Some sectors have reported lower attainment rates for their learners and Pearson is taking this opportunity to take a look at how this qualification is performing.
Level 1 maths is offered in schools, colleges, training providers and the workplace to support learners and develop their mathematical skills. Since the reform of Functional Skills maths in 2019, the breadth of the qualification has increased dramatically. Coupled with the COVID 19 pandemic, this has meant that some learners have found this qualification quite challenging. Not all learners, learners in work-based learning and learners with more experience have performed well.
What seems to be the issue and how do we address it?
Upon review younger learners (under 18) appear to be having the most difficulty. A lot of this can be attributed to the effects of the pandemic. In some instances, learners have struggled to engage with teaching and learning over the last two years. Attendance has often been an issue in Further Education (FE), and the pandemic has unfortunately compounded this problem. With attendance sometimes in the range of 60-70%, it is easy to see why learners might have difficulty performing well. In addition, learners have not had to take live exams in schools, therefore some learners are starting in FE with little or no exam experience. We addressed this in a previous blog, giving some advice and guidance on exam techniques, which you can read in full here:
Functional Skills Exam Techniques | January 2022
In terms of exam techniques, learners are still making the same errors they were making prior to the reform:
- Not using the correct units
- Not answering the question
- Not showing their working out
- Not providing a check when asked
- Not checking their answers generally to make sure they make sense and are correct.
With content, learners continue to have similar difficulties to those previously identified:
- Area, perimeter and volume (volume being new to Level 1)
- Metric / imperial conversion (mistaking 9lb 5oz for 9.5lb for example)
- Basic four rules of maths.
Centres are providing feedback that the non-calculator part of the assessment is causing difficulties for learners as well. A number of centres have informed us that they try and focus on non-calculator techniques at the start of the course to support this area of the assessment where learners often struggle.
The final issue seems to come from the level of literacy of the learners. Centres are saying that learners are finding it difficult to extract mathematical information from the questions. This is the nature of Functional Skills, where the learners have to solve problems in context for the maths. From a Pearson perspective, we include English specialists in all the writing teams for our Functional Skills maths assessments to try and ensure that the level of language is not too confusing for learners, but this does not get past the fact that this is something they should be able to do.
In order to be able to fully support centres and learners Pearson will be carrying out customer research over the next few months to look at the way Functional Skills maths is delivered and what we can do to support that delivery and support learners.
We are currently in discussion and planning mode with both internal and external partners to bring together a range of research activities in the coming months to address Level 1 maths.
This will involve:
- Talking directly to learners about their views
- Developing a training package for practitioners with support from centres
- Hosting an edition of #UKFEchat on twitter on the 17th March 9-10pm to engage with the wider community
- Carrying out a survey of post 16 educators on the issues around post 16 maths delivery.
- Organising a symposium of experts to discuss the issues that are being faced and approaches to improve it
- Podcasts with specialists in the delivery of Functional Skills maths
Full feedback from all of this research will then be made available in the summer of 2022. I look forward to sharing this with you and working with you on the journey.
Chris Briggs - Sector Manager Post 16 English and Maths