Embedding maths and English in apprenticeship workplace delivery - Gloucestershire County Council

Becci Allen works for Gloucestershire County Council in the adult education service. There are two parts to the service, the community based learning and accredited skills. Becci’s role falls under accredited skills which covers the Functional Skills team and also the apprenticeships section, which Becci runs with a colleague. This is growing rapidly with demand for lots of new apprenticeships related to the activities of the County Council, like Health and Social Care, as well as opportunities around the new apprenticeship standards.

As apprenticeships co-ordinator, Becci manages a team of assessors, but also directly supports a couple of apprentices to stay in touch with delivery. Her current focus is on addressing the requirements of the reformed Functional Skills qualifications introduced in September 2019 and helping apprentices enrolled on legacy Functional Skills qualifications to succeed by the deadline of 31 August 2020.

Becci discusses why she booked on the ETF’s embedding maths and English in apprenticeships programme:

Why did you decide to do the ETF’s training on ‘Embedding maths and English in apprenticeship delivery’?

We’ve got a very good Functional Skills team and we run workshops for apprentices every Thursday morning, but not all apprentices are given time out of work to attend and it’s also too far to travel for some, so it’s up to assessors to cover maths and English with workplace supervisors.

Maths is a particular issue for us. If people don’t like maths, they really don’t like it – often because of what it was like at school. You’ve got to break that barrier down and get them to realise that it’s relevant. We’re asking our assessors to embed more maths and English in their review sessions with the learners. I was interested in any tips and resources to pass on to my team.

Why do you think people are focusing more on embedding maths and English in workplace delivery?

With the Functional Skills reforms coming in, they’re quite a step up again. For individuals who are already struggling with maths and English, that’s an issue. Also, there are less Level 2 apprenticeship opportunities with the new apprenticeship standards, so apprentices have to go straight to Level 3 where gaining Level 2 maths and English is a requirement. That can be a blocker on apprentices getting to their end point assessment. You can have individuals who are talented apprentices but can’t get their maths and English qualifications. That’s why embedding is going to be so much more important as the reforms kick in. 

What were the take-aways from the training for you and your team?

I did the Embedding Strategies and Assessment webinars, and I also did the online module on Resources. I found the online modules particularly useful because I could come back to them.

The training expanded my pool of resources, giving more options to cater for learners with different needs. It also flagged up that we need more online resources and we’ve been able to put that forward as the way we need to go.

In the first webinar, there was good material about embedding and how it can be recorded on the reviews. It also gave us ideas for scenarios, examples of maths and English in different workplace contexts – that is one of the things we want to do for our standardisation exercises, to come up with new scenarios ourselves. We decided it would be good to get all of our assessors to give scenarios that would be typical for the environment they’re working in. We wanted to get them thinking along those lines.

What are your priorities at the moment?

Legacy qualifications. I had lots of plans and tests in place which the current pandemic situation has disrupted. I want to avoid the situation of learners who are struggling with maths and English failing their legacy qualifications and then having to take the reformed qualifications. I want to make sure that there is good co-ordination between our specialist Functional Skills tutors and the assessors, as advised by the training.

What tips for embedding maths and English in workplace delivery would you give?

There’s so much to cover with apprenticeships, it can be hard to focus on embedding. My tip is that you need to get to know your apprentices and the workplace they’re in, then you can relate maths and English to the workplace.

With maths, it’s also about visualisation. For example, with fractions, if you talk about dividing up a cake for x number of people and allocating portions, then ask them how they would write this down, they understand. I’ve had NHS apprentices say to me, “Oh I find English so hard!” and I say, “Well, think about the medical language you use on a daily basis”, then they realise they understand more than they think they do.

The good thing about Functional Skills is that it’s about life.

More information on the ETF’s embedding maths and English in apprenticeships support can be found on the ETF’s news pages.