FE colleges fulfil a vital role in the education system by teaching students key skills and enabling them to enter the job market with qualifications and confidence, but new statistics show that FE colleges are on the verge of losing funding due to key shortages in teaching staff. Specifically, a shortage of over 2,000 English and maths teachers is putting funding at risk as FE colleges fail to comply with new government rules, according to Joy Mercer, director of policy at the Association of Colleges.
Regulations for Teaching Maths and English
Under regulations drawn up as part of the 2011 Wolf Report, any FE college, sixth form, or further education institute that has students on its books without a grade of C in English and maths must demonstrate that they are teaching these students skills so that they can attain these qualifications. If FE colleges fail to teach students skills in English and maths, come September they stand to have funding withdrawn for every student who is not effectively learning these skills.
Lack of Qualified Teachers
Skills in English and maths cannot be taught if there is no professional to teach them properly. Qualified teachers must be available in FE colleges and institutions. According to Mercer, there is currently a shortage of nearly 1,200 maths teachers and a shortfall of 1,000 English teachers in FE colleges and schools teaching post-16 students. Why is it so tough to find quality teachers? Sixth forms and colleges struggle to recruit suitable teachers as many leave or are attracted by higher salaries – and often easier work – in schools. It’s a tough job to teach maths and English skills to students who have perhaps failed their GCSE exam more than once – these students are not particularly motivated or interested in continuing to learn. They are dispirited and not keen to begin the process of studying numeracy or literacy skills anew. Many of the teachers in FE colleges may have Functional Skills in maths qualifications, but they are ill-equipped to teach other aspects of the GCSE syllabus, including trigonometry and statistics.
The Path to Success
Currently, the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics as well as the Education and Training Foundation are putting together specific programmes for teachers in the FE sector. But more teachers are needed in the first place. And more students need to be taught practical techniques for passing their GCSEs in maths and English at a grade of C or above. For example, Functional Skills qualifications serve as a stepping stone to success at the GCSE level in core subjects.
The teaching of Functional Skills is applied in a way that relates examples to real-life situations, making it easier for students who have traditionally not been academically minded to get involved in the study, understand how to solve problems, and apply their learning in an exam situation. If FE colleges and sixth forms are to continue to enjoy full funding from the government, they must develop innovative and workable programmes of teaching to not only inspire students but also the teachers they must attract to deliver the learning experience.
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