Regional Specialist Leads: Improving maths and English delivery on apprenticeship programmes

Bob Read is the Education and Training Foundation’s Regional Specialist Lead for Maths and English for the Eastern region. Over the past year he has been working with Tom Cheek, the WBL eLearning & Quality Manager at Easton and Otley College, to explore ways in which he and his team can improve the delivery of embedded support on their apprenticeship programmes. Here they reflect on the journey they have undertaken, and the difference ETF support has made.

Bob: What kind of support did you initially have from the ETF?

Tom: In 2018 I accessed a series of webinars about embedded approaches delivered by ETF. The experience was really positive and created in my mind a shopping list of developments we could implement within our provision. From this we built a strategy that had a particular focus on highlighting the vocational use of English and maths. We were really keen to to engage the candidates of course but we also hoped that this in turn would enable us to engage employers more fully in the development of the apprentices’ skills.

Bob: Which ideas did you begin to implement first?

Tom: As a result of the webinars I worked with my team to create a set of employer guides and a podcast, which highlighted examples of the maths and English skills used in a range of vocational areas such agriculture, sport, customer service, equine, and business admin. During the webinars it was also suggested that we should contact one of the ETF’s team of RSLs so that was when you and I first met and started to work together

Bob: What was the priority for you and your team at that time?

Tom: We wanted to improve the way our delivery team wrote up learning plans and reviewed their candidates’ progress in maths and English as they work towards End Point Assessment. So you worked with me to design and co-deliver a CPD session based on some pen portraits of candidates taken from a range of vocational areas. The session prompted the team to discuss examples of good and poor feedback to learners on their maths and English skills and draw out some of the key features of good practice.

Bob: How did you follow up the CPD session?

Tom: As a result of the workshop I wrote up our ideas in the form of some practical tips for delivery staff when completing the review sections of the learning plans. I then went on to support two vocational teams to develop and pilot some of the interactive skill scans of vocational English & maths that you had shown us in the workshop and which can be used in initial interviews with apprenticeship candidates.

Bob: What has been the impact of the changes you made?

Tom: We have strong engagement with employers from the beginning of the Apprenticeship in order to identify learners’ entry points. The profile and priority in developing vocational use of English and maths has improved and the detail and quality of comments in the review sections of the learning plans has improved significantly. We feel our learners are better prepared for End Point Assessment as they have the ability to best showcase their skills, knowledge and behaviours. Our first time pass rates for Functional Skills are strong. Interestingly, by shifting the focus of our provision away from just the qualification to include much more of the vocational context, we have improved both the learner experience and our Functional Skills outcomes.

Bob: What are some of the key features of the support you have received from the ETF?

Tom: Being able to share ideas with you, an experienced practitioner who understands the challenges and opportunities of apprenticeships, was a great start. To then have your direct support over a period of time in designing and delivering CPD activity that was bespoke for my team’s need has been incredibly valuable and really helped to ignite our enthusiasm and energy to develop future projects.

Regional Specialist Leads for maths and English work in support of the ETF’s Maths and English CPD offer. They support practitioners and providers through professional development in maths and English and can signpost you to the activities that best suit your needs.