Sadly, I must confess, I do occasionally read Ofsted reports! I am particularly interested in how training providers handle the delivery of Functional Skills.

You see, Functional Skills maths and English are the orphaned children of apprenticeships, almost considered as an afterthought.

I can picture the “Sales People” – also euphemistically called “Employer Engagement Advisors” – painting a beautiful picture of how a company can use the apprentice levy to upskill their staff in Management Level X or Business Administration Level Y and how it would be so easy without once mentioning Functional Skills.

By the time, the enticed employees find out that they need a GCSE/GCE maths and English or equivalent as a prerequisite for their end-point assessment, it is often too late.

Depending on the type/age of the apprentices, it is fair to say that a sufficient number will not be able to locate their certificates or prove that they have the prerequisite qualifications.

The thought of having to do maths again - strangely never English - several years after finishing school has led many to confess that they would never had started the apprenticeship in the first place, if they were told about this.

Coupled with the fact that they have little time to study or prepare or that the provider may not necessarily have the in-house expertise could lead to an unsuccessful apprenticeship.

This, as many practitioners in the sector know, could also impact the OFSTED grade of the provider. So, back to Ofsted: Here are three tips on delivering Functional Skills that I have extracted from recent Ofsted reports.

1. Provide early support

An excerpt from a recent report states:

“Trainer-assessors provide support, but this is too late in apprentices’ programmes to help them develop the skills they need in the workplace and to be confident about passing their examinations.”

and another

“However, for the very small number of apprentices who do not have good skills in maths and English, leaders have been too slow to make suitable arrangements for them to gain these skills”

2. Coach frequently

“Leaders do not have a clearly defined approach to develop apprentices’ English, mathematics and digital skills. As a result, apprentices do not receive frequent tuition and coaching in these subjects. Consequently, apprentices do not improve their knowledge and skills in these subjects quickly enough”

3. Emphasise the importance of developing good English and mathematical skills

“Leaders and managers do not emphasise the importance of developing good English and mathematical skills linked to the apprentices’ work.

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"The planning and delivery of training to develop apprentices’ English and mathematical skills are poor. Coaches do not pay enough attention to the development of English and mathematics skills and knowledge.”

So, to recap:

You as a training provider or FE College should take Functional Skills seriously by emphasising the importance of English and mathematical skills, by supporting your learners early and coaching them often.

This will increase your chances of passing the OFSTED Functional Skills examination with flying colours and increase the success rate of your apprentices.

Wilfred Wright, Training Delivery Manager, Skills Advisors, a company with a special focus on Functional Skills maths and English delivery.

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