Maureen’s Blog – December 2013

Maureen-Emmett_blog_v2bLet’s start with some good news. I was really pleased to see that Hawk Training have become the first independent training provider to be awarded an outstanding Ofsted Grade 1. I have worked with them in the past and know how committed they are to quality. They recognised early on that their vocational assessors would need to be able to deliver maths and English functional skills and embarked on an extensive programme of staff training to ensure they could do this effectively. The commitment and hard work has clearly paid off. Well done Hawk Training!

Moving on to less welcome news. One of the key announcements that will impact on the sector that has happened this month is the Apprenticeship Reform Implementation Plan. The plan is the government’s response to the Richard Review and articulates how the government means to reform apprenticeships. The funding aspects were announced in the Autumn Statement.

The Richard Review recommended that employers should be in the driving seat of apprenticeship reform and take ownership of the development of the components of the frameworks, take more responsibility for assessment and be the owners of the funding. In return for this new autonomy they would be expected to make a significant contribution to the cost of training.

The statement ‘Our ambition that all apprentices will use GCSEs rather than Functional Skills to meet the English and maths requirements in Apprenticeships’ has rung alarm bells in the sector. Although I recognise that GCSE can be a worthwhile qualification for many people and may help to raise standards in the long run so that we can hold our heads up in world league tables of attainment in core subjects, the recent PISA results indicate that there is little improvement in core subjects of those in compulsory education. So if new GCSEs will support better attainment that can only be welcome news. If those in full-time education would benefit from getting a GCSE to gain employment, there can be some merit in this.

However, there does appear to be a complete lack of understanding by the government of the appropriateness of GCSE for those learners who are already in employment and need to develop skills that will be useful in the workplace. GCSE can’t do this, but functional skills will.
I have been involved with functional skills since 2008 and have been amazed at how the sector has managed to mould these qualifications into useful vehicles for teaching and learning with realistic assessment. It’s been a long journey and awarding organisations, resource providers, tutors and trainers and tutors have worked tirelessly to make sure that they are fit for purpose.

And we are almost there. We’ve got assessments which have scenarios that reflect the world of life and work, available on-demand in both onscreen and paper forms with fast turnaround of results. We have resources providers who offer vocational flavoured resources (Nelson Thornes being one); more generic resources for underpinning knowledge support and those that concentrate on the problem-solving aspects and we’ve got more and more tutors who are being trained to deliver effective English and maths support for learners…evidenced by Hawk Training.

How can we ensure that the government understand the value of these worthwhile qualifications? Join myself and Nelson Thornes at the Maths and English Skills Conference on the 31st January in Birmingham where there will be an opportunity to debate the issues and talk to informed commentators. And you will also be able to sample the Nelson Thornes materials and meet the some of the team! More details here.

See you there!