How CfEM activities has helped colleges contextualise maths for their vocational students

Kendra Kirby, Assistant Principal and Alex Huskisson, Head of English and Maths at Wigan & Leigh College.

Being part of a Centres for Excellence in Maths network has given us, as a college, the opportunity to really delve deeper into employability and transferrable skills for our learners.

Maths (and English) are cornerstone qualifications to any job sector and any progression that a learner may want to have in the future. In essence, Maths is one of the most valued subjects in the world of employment, but often the least valued by learners when studying. They do not necessarily see the application of maths (or English) to fixing a car, looking after children or colouring hair, as a few examples.

With T Levels on the horizon and a greater emphasis in transferrable skills to employment from English and maths, CfEM and associated works with other network groups have given us the chance to reflect on the needs of our students beyond the classroom and beyond an exam-based scenarios.

Over 30% of students each year do not achieve their English and maths qualifications from school and thus have to resit. The main problem they face? They are not considered ‘academic learners’ and would prefer to learn through their interests, particularly their vocational areas.

However, when working alongside vocational areas, we have found that learners do not have the basic skills to apply English and maths in their chosen subjects or as they have not quite gathered the skills they require in the traditional classroom way of learning through school.

Working alongside the CfEM programme as a network partner and being part of the Transition Programme has helped us develop learners’ skills for the workplace, fully in line with T Level competencies (6 for English, 10 for Maths). It has given us an insight into what it is that sectors actually want from their learners and from there, has allowed us to really hone in on those finer skills that aren’t taught as part of a traditional classroom.

a student measuring a picture frame

For example, measuring for mounting artwork for Art & Design students or writing parent reports for Early Years students. These skills are fundamental as part of their ongoing professional development and are usually treated as ‘on the job training’. By incorporating these early, as a result of a contextualisation focus, learners are given an upper hand in the world of employability as well as in an exam outcome scenario due to the added interest of their subject being a large focus of English and maths and their development.

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