Functioning functional skills

For apprentices who need to brush up on their maths and English, or for those who don’t have the required Level 2 qualifications for an apprenticeship, additional functional skills modules are undertaken alongside their course programme.

It’s the equivalent of taking GCSE level maths and English and is a crucial part of learning, not only to develop the skills of the apprentice, but also to pass through the gateway to end point assessment and successfully complete the apprenticeship. It also means that learners can meet the minimum qualifications required by most employers.

So, when we went into lockdown, we had to work quickly to ensure learners weren’t disrupted and that we could maintain the same level of support they needed.

Daniel McManamon is the functional skills lead at Estio. A typical day for him involves delivering workshops, preparing learners for their exams, and guiding them through the remote learning platform. It was Daniel who led the change to a new approach:

“As classroom workshops are currently not being carried out, we’ve adapted our delivery to a mixture of one-to-one and group remote sessions. Thankfully, as a business, we’re already well equipped to do this, as all of our courses involve some element of remote delivery.

“At first, I was nervous about how learners would respond to full remote delivery, especially those preparing for exams. But they’ve responded really positively at being able to continue their studies because they’re conscious they still have deadlines to meet, and without a Level 2 ‘pass’ they can’t complete their apprenticeship.

“One thing we’re focusing on strongly is ensuring learners still feel supported. Not every learner in a cohort will be doing functional skills modules, so their usual learning network may not be able to support in the same way as they could with the apprenticeship modules. Through the regular group sessions, and by offering a dedicated one-to-one session, we’re making sure every learner requiring additional support knows they can access it when they need it.

“The remote one-to-one sessions have also actually enabled us to interact more closely with learners and better identify their individual needs. It’s meant we can then plan sessions specifically around individual needs if necessary, even as part of a group. Many learners have shared with us that they value the personalised feel of the one-to-one sessions, particularly if they want to discuss something they’re struggling with and might not want to share in a group environment.

“For the team and me, it’s really important that we still give our learners our best, even though our approach has had to change. It’s an unsettling time for everyone, but every learner I’m working with is determined to work hard, and at the end of the day, everyone at Estio is here for one purpose – to build skills for better futures.”

Keep calm and carry on learning!