Maureen’s Blog – April 2013 Edition

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Welcome to my monthly blog and I hope that I find you making good progress with your functional skills implementation.

We have had an interesting turnaround from AELP this month. You might remember how hostile the organisation was towards functional skills and how they kept arguing for the continuation of key skills. Well, full credit to them, once they had accepted that functional skills were the only viable replacement for key skills, they have put their full weight behind the qualifications and dare I say it, are actual advocates. Their senior team comprising of Graham Hoyle and Martin Dunford recently met with the Minister for Skills Matthew Hancock to reinforce that they are firmly behind functional skills, as there is some chatter that DfE are pushing for GCSE only within apprenticeship frameworks. I quote from the Countdown the AELP newsletter

‘Martin and Graham also stressed the need to avoid imposing English and maths GCSEs onto all apprentices until and unless they effectively cover the functional skills that are so vital in the modern workplace.’

Other news. The new Guild which will replace the work that LSIS is currently doing is consulting on what it should do and how it should do it. As they will effectively be the SSC for the sector, we will watch this development with interest. AELP and AOC are actively involved in the formation of the Guild and David Hughes the CEO of NIACE is chairing the steering group. The new Guild will be formed this spring.

Another good announcement. Fears that the government requirement to support learners in post-16 education to achieve level 2 in English and mathematics, irrespective of their main programme, might not be adequately funded have been squashed. It has been confirmed by the SFA that there is sufficient budget. Functional skills are now some of the most generously funded qualifications in the sector and we should thank all those who have lobbied on our behalf.

We told you in the last edition that Nelson Thornes were going to join me at the All Things Functional event. We had a great time; there were lots of interesting workshops, great speakers and a really comprehensive range of resources available. Nelson Thornes got lots of attention and delegates particularly liked their vocation resources with embedded functional skills. These resources are a really good means of introducing functional skills in a way that is relevant for your learners. In many centres functional skills are being delivered by subject specialists who may not be familiar with the learner’s vocation subject and deliver in isolation. Yes I know the skills are generic, they need to be transferable and will be assessed using contexts that may be unfamiliar to the learner, but we seem to have got hung up on this aspect and ignored all the expertise we had built up with embedding core subjects into vocational areas. So why is this so important?
A key focus of the new Common Inspection Framework is the teaching and learning of English and maths. Inspectors will be interested in how your subject grades are improving and will ask how the subjects are being delivered by all staff, not just those teaching maths and English. In fact I’ve heard from one college that was recently inspected that the inspection team didn’t ask to see any of the subject specialists. They were only interested in how the vocational staff were supporting the development of their learners English and maths skills.

If this applies to your organisation and you aren’t delivering an embedded model, what can you do? I did some work last month with a college that has been recently inspected and found themselves in this position. We worked with their vocation staff to find as many naturally occurring opportunities as possible to support the reinforcement of maths, English and ICT in their vocational lessons. As part of this exercise we found other strategies. Why not consider asking the vocational tutors to take ownership of SLC and find contexts in their own teaching to assess the requirements. There is no need for vocational tutors to be an English specialist to conduct the assessment, although they need to be trained on how to conduct the assessment using the awarding organisation’s own assessment material .Working on a project like this to see the development of core subjects as everyone’s responsibility really gives the vocational and subject specialist staff an excellent opportunity to share expertise to find ways of reinforcing the message.

To help you with more ideas we have a new View Point about Ofsted Inspection. The Hints and Tips Fact Sheets for each subject and the Delivering Functional Skills for the non-specialist will also help.

That’s all for this month see you soon.

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