Mind the Gap: functional skills matter

We’ve all seen and heard the reports.

Official figures and various Government and other agency reports continue to reveal the struggle that thousands have with Maths and English in the UK.

Government data (2012) showed only one in 15 (6.5%) pupils who start secondary school in England “behind” for their age will then go on to get 5 ‘good’ GCSEs including English and Maths. Moreover, amongst children from disadvantaged backgrounds, only a third (34%) reach the government’s benchmark of 5 GCSEs – or equivalent qualifications – graded A* to C, including English and Maths.

In 2014 the Telegraph covered the publication of an OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) report involving more than 500,000 pupils worldwide and looking at exam results in reading and maths for 15-year-olds in 65 developed nations. This revealed a significant gap in performance between British pupils and their Far Eastern peer group. It was found that the children of factory workers, labourers and cleaners in China were more than a year ahead of the offspring of British doctors and lawyers. Overall, the UK was ranked 26th for maths and 23rd for reading. China’s Shanghai district was the top-rated jurisdiction in each subject.  Of note is that the OECD study looked at how pupils would be able to put their knowledge and skills to use in real life, rather than simply being able to recite facts and figures.

This struggle with Maths and English is not of course limited to school leavers – recent research by Cambridge University and University College London (UCL) looked at the results from an international survey of nearly 9,000 adults from 31 countries designed to test financial literacy and found that one in three adults in England and Northern Ireland struggle with simple maths, and the OECD report Building Skills for All: A Review of England ranks England lowest in the developed world for literacy, and second lowest for numeracy.

Which brings us to the matter of Apprenticeships…

Apprenticeships and Functional Skills

We’re all clear that providing apprenticeships of a high standard enables learners to develop the increasingly complex skills required in today’s workplace. This progression also prepares apprentices for long-term employment and career success in their chosen industry or sector.

Fundamental to this journey are functional skills – principally English & Maths – and perhaps it’s good to remind ourselves why we call them ‘functional’ – they are practical skills that will provide an individual with the knowledge and understanding vital to operating confidently, effectively and independently in life and the workplace.

Apprentices who develop relevant skills in English and Maths in the vocational context of an apprenticeship can and do use and apply them successfully at work – clearly all apprentices should therefore attain a good level in these functional skills before they can complete their apprenticeship program.

Closing the Gap

Cidori in partnership with Gateshead College is therefore focused on ensuring high quality functional skills tuition as part of our national apprenticeship delivery program – whether to young apprentices who leave education without these requisite skills or existing employees who are being trained and up-skilled in the workplace.

As we engage with businesses from all sectors (and pre-screen potential apprentices for functional skills assessment purposes) it is evident that there is a massive need for improved Maths and English in many workplaces – it’s not hard to appreciate that if for example literacy is poor, an employee will struggle to communicate well with colleagues, understand a company briefing, health and safety direction or other information presented to them.

Additionally, we find at times an understandable reluctance to open dialogue when functional skills deficiencies exist – yet if properly addressed as part of an apprenticeship delivery program, enhancing the functional skills of the workforce (including those for whom English is not their first language) can significantly improve the skills base and effectiveness of any organisation.

For these reasons Cidori is committed to driving up success rates for functional skills. As part of our apprenticeship programs we work with employers and their workforce, providing dedicated, qualified tutors who can help every apprentice reach required levels of numeracy and literacy – providing one-to-one engagement and coaching where needed.

Find out more

Cidori is a managed learning and development consultancy/service provider with more than 15 years’ experience in delivering apprenticeship programs across the UK. We are partnered with Gateshead College – one of the top UK colleges, an Ofsted Outstanding rated and RoTAP accredited learning and skills provider.

In collaboration with Gateshead college we are a one-stop shop for national, highly effective, coherent and value for money apprenticeships. We lead the way in identifying, developing and delivering bespoke apprenticeship programs that have a proven track record of improving business performance and helping businesses thrive in an increasingly competitive market.

We have significant traction and experience across various industry sectors – automotive, manufacturing, logistics and food & drink.

For a no obligation conversation please contact:

David Murfitt
01788 851230

Useful links

Gateshead College

Cidori blog: Apprenticeships must rise above latest government figures