There is an argument to say that if we’d already provided these core skills in the younger years, then we would not have to be taking retrospective action now to repair the damage – a huge challenge for the post-16 sector, which has only been exacerbated by the lost learning caused by the pandemic.
All of these new policies bring greater pressure on to the staff delivering the content – having to adapt and change their approach with a lack of time, resources and guidance. What’s more, in certain areas, such as the apprenticeship market, there is a distinct lack of specialist subject matter experts.
What's needed now
What is needed is fast action and support, giving colleges and providers a quick and accurate way of identifying a learner’s starting point, which also outlines the skills gaps that they need to plug. From there, centres need high-quality resources to deliver effectively – resources that support those with less experience and operate in a sequenced way.
This needs to be done centrally so it can be accessed remotely and outside of normal constraints in timetables, work and life. As well as this, it needs to be as cost-effective as possible and available for any learner who requires a starting point in English and maths.
At NCFE, we’re looking at solutions that will support the sector now and in the future. Some of the English and maths projects we’re running with our Assessment Innovation Fund are prime examples of how we’re looking to shape the future in this area, such as testing virtual reality in assessment with the Sheffield College.
For now, though, we’ve launched our FAST (Functional Assessments and Skills Together) solution which provides access to initial and diagnostic assessments for Functional Skills and GCSEs in English and maths. FAST applies to the whole of a provider’s provision and delivers Functional Skills registrations at a fair cost, and with the uplift in funding coming in January 2024 for apprenticeship providers, this will allow for more of a provider’s money to be invested into those one-on-one sessions that offer additional support to learners.
What next for maths?
From compulsory maths until the age of 18, to Multiply, to FAST, it’s clear that we need to seek effective solutions to the growing concerns around the provision of essential maths skills for individuals – both in school and in the working world.
Employers want their employees to have good core skills in English and maths, and there’s often a concern that career progression may be blocked where the level of maths required is too high in relation to specific roles. While there is an argument for mandatory post-16 maths, I think the real discussion needs to be about what this looks like. I personally would like to see something similar to Multiply, where a qualification is not required but equips the learner with skills around money management and statistics that directly apply to their current roles.
NCFE has already started this discussion by submitting written evidence to the House of Lords 11-16 Education Committee, providing our thoughts on the delivery of vocational qualifications in schools and supporting English and maths for all. We need to urgently address how we can effectively equip people with these essential maths skills to help them thrive in work – and that includes movie stars!
You can learn more about the English and maths qualifications that we offer and our expertise in this area by visiting our English and maths webpage.