The first keynote address I gave, as a Pearson staff member, was for the AoC Southwest seven years ago. I was looking at the future of English and maths asking why it was acceptable to say you are bad at maths as a generic concept. Being bad at elements of maths is different (I struggle with nets and spatial reasoning), saying I do not understand algebra is not the same as saying I cannot do maths. That being said, the statistics show that people do struggle with maths. According to National Numeracy, 78% of adults have numeracy skills below Level 2 meaning things such as percentage change (the savings in a sale, for example) are a struggle. 50%, or 17 million, adults have a maths level below Level 1. It is believed these poor levels of numeracy costs those individuals £460 in lower wages a year each or a grand total of £20 billion for the country as a whole. It is not just those that did not do so well at school. Less than a quarter of 16-24 year olds with a grade 4 or above still had the equivalent skills when tested. Doing well in school does not seem to guarantee good numeracy skills later in life.
To combat this, the Government has introduced its Multiply scheme. Aimed at 19+ learners without GCSEs grade 4 or equivalent, Multiply is a Government funded programme aimed at developing the maths skills for home, work and life. A digital support platform was also planned but this has now been shelved - DfE quietly shelves plans for £100m online adult learning platform | The Guardian. Providers have been quick to take up this offer and many non-qualification based courses have sprung up across the country. A quick search on the internet shows courses including the following across the country:
- Supporting Your Child with Home Learning (Barking and Dagenham College)
- Upskilling for Promotion (New City College)
- Nursing & Midwifery Numeracy Maths Readiness (South Essex College)
- Murder Mystery and Maths (Newcastle College) - (I would very much like to do this course!)
It seems that Multiply has given providers the means to create courses that are attractive, interesting and relevant for learners. This can only be a good thing.
Case Study: Greater Manchester Learning Provider Network
In Greater Manchester, a planned and comprehensive approach to the Multiply programme has been developed to include delivery commissioned to attract and support specific groups and communities. The programme also includes Capacity Building, delivered by the Greater Manchester Learning Provider Network (GMLPN), to support the delivery of Maths across Greater Manchester with CPD opportunities, sharing of resources and exchange for and between practitioners. This includes embedding the ability to refer to maths within the vocational provision as well as in everyday life. Pearson is proud to support this initiative moving forward.
To help support the Multiply offer across the country, Pearson is producing a series of maths resources across the key areas. These will be classroom activities based at both Entry Level and Level 1. Each activity will have a scaffolded version to support learning and a non-scaffolded version to promote independence. The topics will be:
- Healthy / Independent Living
- Cost of living
- Finance and Debt
- Numeracy for Employability
The Entry level Cost of Living resources are now available on our website here: Course Materials.
While this is all positive, this does not mean there have not been challenges. The very learners that Multiply is trying to attract are the very learners that are difficult to reach and engage. It is difficult for many to see the benefits of improved maths firsthand. Maths anxiety too causes people to avoid developing their skills. Finally, in a cost-of-living crisis too, many people are finding it difficult to find the time to attend courses, despite them being fully funded. For these learners they have to balance life and everything it entails with spending time upskilling. It is difficult to find time to study when you are worried about finances, feeding your family and getting by on a day-to-day basis. We need to create a climate where learning maths becomes desirable, where the distractions of life can be put aside. It might well mean that we need to wait for the economic climate to improve so that people feel they can dedicate time to themselves. However, the license that the Multiply scheme has given providers means that when learners are ready, the courses they need will be waiting for them too. Courses that make maths approachable and relatable.