Chris Quickfall, CEO, CognAssist

It’s brilliant to hear Alex Stevenson (@LWalexs) from @LearnWorkUK talking about the importance of adult education, especially for essential skills like English and maths.

It is a sad fact that around one in five young people leave education without basic qualifications.

These young people will then go out into the workforce at a significant disadvantage to their peers. Given our current economic climate, we must encourage lower-skilled working-age adults who are facing redundancy and unemployment to retrain and upskill.

But disadvantaged adults face multiple barriers to education.

People with lower qualifications often have a negative experience of education and lack confidence in their ability to learn.

Educators need to think about how they can encourage adults of different backgrounds and abilities to seek out the life-changing opportunities education can provide.

To help more adults retrain and learn essential skills, we need to create more flexible learning environments that support learners on a case-by-case basis.

“UNESCO has been very clear in the past that it will only be possible to make the right to education a reality if inclusive education reaches out to all learners while respecting their diverse needs.” (UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, 2016).

Take the apprenticeship sector, for example.

Scenarios are happening right now where apprentices have passed their end-point assessment, they can do their job, and the employer wants to hire them. However, they are unable to pass their functional skills requirement, which creates a huge barrier to their potential prospects.

Neurodiversity and unidentified learning needs can have a significant impact on a learner’s experience and achievement rates. For some learners, their difficulties with English and maths relate directly to their individual cognition and how their brain processes information.

These learners need your support.

In a 2019 report, the UK learning disability charity Mencap highlighted this issue, “Mencap recommends that the Department for Education make it a requirement for apprenticeship training providers to make available a cognitive assessment to every apprentice they think would benefit from doing such an assessment, as well as any apprentice who requests such an assessment.”

Implementing this measure would ensure that more learners with hidden learning needs receive effective and evidence-based support from starting point to end-point assessment, no matter their age or background.

At Cognassist, we have assessed around 60,000 learners, and identified approximately 30% with learning difficulties – that’s roughly one in every three people!
We measure and identify learning needs impacting literacy and numeracy, as well as six cognitive domains specific to thinking and learning.

But many adult learners will require more tailored support which may include English or maths exemptions if they are to succeed, something highlighted in the Maynard Report of 2016.

Wherever possible, we want to support learners to achieve their functional skills.

Many education providers offer these support provisions as standard to help more learners receive the full benefit of their education.

Without this help, it’s very possible we are doing these learners a disservice and preventing them from reaching their full potential.

Cognitive assessments can have an equal impact in adult education.

Marina GazeAs Marina Gaze, the former Ofsted FE and Skills Director, explains,

“Many adults, who will be seeking training to help them upskill and get back into work, will not have a track record of success in education and will likely come from low-income backgrounds. These adults will identify at similar rates to apprentices, and will, therefore, need support to achieve.”

Education providers have always recognised and responded to their duty to give every learner an equal chance of success. Yet now, with the economic fall-out from coronavirus, this duty has become even more complex to achieve.

There are practical steps organisations can take to continue to respond and level up our workforce.

Chris Quickfall, CEO, CognAssist

To learn how you can drive positive change at this critical moment, download our free "Levelling up our workforce through cognition technology: How to increase opportunities and remove barriers for adults in education" whitepaper.

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