- students must be taught to write, edit and proofread on screen – this is quite different from doing the same tasks on paper and deserves to be specifically taught
- candidates need to carefully check for spelling, punctuation and grammar errors – from the number of uncorrected mistakes that examiners see, it would appear that many students assume that the computer will auto-correct for them
- candidates will need to note take from online source documents – they won’t have both the writing window and source documents open at the same time.
If you’ve ever looked on Twitter for #functionalskills, aside from some ramblings from me, the odd job advert and plugs from companies selling Functional Skills resources, you’re likely to find a raft of disparaging comments about Functional Skills from students.
Tweets in the last few weeks from students have included:
“I hate Functional Skills.”
“Functional Skills is so pointless.”
“Oh no, it’s Functional Skills today.”
So what’s going wrong? From my perspective Functional Skills should be exciting to teach, it should also be meaningful to learn.
For some teachers the move from the Adult Basic Skills tests to Functional Skills is a real stretch. It’s true that Functional Skills is more challenging to teach. But it’s also more rewarding to teach. I spend a good proportion of my time teaching thinking skills. Of course, the underpinning skills need to be secure, but it’s no good knowing how to spell a word or how to work out a percentage if you don’t have the ability to apply these skills in a given situation. The key is to get your students thinking. Here’s a practical questioning task for maths that you could do with your students:
Could you walk from here to Cape Town before next Easter?
Before you do any maths, students need to answer some questions – there should be several:
What form should the answer take? It could be a simple yes or no. Will this be enough? How can they show their answer includes maths?
What data/information do they need to solve the problem? How long is it until next Easter? How long will it take to walk?
How can they find out how long it is until next Easter? A calendar could provide the answer.
How long will it take to walk? More information is needed to work this out. How fast could someone walk? How many hours of they day will they walk? Will they walk on water, or will they work out the time needed for ferry crossings? How long are the ferry crossings? Will you account for waiting times for ferries? Will they walk ‘as the crow flies’ or will it be road distance?
Students can be engrossed in working out the answers to all of these questions before they do any maths. Finding out distances, flight and ferry times are all part of representing skills for Functional Skills maths.
Functional Skills takes students beyond answering pages of abstract sums and forces them to use their maths skills in real-life situations. And that’s where you can really harness their interest, by presenting them with challenging and interesting scenarios. Our How to Pass Functional Skills titles are choc-full of hints and tips to help you and your students get to grips with Functional Skills English and Maths at Levels 1 and 2. On our website you can download free samples to try with your students. How to pass Functional Skills ICT Level 1 and 2 are due out after Easter. Email us if you’d like to receive a sneak preview of these books and we’ll forward it as soon as we have it.
Finally, over the past few months an increasing number of institutions have been asking if we provide Functional Skills training. We are now putting training packages together, if you think your institution would benefit from staff training in Functional Skills, do get in touch.
In January 2013 the Department for Education announced that secondary state schools in England would receive £500 per pupil to help every Year 7 pupil who didn’t reach NC level 4 – the expected level in English and maths when they finished primary school. The money has now been distributed to all eligible schools. The aim of the catch up premium to boost English and maths skills so that these pupils are able to access the full curriculum. See more information about the catch up premium here.
Amidst a variety of potential strategies, teachers will no doubt be looking at supporting these students with new reading books, resources and software. I wonder if they ought to consider Functional Skills? With a clear emphasis on transferability and functionality, resources designed for Functional Skills English and Maths could make a refreshing change for these students who are likely to have tried and tried again with run-of-the-mill reading schemes and maths catch up programmes. Just a thought…