Posts Tagged ‘Keighley College’

Ann Marie Spry

Making the sums add up on the nation’s numeracy challenge

Maths is high on the current political agenda, with a focus on the young. But a lack of basic numeracy is blighting the lives of millions of adults, writes Ann Marie Spry, Vice Principal of Adults at Luminate Education Group.

Numeracy, the ability to understand how maths works in the real world, influences most aspects of our lives – from budgeting for shopping to mortgage choices.

Yet a shockingly high proportion of adults in the UK really struggle to deal with numbers – with a 2022 report finding that, in West Yorkshire, more than half – 52% – had numeracy skills at ‘entry level and below’.

This problem is limiting countless people’s lives, not least by closing off work opportunities across all kinds of sectors. Because a grasp of basic maths, as part of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skill set, is vital to so many jobs – and not just the ‘usual suspects’ like finance, accountancy or computing.

Our numeracy woes are also causing real economic damage which, according to research by National Numeracy, could be costing the UK up to £25 billion a year. A new YouGov survey commissioned by the same charity found that there are currently 15 million people in the UK with ‘low skills or confidence’ in maths – with lower paid workers, the unemployed and part-time workers worst affected.

So how do we go about reaching, and helping, those who need it?

The benefits of a functional approach

That is a question that the government’s Multiply programme, which invests in courses for adults that focus on functional, rather than theoretical, maths was set up to help answer. The scheme involves working with educational and skills organisations, like ours, to boost people’s confidence with numbers and gain qualifications.

We were delighted earlier this year to be awarded nearly £480,000 for two of our group’s members, Leeds City College (which was awarded £434,000) and Keighley College (£45,500), to deliver Multiply training in West Yorkshire.

This funding is enabling us to put on new courses for adults that are tailored to fit around their busy lives, while training more staff to teach numeracy.

These sessions are concentrating on topics like banking, borrowing and interest levels to highlight the practical benefits of numerical skills, and targeting adults who don’t have a Level 2 qualification – roughly equivalent to a GCSE grade 4, or the old C grade – in maths.

We hope that through delivering the programme we can help adults in all walks of life develop improved financial skills: from planning their meals, or creating shopping lists and budgets, to understanding taxes, pensions and interest rates. This should help them to feel more secure as they plan for the future by enabling them to feel more in control, and give them confidence to explore new challenges.

In a way our aim is to correct a historical wrong, as so many of our young people have left – and are still leaving – school feeling intimidated, and fearful, about numbers. That can have far-reaching, negative consequences throughout life: unless we reach out and try to remedy the problem.

Practical skills for the cost-of-living crisis

Our work is still at an early stage but we know, from other schemes around the country – including in Staffordshire – that Multiply courses are delivering very tangible benefits: not least by empowering individuals to cope with the many challenges that are being thrown up by the cost-of-living crisis, through managing their household budgets, bills and debts, better.

The government has been in the headlines this year for talking, as part of its wider push to update a whole raft of educational qualifications, about the importance of getting everyone to study maths until the age of 18. That idea was referenced again, as part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s proposals for a new Advanced British Standard, in the November 2023 King’s Speech, which stated that the new qualification would ‘ensure every young person studies some form of English and maths to age 18, raising the floor of attainment’.

That idea, given the link between numeracy and future life prospects, certainly has real merit – though proper funding will be needed to recruit and retain the maths teachers required to deliver it.

But we also, as a nation, have to make sure we don’t forget about the millions of people who have already been through the school system and yet don’t have the skills needed to help them fulfil their potential.

That is why the Multiply scheme, and the work further education providers around the country are doing thanks to its funding, is so important. Too many of our citizens, for far too long, have had to struggle due to a lack of number skills and this is costing them, and our economy, dear.

Whichever way you look at it, that just doesn’t add up.

This thought piece was recently published in The Yorkshire Post.

Keighley College students enjoying their Camp America placement

Keighley College teams up with Camp America to give students a chance to work overseas

Earlier this year, Keighley College teamed up with Camp America to offer up to 90 students across Luminate’s further education colleges a once-in-a-lifetime work experience opportunity in the United States over the summer.

The placements were offered through the Turing Scheme, a UK government programme for overseas study and work. The trip, designed to hone students’ employability skills as they look after and become role models to children at the camp, included travel, accommodation and living costs.

Keighley College’s principal, Kevin O’Hare, travelled out to see how the camp counsellors were getting on across the various sites they were sent to, what they were learning from their experiences and what their plans were following on from their placements.

His trip took him to Camp Laughing Waters in Gilbertsville, East Pennsylvania; Camp Herrlich on the border of New York state and Connecticut; and French Wood Sports & Art Camp in Hancock, NY. In each, he found the students who have taken advantage of the offer having the time of their lives.

