According to a really interesting article in FE Week, the answer is a resounding no.
Only 27% of learners aged 17+ who took GCSE English achieved grade C or above this summer. The figures show that 93,000 young people failed to gain a grade C or above. Maths results were worse still with more than 120,000 failing to achieve a C or higher. Just 50,000 learners were able to boost their maths grades to a C or above.
Mark Dawe of AELP called the results a “body blow” for learners who did not achieve a C. He endorsed Functional Skills as a more viable alternative saying: “Surely this is evidence enough that hitting students over the head with the same form of learning and assessment is not the way forward.
“Functional skills, designed to develop core maths and English skills but with the learning contextualised and relevant, is proven to engage and motivate these learners, particularly those who have been turned off these subjects by their school experience.”
You can read the full article here.
Did you have your say? The consultation on the draft Subject Content for maths and English Functional Skills qualifications closed a couple of days ago. It will be interesting to see how much the Subject Content documents change as a result of analysing the feedback. The final report is due at the end of October so watch this space.
The Institute for Learning (IfL) and the Prisoner Learning Alliance (PLA) are calling for better support for prison educators. As an ex-prison educator and Functional Skills enthusiast, I was wondering how Functional Skills is working in prisons.
I was speaking to a practitioner in a prison in the North East last week who was waxing lyrical about the impact that Functional Skills has been having on student engagement. His students have responded extremely well to the real-life application of Functional Skills in English and Maths. In fact the entire conversation focused on these subjects. When I asked about ICT, he said, “Ah, that’s the real problem. We just can’t deliver it.”
Limited access to ICT makes Functional Skills ICT almost impossible to deliver in a custodial setting. Problems with access to ICT have also been highlighted in a report from the Prison Reform Trust and Prisoners’ Education Trust. Through the Gateway: How Computers can Transform Rehabilitation calls for significantly improved access to ICT. The report says this would improve rehabilitation as prisoners would be properly prepared for education, training and employment after release.
To facilitate better ICT access security issues would need to be addressed. However, providing access to e-learning resources would be one way to support teachers in prisons. With a wide range of abilities to cater for and a transient population, teaching in prison is a tough but rewarding option. Ministry of Justice research shows that learning in prison works, and that it cuts the likelihood of reoffending. And with a population that’s responding well to the Functional Skills approach for English and maths, it could be a real missed opportunity not to address ICT skills via Functional Skills too.