The period of Centre Assessed Grades is coming to an end. Providers and learners will have their results and the time to think about the next steps. For Further Education that is September 2020 and the start of the new academic year. Obviously for work-based learning there is no new academic year just the constant roll on and roll off, for new starts and finishers. This is why our Functional Skills tests are now live again, so learners who have been continuing their studies throughout lockdown and new starts can gain their qualifications.
Speaking of gaining qualifications, analysis has been carried out on the pre-COVID 19 pass rates for reformed Functional Skills, which is detailed below (this does not include any calculated grade results).
Generally, the first time pass rates are positive, while the second time pass rates are a little lower. Once a learner has failed twice though, their probability of being successful the third time is much reduced. We recommend using ResultsPlus to support these learners to help support and improve their results for the next time they test.
The immediate future
September 2020 is rapidly approaching and with it comes an air of uncertainty about the future. This time last year we were preparing for the launch of the reformed Functional Skills; this year it is all about getting back into education.
COVID-19 and post-16 Education
There are so many questions that are still unanswered about post-16 education and COVID 19: will colleges need to have vocational bubbles (if so, how does that affect English and maths that will need to happen outside those bubbles?); will learners need to wear masks in the classroom? How will we beable to run assessments? I, personally, do not have the answers, but have been doing some research on this.
As a result of this research is has become apparent that blended learning is the favoured approach. It has been used throughout lockdown to engage learners and some have found learners to be more engaged than normal. My research (of nearly 200 providers and practitioners, shows that 74% are planning on offering a blended approach).
The most popular approach to blended learning seems to be a combination of a provider’s own resource and a paid for solution. This would allow for better targeting of individual learner needs through resources created by the provider with the learner in mind.
We do need to pay careful attention to digital poverty though and ensure that all learners have access to these digital resources. These resources should be phone and tablet friendly at the very least and careful consideration needs to be given to other forms of access too. Some providers are supporting learners with laptops and wifi dongles, but is this a long-term solution? Without a thought-out plan we risk created a two-tiered education system based around digital. For those less digitally proficient, there is a new qualification available for first teach in September
Essential Digital Skills
Essential Digital Skills qualifications (EDSQs) will be available for first teach from September 2020, consisting of two qualifications, Entry Level and Level 1 (in England only). They will both be automatically funded for adults who don’t have the basic digital skills they need for life and work under the funding Stream - AEB Digital Entitlement.
The Essential Digital Skills framework defines the digital skills adults need to safely benefit from, participate in and contribute to the digital world. These qualifications are suitable for all ages and support the development of key digital skills such as using devices, creating and editing digital media, using technology to communicate, buying and transacting online, and how to stay safe and secure when using technology.
To read more detail on EDSQ or keep up to date view our EDSQ webpages.
Issues with digital learning
At this point, it is key to think of the limitations of effective pedagogy with digital learning as highlighted through the experiences of providers in the period of lockdown. These can be broken down into two key elements:
- The ability to effectively mediate new content. The idea that a tutor can easily check understanding of a class in a normal environment becomes more difficult with digital learning. From personal experience of webinars, it is difficult to gauge if everyone understands a concept. What can be mitigated with a few simple questions in normal situations can become an issue which is difficult to address digitally. A good tutor can mitigate this and mediate what is learnt, but videos and text cannot do this.
- The ability of the tutor to engage in good quality diagnostic probing of understanding. The idea that a tutor can ask targeted questions to ensure everyone understands is again an issue with online learning. The key to all teaching and learning is what is taught may not be what is learnt. Digitally it is difficult to assess what a learner has learnt and whether what you wanted them to learn is actual what has been learnt. In an episode of The Simpsons, Lisa and Bart try something and fail. Homer’s words of wisdom are “the lesson here is never try”. This failure to understand the lesson needs to be mitigated.
In terms of assessment, we are fortunate that Functional Skills is an on-demand qualification that allows learners the opportunity to access the assessment in a relatively socially isolated way. If you have any questions about the assessments and access, remember we are just an email or phone call away.
To provide support for providers, Pearson are delivering two new training sessions on what we have learnt from the assessments carried out in 2019/20 and practitioners need to consider adding in additional support. These will be starting in September 2020, are one hour long and will be delivered over zoom. Having done a lot of training and support over the last few years, it is always better when I can see people’s faces.
For further information on supporting Functional Skills providers through COVID-19, visit our website.
Chris Briggs, Sector Manager Post-16 English and Maths