enquiry and may also wish to conduct a site inspection before confirming that your institution may apply for approval.

The procedure for applying for approval is as follows. The Centre Registration Unit will request further information and once this has been assessed, you will receive feedback regarding whether your institution can enter the approval process.

Those institutions entering the approval process will be sent a New Centre Application form. The application form will ask your institution to submit a course programme which should follow the specifications outlined in the relevant Syllabus and Assessment Guidelines. Feedback on the submitted programme and application will then follow. A CELTA sample course programme is available to new centres and should be used unless the centre has its own programme approved by Cambridge ESOL. Further details regarding the process will be provided to institutions proceeding with an application.

Your application will then be considered by an external reviewer in consultation with Cambridge ESOL and your institution will be informed of the outcome.”


We can compare all that palaver with the way that I set up a new teacher training course in my school in Italy and so became head trainer:

My boss came to me one day and said “You’ve been a teacher trainer, haven’t you? Someone has approached us about becoming a CELTA centre, would you help us set it up?”

To which I replied “Are you sure it’s the CELTA? Cambridge don’t approach anyone, you have to go begging to them. Could it perhaps be ABCDE?” (which I was a trainer for in Madrid)

“Oh yes, that was what it was.”


And so, after some very nice meetings in some very nice Italian restaurants that was what happened.

I know which one I prefer as a teacher and occasional teacher trainer with a famous hatred of paperwork, but as a trainee my opinion would be the exact opposite. More on those different kinds of preferences in an upcoming post comparing Cambridge and a large organisation that claims to be its equal.

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2 Responses to Becoming a CELTA centre

  1. Abul-Hassan says:

    Hi Alex,

    A bit like getting blood out of stone it seems.

    We provide training for teachers her in KSA, but like you mentioned trainees and employers want the big name.

    As ‘Fried English’ (love the name), did you manage to find out about the costs involved? From another site, I’ve found out that the centre pays Cambridge $150 per student, but I don’t know how current the info is. The centre also has to pay part of the assessor’s ‘direct costs and not the salary’ per visit.

    I’m also checking out the would-be competitor to see how cladestine they are too.

    Let me know if you have nay more info, please.



  2. Myrla Morta says:

    How to become a CELTA center? Who to contact here in the United Arab Emirates?

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