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Free functional skills courses launched by OU with Further Education Colleges

A new scheme to bring free Level 1 Functional Skills courses to tens of thousands of people via online learning has been launched by the OU in partnership with Further Education (FE) Colleges in England.  It will help people develop basic skills in English and Maths by studying on the OpenLearn platform, and they can then get a qualification via a local college partner.

Tablet screen with OpenLearnThe pilot project, funded by the Department for Education’s Flexible Learning Fund, involves three colleges – Bedford College Group, Middlesbrough College and West Herts College – who have worked with the OU to develop the online courses. This is the first time that the OU has collaborated closely with FE colleges to support learners at this level.

People can access course materials on OpenLearn at their leisure and study at a pace and time that suits them. Each college will support learners in their area and facilitate exams so that people can go on to get their Functional Skills qualification if they wish – all for free.

Helping with basic skills

The Open University, this year celebrating its 50th anniversary, was founded on the principle of opening up access to education to all.

Andrew Law

Andrew Law

Andrew Law, Head of Propositions at The Open University said: “In our 50th birthday year we remain true to our social mission with this exciting new project. This is a flexible, low-risk way for people to develop their basic skills, gaining confidence and even a qualification. It could transform their career prospects.

“More than seventy per cent of the seven and a half million adults using OpenLearn each year do so for work-related reasons, so we know this is an ideal way to help thousands of people gain new skills. Working in partnership to combine our digital learning expertise with course design and practical, local support from FE colleges is a great offer for anyone that wants to gain Functional Skills.”

Two courses will initially be on offer, Everyday Maths and Everyday English, each taking a total of 48 hours of study to complete. There is an Open Licence on the materials, which means that others can copy and re-use the course content for their own teaching and learning.

Alongside funding from the Department for Education, this pilot is benefiting from a kind donation by one of the OU’s supporters, Dangoor Education.

In parallel with the English pilot, the OU is partnering with colleges in Wales on a similar pilot to deliver Essential Skills in English and Maths.  The Welsh pilot is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.

Find out more

Explore our free resources on OpenLearn

Read the full press release.



About Author

Liz works in the Media Relations team within the Communications Unit at The Open University. She has over 15 years' marketing experience working across a range of sectors, from diamonds to shampoo. She has a BSc (Hons) in Management from UMIST. In her spare time, Liz is usually found on roller skates or off travelling, having adventures.

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