Why even movie stars need maths | NCFE

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Why even movie stars need maths

David Redden David Redden Commercial Manager at NCFE

In this article, David Redden explains why having a spotlight on maths can be an opportunity to ensure people are equipped with the essential skills they need to thrive.

Rarely has the English and maths sector been in such a high-profile national spotlight as it currently is.  

Earlier this year, Rishi Sunak’s announcement on wanting all pupils to study maths to the age of 18 made it onto the front pages of the national press, featured in mainstream news programmes and flooded social media.

Not all the comments were favourable – actor Simon Pegg’s views being one high profile example, stating that those in creative industries don’t want or need to learn maths. 

Whilst I can understand his argument, I think the issue is more about how the message was delivered. Personally, I think there’s a need to provide the right (and specific) maths skills in the right areas that will enhance individuals’ prospects and give them more tools to operate successfully in their environment.

By just stating ‘maths’ with no contextual information, people automatically revert to thinking about negative experiences in a maths classroom, such as doing equations or algebra, which held no relevance to them in the world they were moving into. Sunak himself recently spoke about an ‘anti-maths mindset’.

However, the essential everyday life numeracy skills that we’re talking about are critical to allow individuals to flourish. For example, whilst Simon Pegg states he doesn’t need to learn maths, having a greater understanding of numbers will help lots of entertainers when negotiating contracts for example.

These essential maths and numeracy skills are also what Multiply – Rishi Sunak’s other big maths policy – aims to provide. As a government-funded programme set up to support adults, the provision of these skills can help individuals to unlock job opportunities and lead to higher wages. But, again, they also apply to everyday life – as they can help people to budget or to support their children with their homework.

Challenges in delivering maths

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.

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.

David Redden, Commercial Manager at NCFE

A headshot of David Redden who faces the camera

David Redden, Commercial Manager at NCFE

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