English & maths in Further Education? How do we fix it??


I have been lucky and unfortunate with this beast! It is one of the big things that haunts us all in Further Education!

As we all know, this is the one standing agenda item that never comes off! Do we embed it in the vocational area? Do we focus and have special days dedicated to it? The acronym COF sends shivers down my spine every year, when we pick up those that slipped through again!


In all its different forms from Functional Skills, Key Skills and obvs GCSE's, I believe that this is the big one that we all struggle with to crack and perfect!


Once upon a time, in a 6th Form College, the principal announced Help! we have only 3% FS done and 4 weeks to go! I stupidly volunteered myself and another senior colleague to accept the challenge! and within the allotted time frame we somehow transformed it with some workshops, creative input and organisation and managed to get it up to 53% and the best progress score in a 6th form in London!


In another FE College in Central London, with not the greatest reputation (was the bottom of that fantastic NICDEX index!). We had the 2nd best General FE high grades GCSE English result in the whole country! and the best in London and 2nd best in London for GCSE Maths too! However, the politics and ineffective self-assessment did not even realise it! Surely you should be shouting about it and have it plastered in banners all over the roof? But alas no!

We know it is the challenge that catches us all out! Come that ILR return, R05 I believe? and we get inundated with the condition of funding learners and we scrabble to fit them in, catch them up and make the tolerance level so that ‘Big Bro’ does not claw too much back!

The Small Group Tuition Fund is helping this year, with extra resources and time! But as we really know, with the final referral to Centre Assessed Grades last year, resulted in far too many attaining the elusive grade 4, who would not have done in any other assessment period! (albeit all Nov resits were very positive!). As the reality of this year’s CAG's start to kick in, will learners get the same treatment, teacher assessed? Mini tests? and get their foot over the elusive grade 4 line again? (it is Okay Ofsted not counting last years, at least!)


Let us not even mention attendance levels! (especially during lockdown, now all the learners think it is a done deal!)

It does need to change! I do not know how as a sector we can revolutionise it? but it is needed, or our learners will not have the tools to read or analyse their subjects (as they are merely tools to help us understand?) Forgive me and apologises I am a mere scientist!


Let’s recycle something from ILEA or pre- corporation days? Key skills? Embedding into every voc area? Or shall we be bold and finally try to get it correct to give our learners the proper tools to learn with?



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