Charlotte Bosworth, Director of Skills and Employment at exam board OCR, welcomes the recommendations of a new report into adult literacy and numeracy and urges the uptake of more flexible learning options to support adult learners.

I read with interest the recent report from the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Select Committee which focussed on the alarmingly low levels of adult literacy and numeracy in England.

Currently ranking at 22nd in a list of 24 OECD countries for literacy and 21st for numeracy is not a position that reflects well on the education outcomes of a prosperous, well-funded and globally influential nation. The Committee has made a number of recommendations including the urgent need for a high-profile campaign to tackle this worrying situation, alongside the development of a more 'joined-up approach' from Government in order to respond more strategically, and with more urgency, to the need for rapid improvement. Central to the proposed reforms is the very real need for improved funding arrangements, better assessments and resource to support the literacy and numeracy needs of unemployed people.

Furthermore, it is in efforts to underpin the educational aspirations of this community that the real focus should be made. Many older learners, for various reasons, may need to reassess their current skills and attractiveness to employers, but in many cases are barred from doing so due to a failing system. They could well have experienced redundancy after a life-long career in which they have obtained and displayed a range of manual skills, but now realise that the feasibility of re-entering the workplace via alternative employment requires a re-appraisal of their current skill base and the attainment of new proficiencies often grounded in literacy and numeracy.

Moreover, it is a reality for many that early learning experiences of the traditional O Level (now GCSE) qualifications were problematic and did not equip them with, for example, the required literacy and numeracy exam grades. In this sense OCR has, for many years, argued that GCSEs should not be relied upon as the only option for measuring and motivating adults with literacy or numeracy issues. I am pleased that BIS Select Committee appears to be in agreement with this point of view.

We believe that while the standards of the GCSE are of course an important measure of academic attainment and achievement, there should also be flexibility in how older learners re-engage with the learning process in a way that plays to their strengths and encourages confidence, rather than focussing on their weaknesses. Our experience is that those who have failed to gain English and maths skills at school – often many years ago – can make far more progress with an alternative approach which leans on incremental, bite-sized learning structures that engage and reward, with the overall effect of raising confidence in the learner's ability, whilst preparing them for the workplace, rather than the classroom. Simply exposing adult learners to traditional methods inherent in the GCSE approach will more often than not produce the same results: if they struggled previously, it is likely that they will do so again.

In helping to prepare and equip learners for a return to employment, a dedicated pool of functionally and vocationally based resource must be supported and offered as an alternative method of skill attainment. Coupled with experienced training providers, we can then start to make inroads into the real, and serious problems that a significant number of adults are encountering when it comes to developing reading, writing and maths skills, and which have a huge impact on their daily lives – including securing and retaining employment.

OCR has already made great headway in this field, offering tailored packages for adult learners including Cambridge Progression, which focusses on core English and maths skills, as well as our Functional Skills courses, which provides further practical training in English, maths and ICT, equipping learners with transferrable skills which can be applied to everyday life and the workplace.

Releasing the untapped potential of adult learners in a more flexible way not only enhances their own prospects and makes them more attractive to employers, it also makes good economic sense as a swath of potential recruits will be able to make a contribution to the future fiscal wellbeing of the country.

To conclude, then, adult learning can play a central role in helping people escape the what can be a vicious circle of low-skilled jobs or employment, or at worst, unemployment. We are heartened to see the BIS Committee call for the closer integration of key stakeholders such as the Department for Work and Pensions, BIS, Job Centre Plus and skills providers to work more closely together for better outcomes in this area. Together with a more flexible approach to learning provision, we hope that we can finally start to have a real impact on the alarming adult literacy and numeracy levels and begin to move England up the OECD league tables from a current position that, quite frankly, should serve as an embarrassment to us all.

Charlotte Bosworth is director for skills and employment at OCR, the awarding body

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page