If you are a teacher or a trainer, there will be opportunities to help improve the English, maths and digital skills of your learners at some point during their programme of learning. Ways to do this include embedding the skills as part of your specialist subject, rather than treating them as separate subjects. You might need to update your own skills and knowledge first. There are some useful weblinks at the end of this page.
The skills have many names, one of which is Functional Skills. These will be reformed and introduced in 2019 - http://www.et-foundation.co.uk/research/maths-and-english-functional-skills-reform-programme/
Terms have changed over the years and they might be different depending whether you teach in England, Scotland, Wales, NI or elsewhere. For example: Basic Skills, Skills for Life, Core Skills, Key Skills, Essential Skills and Functional Skills.
There is also the Minimum Core Skills of literacy, language, numeracy and ICT which are included in the teacher training qualifications. The Functional Skills of English, maths and ICT are often embedded in learning programmes and apprenticeships, and are available as stand-alone qualifications for adult learners. Whatever term is used, the purpose is the same, to enable people to function confidently, effectively and independently in life and at work
You shouldn’t have to be highly qualified in English, maths and digital skills, but know enough to make it relevant to the subject you are delivering. For example, maths doesn’t have to be about using complex equations, it can be about using numerical skills. For example, planning a household budget, working out the cost of items on a shopping list, calculating the amount of paint needed to decorate a room, or comparing gas and electricity prices.
However, you might feel your own skills need improving; therefore, you could partake in further training yourself. There are some free online courses you could access which are listed at the end of this article. If you are not competent, you will not set a good example to your learners. If you spell words wrongly in a handout, have difficulty making calculations or can’t use a computer, your learners may lose confidence in you.
These will often occur naturally, for example:
English – reading recipes, researching and reading healthy eating magazines and books, planning a menu and writing a list of ingredients, discussing recipes, talking, listening and asking questions.
Maths – calculating weights and costs of ingredients, measuring amounts, estimating calorific values; cooking times and temperatures.
Digital skills – using a word
processor to create a menu, researching relevant websites, e-mailing
other learners, creating and giving
presentations using an electronic whiteboard, creating a podcast, making
videos, taking photos of finished
products and uploading them to a virtual learning environment, website,
app or electronic portfolio.
English - talking to customers and suppliers, reading manuals and writing lists of materials.
Maths - measuring pipes, calculating the amount of materials to use, working out prices, VAT, materials and labour costs to create estimates and invoices.
Digital skills - researching materials via the internet, e-mailing suppliers, word-processing invoices, using a spreadsheet for products and prices, creating a website and taking digital photos before, during and after jobs, and maintaining an electronic diary.
When embedding skills during sessions, you need to ensure they are realistic and relevant to enable your learners to engage with real situations in the subject area. More opportunities seem to arise in practical subjects. Theoretical subjects might be more difficult, particularly regarding embedding maths' skills. Therefore you will need to be more imaginative, and perhaps even ask your learners how they feel the skills could be used for their subject.
You could make deliberate spelling, grammar and punctuation errors when using handouts and presentation software. For example, you could make five mistakes which your learners need to look out for. However, you will need to make sure they are not distracted from the topic by just looking for the deliberate mistakes.
When assessing a learner's written work, rather than point out an error they have made with a particular word, point out the sentence and ask them to find it for themselves. If they can't find it, ask them to discuss the sentence with another learner to see if they can work it out.
During sessions, you need to be careful that learners are using technology appropriately, i.e. not accessing unsuitable websites or checking e-mails and social media. Agreeing ground rules should help. If you don’t have access to computers in the learning environment, you could ask your learners to bring their own devices e.g. laptops, tablets, smartphones and e-readers. This is known as BYOD – bring your own device.
The FELTAG report Paths forward to a digital future for Further Education and Skills (2014), recommends an increase in the use of technology, and for students to take responsibility for their own learning.
You could encourage your learners to carry out activities in their own time to help improve their skills.
There might be free courses in your area or via the internet that they could take. You could give your learners an activity to carry out, either individually or in groups.
They could produce a short presentation on a relevant topic, a blog, a wiki, a podcast or a video, and then present this during the next session.
This could involve English with communication skills, maths with working out how long activities will take, and ICT with the use of technology.
This video was produced by the National Centre of Literacy and Numeracy for Adults.
The following video is by the Education and Training Foundation regarding the support they can offer regarding maths and English.
The following video is by English Jade and is really helpful for anyone struggling with the use of the apostrophe.