Monday, 1 February 2016

Maths and English policy for post-16

Courtesy of Steve Besley (Pearson), Ian Pursglove (Ofqual), Sue Southwood (ETF) and Helen Groves (Ofsted), all speakers at the EMSkills conference.

Government policy in post-16 education is being driven by three key factors:
  • Dash for apprenticeship growth
  • Transition from Government grants to loans and levies.
  • Emergence of a different FE sector coming out of the Area Reviews with more focus and larger bodies.
Central to the commitment is maths and English which the Government see as a backbone for learning and a key mechanism for social improvement.

Ofqual re-iterated the purpose of Functional Skills. "There are some skills that are fundamental: to be successful in life and at work, people must be able to read and write and to use numbers with confidence."
  • Functional Skills qualifications were/are not broken
  • Functional Skills are not stepping stone qualifications – Ministers no longer refer to this
  • There is room for improvement though - hence the reform programme
The purpose of the reform programme is to make sure that the regulation of maths and English Functional Skills qualifications allows the development and award of valid qualifications and reflects any policy changes to the qualifications.”

The overall objective is that employers report improved maths and English skills. the reform programme will look at

“English and maths in an IT rich environment” as the basis of the new set of standards replacing those set 15 years ago.

In particular there will be new content and skills for Functional Skills and increasing breadth so they have parity with GCSE and support those 48% of learners leaving school with poor levels of maths and English

The outcomes for August 2016 are for both Ministers Gibb and Boles. They are:
  • Revised set of standards of National Adult Literacy and Numeracy Standards
A report with policy recommendations to include breadth of knowledge needed to succeed in work and life and the number of guided learning hours needed for learners to achieve the new qualifications.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Paper based initial Assessment

ForSkills is delighted to launch brand new paper based initial assessment materials for EMglish, maths and ICT.

Click here for more.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Edition 209 of the maths and English post-16 newsletter

Edition 209 - Friday January 15th 2016
A busy start to the new year with articles this week all about current policy, possible changes of policy and events that influence policy.
The ETF has launched their Functional Skills Reform consultation yesterday - details are below and we've provided a link to a succinct summary of Nick Boles letter to the SFA about 2016/16 priorities plus we've added a list of key events this quarter.
May we also remind you about the ForSkills Level Checkers?  Just 30p each and available from stock and with free delivery (for orders over £100) they are a great quick and easy to use, paper based tool for pre-enrolment or pre-recruitment. 
As always, feel free to contact Jonathan Wells, the editor of this newsletter on 0191 3055045 or [](

SFA priorities and funding for 2016/17
Every year, the Skills Minister writes to the SFA to outline the key priorities for the coming year.  Nick Boles sent this letter just at the end of last term and we found a [really nice summary of the priorities by NCFE.](
The full letter is here.  and we particularly noted the comments about English and maths.
"Strong literacy and numeracy are closely associated with higher rates of earnings, employment and productivity, as well as civic participation, engagement in children’s education and positive health and well-being. English and maths qualifications are essential for success in other, higher areas of learning and are often required by employers in recruitment. For that reason we will maintain the statutory entitlement to fully-funded English and maths in the AEB to enable adults to progress up to Level 2 and achieve a GCSE in these subjects if they have not already done so.
The English and maths qualifications you should support in 2016/17 are GCSE, Functional Skills qualifications and approved stepping stone qualifications. Please continue your work with the Department for Education to confirm, where appropriate, a single list of stepping stone qualifications. You should continue to support English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) for those learners who need to develop their English language skills as well as their literacy. The current entitlements for full funding will continue to apply but jobseekers referred by jobcentres should be the priority for full funding. We expect ESOL learners to be able to progress to Functional Skills qualifications and GCSE."

ETF launches Functional Skills Reform consultation
The process runs until April 7th and full details are here.
David Russell, ETF Chief Executive, said: “The Education and Training Foundation is delighted to be leading this important piece of work.  Many employers have concerns about the standards of maths and English of prospective employees.  However, of those employers that have first-hand experience of Functional Skills, 87 per cent found them to be a useful qualification.
“GCSE is the principal qualification in England for maths and English, and will remain so.  Many adults – young and older – who have struggled with these subjects at school benefit from being taught Functional Skills because they see clearly how they will benefit them in life and work.
“We are seeking the views of teachers and trainers, employers and their representatives to ensure that our proposals to Ministers are as widely and soundly based as possible.  The aim is then to help learners achieve a recognised qualification that provides them with the skills they need to support them in gaining employment and with everyday life.”

Events coming up

The January to March period is always busy for events - here's a summary of those that are most relevant.