Alongside teaching and sharing skills and knowledge with young campers, they have been making friends with the international cohort of camp counsellors and planning a number of subsequent adventures.

In a world in which, as it becomes more global, there can be seen a parallel stream of parochialism rising to the surface, making these connections with other cultures and people is an essential experience which we are proud to have been able to offer our students.

Leeds City College and Keighley College have received funding to boost adult numeracy levels in West Yorkshire

Funding to boost adult numeracy skills in West Yorkshire

Two of our colleges have secured nearly £480,000 to boost adult numeracy skills in the region.

Leeds City College and Keighley College will receive just under £434,000 and £45,500 respectively via the Department for Education-led Multiply programme.

They will use the money to fund a multi-pronged push to raise standards among adults who don’t have a Level 2 qualification – roughly equivalent to a GCSE grade 4, or the old C grade – in maths.

The work will involve supporting learners through putting on new, flexible courses designed to fit around their lives, and training more staff to teach numeracy.

A practical focus

The focus will be on functional, rather than theoretical, maths to show how useful it can be in real-life situations ranging from budgeting for shopping to understanding borrowing, credit and interest.

Leeds City College’s Director of Adult Curriculum, Joanne Dye, said: “Everyone talks about how simple budgeting is, but many people find it hard even though it is an essential skill – and especially important now while we face a cost of living crisis.

“We are delighted to have secured funding to deliver this vital programme. We are committed to improving access to numeracy skills for adults in our region, and this programme is an important step in that direction.”

Addressing a costly skills gap

A 2022 report found that more than half – 52% – of adults in West Yorkshire were at ‘entry level and below’ in terms of numeracy. National Numeracy’s research, meanwhile, says low numeracy skills could be costing the UK up to £25 billion a year.

The Multiply programme – which is being funded over three years, with West Yorkshire Combined Authority distributing the finances – will seek to address the issue locally by reengaging adults with maths.

Leeds City College and Keighley College are already piloting a project that asks English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students to take on tasks like banking or supermarket shopping.

The programme will also open up new work and educational possibilities for participants, and take them a step closer to being able to benefit from further support such as the Lifelong Loan Entitlement.

Making maths accessible to all

Luminate Education Group Vice Principal Ann Marie Spry, said: “We need to support those who still need to get Levels 1 and 2 in maths, and have a fear of the subject, to thrive in their personal and professional lives.

“Offering bespoke support, this programme will also help English for Speakers of Other Languages students who struggle with language barriers.

“We hope that through delivering the programme we can help adults in all walks of life develop improved financial skills; from planning their meals, or creating shopping lists and budgets, to understanding taxes and pensions.

“This will enable them to create a system to feel more financially secure, now and in the future.”

Multiply’s aims are part of a wider push by the government to improve and extend maths skills across the country, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently announcing his ambition to get everyone studying maths until the age of 18.

Keighley College

Keighley College receives funding for green skills investment

Keighley College is one of six further education providers across the region that will receive £140,000 to invest in specialist equipment to deliver electric vehicle and retrofit training, grow and embed green knowledge within the curriculum and improve links with businesses to develop and enhance their green skills.

As part of the West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges (WYCC), the college will be involved in government plans to boost the nation’s skills and make sure more people can secure good, well-paid jobs that are closer to where they live.

A great opportunity to ‘level up’ for sustainability

Kevin O’Hare, Principal at Keighley College, said: “We are delighted to be working with partners across the region to help our young people develop green skills and learn about sustainability.

“Our Industrial Centre of Excellence for Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering provides students with the opportunity to gain real world industry experience and this project will allow us to explore more green opportunities available in these areas.

“It is our aim to ensure that we successfully embed sustainable development goals into our curriculum and prepare our learners for futures in a greener world.”

The Department for Education has announced that it will invest £2.6m in West Yorkshire’s colleges through the Strategic Development Fund. 

The fund was launched in 2021 to help colleges and further education providers to transform their facilities and offer high quality technical training that better meet the needs of local employers and boost job opportunities for their communities.

This would mean that local businesses have access to the home-grown talent they need for the jobs of tomorrow and more people don’t need to leave their hometowns to get a good job.

Preparing a workforce for the future

Project Director of the West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges, Joanne Patrickson said: “This funding will make a big difference to our colleges and in turn, the businesses and communities in West Yorkshire. 

“Part of the funding will be a capital investment into equipment and machinery to allow our colleges to train the workforce in electric vehicle maintenance and retrofitting buildings.

“Colleges will be employing dedicated teams to work closely with businesses in the region to understand what help they need to become more sustainable, and the WYCC The Green Skills Service to help employers access the training and resources they need to take action.”

The £2.6m is contracted to be spent by 31 March 2023, but this initial investment will allow these new initiatives to establish and offer training that will prepare the workforce for a sustainable future.

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