Embedding maths and English in workplace delivery - FW Solutions Ltd

Kate Woolley is a Teaching and Learning Coordinator at a family-owned training company based in Harrogate, FW Solutions. The company offers apprenticeships and other qualifications in a wide range of areas from childcare and teaching assistant to leadership and management. Kate’s role involves supporting learning in the workplace for childcare qualifications from Level 2 to Level 5. A former nursery manager, she also has a leadership and management qualification, as well as being a qualified teacher.

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

What prompted you to book onto the Embedding Maths and English training course?

I am a very experienced teacher and manager but have not previously supported work-based learning. I have taught maths and English in the classroom but it’s very different doing it as a functional skills qualification alongside a vocational qualification. I have found it’s very difficult adding a quality teaching experience for maths and English alongside everything else that you have to teach on a vocational course, particularly given time constraints. I was looking for some way of mapping the maths and English activities into the course, to ensure they did not become an add on, so the ETF training was perfect for me.

Do learners on your childcare apprenticeships struggle with maths and English?

Yes, the learners say to me, “Why do I have to do maths if I am a nursery assistant?” and I say, “Because it really does come into your role”. So, you do have to identify where they will use maths and English. If learners have struggled with maths and English at school, it can be hard to motivate them. They need to understand why they need to do these subjects, so embedding them in their vocational learning is a real benefit. It can also be hard for the vocational trainers. Maths and English may not be your forte if you are teaching a vocational subject, and often it is the vocational tutor who is teaching the maths and English.

You attended the ‘Embedding strategies’ webinar and accessed the associated online training module? Did you learn from them?

Absolutely. Before I even did the webinar, I learnt a lot from the online training module, including the resources. We were given access to childcare specific resources on the website, where they give informative examples of tasks and scenarios where maths and English can be embedded. There were so many things where I thought, “Ah yes, that makes sense now!” And the great thing about the online resources is that you can keep coming back to them.

How did you find the webinar format?

Although there were a lot of us, it was still really interactive, and we were all able to contribute ideas and see other people’s ideas. Everyone was able to add their comments to the chat function and they were responded to. There were people from completely different fields, so it was good to see how they were linking maths and English into their courses.

Have you had a chance to start applying what you learnt yet?

Yes I have been working with my colleague, who is the Functional Skills support lead within our setting, to pull together tasks and activities that draw all the functional skills together linked to childcare and learning outcomes. For example, we have set a task where there is a spare classroom at the nursery and the learners are asked to decide whether it would be useable. They are having to work out the floor area and how many children they could have in the room, taking into account staff/student ratios. Then they have to put forward their case in a letter to the manager or owner.

Have you got any other examples of scenarios you’ve drawn up as a result of the training?

We have done another scenario where they are given a theoretical budget of £100 and they must put together a proposal for resources for their room. They are asked to put together a spreadsheet to input and total the items they select, then see how much budget that leaves them with and do a manual calculation to check their answers. So the training package has started us off, thinking outside the box.

How has the training changed your thinking?

It is making sure that maths and English is not just an add-on. When you are doing your lesson plan, it’s important to get away from the idea of, “Now we’re going to do a little bit of maths or English”. So, for our childcare courses, we are now building in questions that relate to staff/student ratios and floorspace ratios to ensure they do the maths.

But it also made me realise that you cannot embed everything, sometimes you do have to say, “Right, we’re going to work on this maths skill”. It depends on the course. English is easier to incorporate in a childcare course, for example, because there is a lot of written work, whereas in subjects like engineering there is a lot more maths. The whole training package has helped me to think through how to embed maths and English appropriately.

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