- AoC Teaching Learning and Assessment, 19 January, London. 
- BETT, 20-23 January, London.  Conference and exhibitors who are mainly focussed on the Schools market.
- EM Skills, 28 January, Derby.  Changing the face of Functional Skills conference.
- Learning Technologies, 3-4 February, London.  Major show aimed mainly at Corporates and Training providers.
- AoC English and maths conference, 26 February, London.  English and maths for Colleges.
- Annual Apprenticeship Conference, 16-17 March, Birmingham.  Very important event organised by FE Week held in Apprenticeships week.

Monday, 21 December 2015

edition 208 newsletter

All you need to know about Maths and English in the post 16- vocational sector.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Great ideas to make English and maths better in post-16

Results taken from the 2016 English and maths survey due to be published next month.  Just look at how much support there is for Functional Skills in schools and indeed in higher apprenticeships at level 3.  nether of these things happen now, maybe they should.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Newsletter editions 207

This week we have analysis of the Ofsted Annual Report related to maths and English in the Post-16 sector with links to some very interesting articles published on the subject and a related article by an FE Expert, Graham Taylor of New College Swindon.
The ETF have also announced their timetable for the Functional Skills Reform Programme and the key objectives of the first stage that is due to be complete by August 2016.
And one final plea to ask you to HAVE YOUR SAY will be published early in the new year so please, if you can spare 10 minutes, click the link to have your say.
Plus did you know that ForSkills customers are fully licenced to freely copy and use the new paper based screeners.  Or everyone can buy them for just 30p each for a full colour 4 page A4 booklet - see below for more info.  
As always, feel free to contact Jonathan Wells, the editor of this newsletter on 0191 3055045 or

Ofsted Annual Report - Post-16 maths and English
Ofsted published its’ annual review this week
The key parts of the report for the Post-16 sector are pages 49 - 48 (FE) and 67 - 72 (Adult Learning) although i also found some interesting comments about Secondary education too.
Starting with Secondary - page 48 reports on "Skills for Employment" and this page doesn't make good reading for schools with employers and indeed parents still concerned that young people don't have the basic skills, attitudes and behaviours required for work - surely encouraging schools to teach Functional Skills from age 15 would be a step forward here?
Within the sector, the report draws attention to the issues surrounding GCSE re-sits of maths and English in FE Colleges. Bearing in mind it was a different era with a different focus, the report states that of those students who failed to pass GCSE A*-C at KS4 in 2011/12, only 7% then went on to do so in English when they attended an FE College by 2013/14 and just 4% achieved maths.
[FE Week did an excellent job]( of summarising the key points of the Ofsted report for the sector and in this week's edition, FE Week has a [double page feature]( on Maths and English.

ETF consultation on Functional Skills
The long awaited Functional Skills reform programme will start on January 14th and end on April 7th with the first stage of the programme completed by August 2016.
The first stage of the Reform Programme will result in an updated set of National Adult Literacy and Numeracy Standards and a report with policy recommendations for Ministers. This will include:
1.            what levels of Functional Skills are needed for life and   work;
2.            the breadth of skills that the new qualifications should include; and
3.            the number of guided learning hours needed to               successfully achieve Functional Skills for                learners on technical and professional programmes of study, including Apprenticeships.

Is 35% good enough?
[An expert piece in FE Week](, written by Graham Taylor, the Principal and CEO of New College Swindon.

The article looks at English and maths re-sits in the College sector.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Spending Review - analysis and comment

Spending review - analysis and comment

Let's start with the levy which it seems is genuinely welcomed by most in the sector.
It will affect only larger companies with more than 100-150 employees and a payroll cost of more than £3m per year so almost all colleges and many larger training providers will face this additional cost.  But it can be drawn down by businesses of all sizes and this should stimulate the take-up of apprentices in the SME sector.

In England, It should generate £2.5bn of revenue in the sector which is a large increase on current spending levels of about £1.5bn and supports Nick Boles steering at the AoC last week that Apprenticeships is where the budget is.

Of course, not everyone is pleased, the CBI (that represents many large employers) says  “With the levy set at 0.5%, even those businesses most committed to training and development won't be able to recoup their outlay, and it looks like an additional payroll tax.”

"Good news" for the Adult Skills Budget. Despite lots of rumours beforehand, the core ASB will be protected at £1.5bn but £360m of savings will be made from locally-led Area Reviews, along with a possible restructure of funding systems (EFA, SFA) and other departments such as UKCES.  Something similar to the Area Reviews has already been implemented in Scotland and Northern Ireland where larger regional colleges have now been established.

Advanced Learning Loans are being extended.  _“The government will expand tuition fee loans to 19 to 23-year-olds at levels three and four, and 19+ year-olds at levels five and six”._ Will this be additional or replacement funding in the ASB though?

Sixth Form Colleges can benefit from similar treatment of VAT to schools if they become Academies.  The Government also announced they will create 5 National Colleges and will support a new network of Institutes of Technology across the country.

The reference areas for the sector are paragraphs 1.170 to 1.179 and 2.80 - found on pages 45 and 46.

Jonathan Wells - ForSkills and Guroo Functional Skills