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Embedding English and maths in Further Education

With an ever-increasing focus on English and maths in Further Education, effective embedding of literacy and numeracy skills in all areas has never been more important. In Further Education, effective embedding of English and maths takes many forms, but often remains a challenge.

So, what does effective embedding of English and maths look like?

Let’s take a look at quick wins and easily applied strategies for successful embedding.

Collaborative Planning

A simple and efficient strategy for embedding English and maths in any vocational area is collaborative planning between English and maths teachers. The first step in high-quality embedding, taking the opportunity in a classroom, staffroom, office or over a coffee, to ask an English and/ or maths specialist to cast an eye over vocational planning to identify the opportunities to embed English and maths, can be completed in as little as 30 minutes.

This is not to say that there is not profound expertise in vocational areas around English and maths (of course there is), but English and maths specialists will likely identify additional naturally occurring opportunities to embed and, more than this, can provide resources to support. With the vast majority of us being taught several variations on key skills (from parents, relatives, siblings and throughout each Key Stage of education) consistency is vital – ensuring this college-wide can significantly impact English and maths achievement and progression.

Naturally occurring (reading, speaking, and listening opportunities for English)

As above, identifying naturally occurring opportunities to embed English and maths is vital. Without this, students will be unlikely to see the importance of English and maths as it becomes reduced to gimmick status through the use of quickly tacked-on wordsearches or crosswords. Similarly, random maths quizzes/ starters do little to promote maths skills and, whichever topic is covered, has limited ‘stickability’ with students. Instead, focus on the areas of English and maths which naturally occur, such as reading, extended writing, ratio, percentages etc.

All students will need to read something at some point each week – a teacher reading a text aloud, for example, can offer opportunities to develop student vocabulary and (when supplemented with comprehension questions) can support students to develop inference and deductive reasoning. Similarly, asking students to present research, in-class work or assignment plans supports vocabulary development (as well as soft-skills). In short, the opportunities are already there: let’s make sure we’re using them.

Peer Observation

Another simple and effective method for embedding English and maths, peer observation (with vocational teams spending time in English and maths classrooms, and vice versa) can be completed in as little as 15-20 minutes. By identifying topics which naturally occur in vocational schemes of learning, vocational teams can observe sessions to ensure consistency in resources and delivery. A vital part of this process, it’s important that the observation date, time, duration, and activity is agreed before it is completed and also that there is time for discussion after the session to explore what was learnt. Helping to build trust between colleagues, this also acts as an opportunity to discuss any questions or share resources/ approaches.

There are, of course, many other ways to embed English and maths across any organisation, and collaboration is just the first step in supporting this. What collaboration also does is make sure there is a cross-college focus and English and maths presence, something which is a key focus for our fully funded DfE project on supporting English and maths teachers, leaders, and students through the BASE Project.

For more information on the BASE Project, and how it is supporting colleges in the Northeast, Yorkshire and Humberside, check out our website here

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