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Open University and colleges extend Functional Skills partnership

Free Level 2 Functional Skills in Maths and English are now being offered by The Open University in partnership with local Further Education Colleges. 12,000 people have already accessed the OU’s Level 1 Functional Skills free course materials in Maths and English since they were launched in February 2019.

Functional Skills are part of the core skills needed for everyday life and work – and can have a real impact in getting people into work or apprenticeship schemes. An initial survey of some Level 1 learners in the colleges taking part in the scheme showed 53% were studying to improve their career prospects.

A vital stepping stone

Andrew Law, Head of Business Propositions at The Open University, said:

“Functional Skills are part of the core skills needed in everyday life and work. For many they are also an essential stepping stone for getting into work or progressing at work and particularly via apprenticeships (in the absence of GCSEs). The Functional Skills courses on OpenLearn use The Open University’s digital learning expertise to offer a free, flexible way for people to really improve these basic skills and their prospects.

Andrew Law, Open University

Andrew Law

“It’s great to be extending our offering with local colleges to Level 2 Functional Skills – it’s a key way to begin to address the skills gap in the UK, developing people’s abilities and confidence.”

Flexible way to study

As one of the projects funded by the Department for Education’s Flexible Learning Fund, the OU is partnering with three colleges in England – Bedford College Group, Middlesbrough College and West Herts College.

People can access the free course materials on OpenLearn at their leisure and study at a pace and time that suits them. Each college supports learners in their area and facilitates exams so that eligible learners can go on to get their Functional Skills qualification if they wish – all for free. The survey of some of the Level 1 learners found that 36% of students did want to gain qualifications.

Each of the Level 2 Maths and English courses takes between 40-50 hours of study to complete. There is an Open Licence on the materials, which means that anyone can copy and re-use the course content for their own teaching and learning.

Positive impact in the community

Zoe Lewis, principal and chief executive of Middlesbrough College, said:

“We’ve already seen the positive impact  Maths and English courses from The Open University have had across the community.”

“As an inclusive college that is passionate about taking people higher, we’re pleased this fantastic opportunity is being extended to even more people. The courses on offer are ideal for those who are looking for promotion at work, those wanting to support children with homework or to upskill.”

The scheme also involves collaborations with organisations and community groups including Local Enterprise Partnerships, WEA, Unison, Leonard Cheshire Disability and other union and business groups.

Paul Thompson, Employer and Skills Manager at South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership, said:

“Both basic levels of numeracy and literacy are essential, not just for jobs in the labour market, but in personal life as well especially with developing a financial capability. The extension of the Functional Skills provision by The Open University is beneficial both to local capacity and in providing flexible, easy access for individuals and businesses.”

Alongside funding as one of the Flexible Learning Fund projects, 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

Read the full press release.

About Author

Kath works in the Media Relations team within the Communications Unit at The Open University. She is a skilled communicator with more than 15 years’ experience working in both the public and private sectors. She has a BA (Hons) English and American Literature from University of Warwick and specialises in stories from the Faculty of Social Science, Faculty of Education and Language Studies, BBC programmes, and student stories. In her spare time Kath enjoys touring the country in her hand-painted camper van, Trevor.

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