Was there a subject you really disliked at school? Perhaps it was an optional course that you were able to drop in making your GCSE choices, or one that you were glad to see the back of after sitting your exams. As long as that subject didn’t impact on your career choice, you probably gave it little thought thereafter.
For some learners it’s the core subjects of English and maths that they struggle with – which can present itself as something of a surprise problem when entering further education (FE).
As a consequence hundreds of thousands of learners aged 17-and-over are now obligated to resit; 128,201 took English and 173,628 sat maths in the last academic year alone.
The teaching challenge
Such a substantial rise in the number of learners having to continue taking English and maths classes in FE presents a real challenge for colleges.
First, in addressing what some consider to be the failings of the school system. It’s a criticism of some schools that, in playing the numbers game and trying to get as many learners as possible to achieve an A*-C grade, they prioritise teaching learners how to ‘pass’ exams, rather than to understand the concepts.
For any learner who doesn’t get the required grades, when they go to college and have to start taking these classes again there’s a certain element of having to go back to basics, to improve their understanding as a whole, and not just give them enough in the hope they will scrape by.
Second, the shortage of specialist teachers, especially in maths. Being able to recruit highly-qualified teachers that work in the FE is difficult enough; then comes the problem of retention, with it being an employees’ market in which suitable teachers are able to easily move jobs and demand a salary premium.
Then there is the more general resourcing issue being faced by all colleges. It’s well-documented that FE has been subject to some of the biggest austerity measures in its history in recent years, with colleges constantly being called on to find new efficiencies and savings. The provision of content to support maths and English teaching is just one more thing crying out for expenditure in college’s already tightly-squeezed budgets.
This has left colleges with a difficult choice: they could either invest in paid-for resources that were mapped to exam boards and the curricula, at considerable expense, and would result in savings needed to be made elsewhere; or, they could access free resources that were not taught-course, and by effect also not quite fit-for-purpose, without considerable adaption.
Making up the deficient
To help FE meet this momentous challenge, Jisc have just announced that we are making available 23 maths and English resources from exam boards through our e-books for FE service, which practitioners and learners from subscribing colleges can access for free.
While nothing can replace excellent English and maths teaching, opening up access to these high-quality, accessible, curriculum-mapped digital resources will go a long way in plugging the gap. It means learners can access the content on their mobile devices, wherever and whenever they want, so that they’re able to learn on their own terms and get familiar with concepts that they’ll actually be tested on.
I’d urge all colleges to subscribe so that their staff and learners can benefit. To find out more about the service speak to your account manager, or go to the e-books for FE 2016-2019 webpage to sign up.