From education to employment

Colleges making up English and maths GCSE shortfall given lifeline with free e-books

Further education (FE) providers having to support learners resitting English and maths GCSEs are set to benefit from the launch of new e-books mapped to the curriculum.

Digital solutions organisation Jisc is making available 23 core maths and English resources for free through its e-books for FE service. Practitioners and learners of colleges subscribing to Jisc Collections can access the resources via the ebrary platform, offered by ProQuest. This includes maths titles from examination boards, Edexcel, OCR, SQA and WJEC, and English titles from SQA and WJEC, as well as AQA.

The agreement is part of a seven-figure investment from Jisc to support the teaching of English and maths GCSEs in colleges. Titles are licensed on a five-year basis, with additional content hoped to be incorporated over the coming months.

Karla Youngs, head of digital content services for FE and skills, Jisc, said: “Since UK Government mandated that all learners who fail to get a grade C in English and maths are required to continue their studies until they achieve that grade or higher, it has fallen to FE providers to pick up the shortfall from schools in supporting learners to gain a good pass.

“Such a demand is problematic: Learners may struggle to understand the requirement to resit, especially in vocational courses where English and maths can feel far removed from their college studies; they might be disillusioned in having to continue to take classes in subjects that they perhaps struggled with or disliked at school; and there is a shortage of specialist teaching staff in these subjects, especially maths teachers.

“On top of this the mandate comes at a time when post-16 education is going through the biggest reform in its history, and with college budgets already pinched tight.

“Through the new licencing agreements, we are able to provide colleges and their learners with free access to relevant, high-quality e-books that support teaching and learning of English and maths. This will come as welcome news, saving colleges money by not having to invest in these resources themselves. The e-book format also means learners are able to access this content on any device, wherever and whenever they want to study, supporting both class based and independent learning and helping them to develop digital skills by doing so.”

With the Government resit policy coming into force there has been an increase of approximately a third of the number of 17-year-olds retaking these exams (32% for English and 33% for maths) – which means these resources could help to support potentially hundreds of thousands of learners.

Jayne Holt, assistant principal – learning services, Walsall College, said: “It’s a considerable task that colleges face: to plug the English and maths skills gap, against a tough financial background where resources are already feeling the pressure. You need both specialist, highly-qualified teaching staff to engage learners in the classroom, as well as quality, taught-course content that will support their studies no matter where and when they chose to learn.

“In making available these resources for free, Jisc is significantly helping both colleges and their learners to improve maths and English skills, through flipped and innovative delivery.”

Jisc’s e-books for FE service is a collection of highly-focussed, curriculum-mapped e-book titles, chosen through extensive community consultation. The value of this service is evidenced by almost 90% of eligible colleges subscribing to the service previously. The new agreement includes access to the English and maths resources, as well as the collection’s full range of taught-course e-books.

Renew your subscription or sign up by visiting e-books for FE 2016-2019 on the Jisc Collections website. 

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