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The future of English and maths

Sian Wilson, NCFE Director

In line with our ongoing #FullyFunctional campaign, we recently hosted an insightful English and maths conference to highlight the current standings of these vital subjects as well as their future, with the aim of creating a level playing field for all. 

We were delighted to welcome over 100 delegates from various organisations for the event. We were also joined by a range of speakers from the sector who offered different perspectives and experiences in regards to the standings of English and maths.

Stewart Foster, NCFE’s Chief Operating Officer, kick-started the event with a thought-provoking introduction. Stewart provided delegates with more information on NCFE’s perspective of the current standings of English and maths qualifications in the sector and the importance of the creation of a level playing field for them. He highlighted the importance of learners having the opportunity to study qualifications that are suited to them, therefore enabling them achieve the results they need to progress in their lives and careers.

The 4 keynote speakers then followed, starting with Mark Dawe, CEO of AELP. Mark is an advocate of English and maths being critical skills for all and that the current GCSE retake policy not being fit for purpose. Mark discussed the importance of diagnostics for learners to ensure they are studying the right qualification and level in order to give them the best chance of success.

Catherine Sezen, Senior Policy Manager at AoC, provided a statistical overview of the current policy and how it affects FE. Catherine highlighted the importance of celebrating the success of those who do achieve as well as the importance of offering an inclusive solution for those who would benefit from having access to alternative English and maths qualifications.

After a short break, Stephen Evans, CEO of the Learning and Work Institute gave an overview of the increasing importance of English and maths. This is especially true for adults with statistics showing that 9 million adults in England having low literacy and/or numeracy alongside a 30% fall in the number of adults participating in literacy and numeracy learning. Stephen discussed solutions for these issues, including building on the current condition of funding as well as a huge focus needed on improving basic skills for adults.


Our final keynote speaker, 20-year-old Joshua Dixon, told his story of defying critics after being removed from mainstream school after struggling with both his home and school life. He managed to find his motivation again after being accepted to study at Leeds City College Apprenticeship Academy – here he connected with his teachers and felt re-engaged with education that ‘made sense’ to him. Through studying Functional Skills and an Apprenticeship Joshua has achieved huge success, becoming the founder and CEO of 3 successful recruitment companies.  

The keynote speakers left the audience inspired, motivated and encouraged.

A lively panel debate concluded the morning session with challenging and interesting questions from delegates.

During the afternoon, the audience was divided to enjoy interactive workshops covering core maths and phonics hosted by experts from University of Plymouth and Attuned Education. Dean Blewitt and David Redden from NCFE also delivered an informative workshop on mapping Functional Skills content to the new reformed qualifications

The final session was delivered by Gail Rochester, Head of Business Development at NCFE, highlighting the features and benefits of NCFE’s English and maths offer across Functional Skills, Core Maths and bite sized English and maths interventions.

It was great to see so many of our customers in attendance, sharing the same goal as ours which is to ensure that learners are given the opportunity to achieve success by taking qualifications that are best for them.  

Find out more about our #FullyFunctional campaign and how you can get involved.

English and Maths conference 2019

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Catherine Sezen

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The importance of English and maths in the skills system

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English and maths are crucial to life and work. We need to build consensus for a higher ambition for young people and adults.

Stephen Evans

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