Embedding English, maths, digital, and wider skills

This page covers:

  • What is embedding all about?

  • Support for teachers

  • Terminology for EMD

  • Opportunities to embed EMD skills 

  • Wider skills and other aspects which can be embedded

  • Useful weblinks with free courses and/or resources

  • Useful videos

What is embedding all about?

If you are a teacher or a trainer, there will be opportunities to help improve the English, maths and digital (EMD) skills of your learners, along with other areas such as employability and sustainability, at some point during their course. 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 in these areas first. 

There are some useful weblinks at the end of this page.

Support for teachers

  • Resources to support teachers and learners can be found by clicking here.

  • Support and courses (some are free) maths, English and digital skills can be found by clicking here.

  • Videos for teachers and trainers can be seen by clicking here.

  • An online module regarding embedding is available Ref T/15.

Terminology for EMD

Terms have changed over the years and the titles might be different depending whether you teach in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or elsewhere. For example: Basic Skills; Skills for Life; Core Skills; Key Skills; Essential Skills; Digital Skills; Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN); Functional Skills; Information, Communication Technology (ICT); or Soft Skills. ICT is also referred to as computer science or digital skills.

There are also the Minimum Core Skills which are included in most of 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 don't need to be highly qualified in maths, English and digital skills, but you need to know enough to make it relevant to the subject you are teaching. 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. There are some free online courses you could access which are listed at the end of this page. 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.

Opportunities to embed EMD skills

These will often occur naturally, for example:

Teaching cookery:

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.

Teaching plumbing:

English - talking to customers and suppliers, reading product 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 these skills during sessions, you will need to ensure they are realistic and relevant to enable your learners to engage with real situations in their subject area. Theoretical subjects might be more difficult to do than practical subjects, particularly regarding embedding maths' skills. You will need to be imaginative, and perhaps ask your learners how they feel the skills could be used within their subject.

You could make deliberate spelling, grammar and punctuation errors when using handouts and presentation software for your learners to spot. However, you will need to make sure they are not distracted from the topic by just looking for the deliberate mistakes. You will need to warn them that there are errors, otherwise they might think the errors are correct.

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. by not accessing unsuitable websites or checking their 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 (pictured) Paths forward to a digital future for Further Education and Skills (2014), recommended an increase in the use of technology, and for students to take responsibility for their own learning.

A report from the Edge Foundation can be accessed here regarding integrating digital technologies in further education.

You can find out more about using technology here.

You could encourage your learners to carry out activities in their own time to help improve their skills, such as a project based around their subject of choice.  

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. 

For example, they could produce a short presentation regarding 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 certain activities will take, and digital skills with the use of technology.

Wider skills and other aspects which can be embedded

Wider skills is the term used for the skills which are associated with education, employment and life in general. They are skills which can be transferred to different situations and contexts to help a learner progress further. They are often referred to as transferable skills.

Depending upon where you work, it might be a requirement for you to incorporate aspects of the wider skills during your sessions, or as separate topics. Alternatively, there might be specialist staff who will support your learners with the skills.

The wider skills include:

  • Working with Others which focuses on teamwork, planning, organising and carrying out work with other people.

  • Improving Own Learning and Performance which focuses on recognising the skills of being an effective learner and the importance of reflection.

  • Problem Solving which focuses on the skills of recognising problems, and identifying, evaluating and seeing through possible solutions.

These skills might occur naturally during activities with your learners, however, sometimes they need to be taught. For example, if a learner prefers to work on their own, it might be because they are not used to communicating and working with others as part of a team. 

Additional wider skills are known as personal learning and thinking skills (PLTS). They are skills that, together with the functional skills of maths, English and digital skills are essential to success in learning, life and work.

The six areas of PLTS are:

  • Independent enquirers: planning and carrying out investigations and taking informed decisions.

  • Creative thinkers: generating ideas, tackling problems and finding imaginative solutions.

  • Reflective learners: setting goals for learning and work, monitoring performance and reviewing progress.

  • Team workers: working collaboratively with other people, taking responsibility and resolving issues.

  • Self-managers: being organised, showing enterprise and responding to new challenges.

  • Effective participators: playing a full part in studies and the workplace or the wider community.

There are also other aspects which can be embedded (depending upon the requirements of your organisation) such as:

  • British values are from the Prevent Strategy and are: democracy; the rule of law; individual liberty; mutual respect; tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs, and for those whiteout faith.

  • employability skills are the skills that make someone employable, for example: attitudes and behaviours; communication; reliability; trustworthiness; and honesty.

  • equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is about giving people fair and equal chances, yet valuing and respecting their differences and not excluding them.

  • inclusivity is about treating everyone fairly, and not indirectly or directly excluding anyone.

  • sustainability is about the issues affecting the health of the planet and climate change, as well as how to use social structures and social responsibility to promote a good quality of life and economic prosperity for all. You can find out more information from the Education and Training FoundationYou are probably aware of the terms: reuse; recycle; and reduce waste. Other terms include: repurpose; regift, repair and rethink. The United Nations states “Sustainable development requires an integrated approach that takes into consideration environmental concerns along with economic development.” Take a look at their website to find out more.

Useful weblinks with free courses and/or resources

The websites are not endorsed by me, they are for your information, and I recommend that you check their legitimacy before agreeing to anything.

You can read more information regarding using technology, and see lots of links to useful online apps here.  

Do check out these tips for finding a legitimate provider before you sign up for a course.

Weblinks for initial assessments in maths, English and digital skills can be found towards the end of the assessment page.

Please contact me if any of these links no longer work.

Useful videos

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. 

  • Resources to support teachers and learners can be found by clicking here.
  • Support and courses for teachers of maths and English can be found by clicking here.
  • Videos for teachers and trainers can be seen by clicking here.
  • An online module regarding embedding can be found by clicking here Ref T/15.