Good News For Learners!

Good news for learners on the legacy Functional Skills and those on apprenticeships who only need to achieve Level 1 Maths and English with the Secretary of States announcements on October 14th.

Extensions to Legacy Functional Skills are to be put in place to 31 July 2021.

The temporary suspension of the rule requiring level 2 apprentices to study towards, and attempt, level 2 functional skills exams to 31 March 2021 was also confirmed.

At least that takes the pressure off some learners a little, and every little helps!

New Apprenticeship Scheme

New apprenticeship scheme highlights that care is needed!


As we all adapt to the ‘new norm’ and businesses start returning to work, please give some thought to the new latest Government scheme to take on new apprentices. 

Small businesses that offer training for young people aged between 16 and 24 will be given cash “bonuses” of grants worth £2000 per youth up to a maximum of £10,000 per organisation. This on-the-job training is seen as a gateway to important skill development for young people through an apprenticeship and, ultimately, longer-term employment.

As an experienced education consultant and trainer, I urge businesses to carefully consider how they would use these new apprenticeship opportunities to support their organisation’s recovery and future development, post-COVID 19. 

I believe that tangible care needs to be undertaken to ensure that the apprentice is a correct ‘fit’ for the business and that training providers give the optimum level of support to the apprentice and employer to ensure that a successful relationship is brokered.

How to deploy an individualised apprentice programme

An individualised apprentice training programme needs to be implemented, informed via efficient baseline screening. Effective screening is important to support the development of a meaningful learning plan, that will meet the needs of both the employer and apprentice.

Creating Excellence welcomes this latest Apprenticeship Government initiative to help to kickstart jobs, however, the pandemic has brought significant changes to the post-16 education sector that need to be addressed in a careful, creative and considered way. We also all need to understand that training will have to encompass a more online approach, not only because it is a more cost-effective and versatile method of delivery, but it will mean that learning can continue if learners face even further disruption to their working patterns.

Additionally, in our opinion, the shift in apprenticeship delivery from frameworks to standards needs a completely different approach when planning training and teaching, something that is not always evident in the programme planning process. 

Content needs to be engaging

To be meaningful, the learning content needs to have real value and be engaging for learners. If the future of teaching is to encompass a blended split between face-to-face and online coverage, something we are already seeing in many schools and colleges, the delivery must be much more effective than has been experienced by many in the lockdown months. Many of us are aware of an abundance of students that have had a less than an OK learning experience, a situation that is causing grave concern for parents around the longer-term impact on the education of young people. 

We also believe that the new legal entitlement for essential digital skills – alongside maths and English and a first Level 2/3 – is further a significant change and opportunity, because there are over 11 million adults in the UK who do not possess the basic level of digital skills. A fact that is likely to also impact on the ability of younger people to interact with the technology they will need to access, in order to progress. 

We believe that this increased legal entitlement, alongside some of the AEB flexibilities, can provide a great and unique opportunity for training providers to diversify and build capacity in their business while supporting the kickstart initiatives being implemented by the government.

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About the author

Christine Edwards | Creating ExcellenceChristine Edwards QTLS is an English and numeracy expert, who has 45 years experience across the private, public and self-employed sectors.

She is a Personal Development Lead and staff trainer and has been an assessor, verifier, apprenticeship teacher/tutor and quality manager.

She was also a key person in several Ofsted inspections and strongly supports a whole organisational approach to maths and English.


Thoughts on Assessments for 2020/2021

Christine Edwards | Creating Excellence
I have just finished working my way through Ofqual’s consultation report on the way that assessments will look, from their perspective for 2020/21. I have to say it isn’t an easy read, but there are some clear messages for me that I wanted to share.

1. It is extremely unlikely that there will be an aggregated grade process again. Ofqual expects that assessments will be completed in a manner that meets any restrictions and seems to favour extended length of learning programmes (calendar wise) to accommodate this.

2. Adjustments to assessments are being driven by awarding organisations, who will work under a loose framework set down by Ofqual because Ofqual believes that they ‘are best placed to determine the appropriate adaptations for the assessments they offer.’ Therefore the need to communicate with your AO is essential.

3. GCSEs and A levels are not falling within the same parameters for these adjustments for this next academic year.

4. The development of an online offer and learner’s possessing a sound basic set of digital skills is even more important.

There appears to be a thought process that content should be reduced to allow for less teaching to take place because of the restrictions that some may face. My personal feeling on this is that an approach like this would be a dangerous dilution of qualifications that could not only reduce the value of some key post 16 qualifications with employers but also disadvantage learners from having the full training that is recognised as being necessary within a qualification and learning programme.

Of course, adjustments need to be made, but they should be supportive of ensuring that the learners get the qualification that they need to progress with their career.

I appreciate that assessments, especially those of a more practical nature, can be more challenging, if not impossible, under the current climate, but there is surely no need to reduce the teaching aspect. We have seen major breakthroughs in recent weeks with how learning can be delivered online, so surely this is the way forward.

Of course, there are some learners who will struggle with the technology, but surely we have a duty of care to help them develop the skills they need and support them to be able to access the equipment etc., they need to fully engage with their learning programme.

The post 16 education sector is a different animal than pre 16, most learners want to learn in order to progress with their career goals and aspirations. I believe it is my responsibility to adjust what we are doing to best help and teach them what they need to know.

Here is the link to the full publication

Christine Edwards QTLS Creating Excellence

September 2020

FE White Paper: What do sector leaders want it to say?

This is from an article from


The White Paper in the autumn could cover a broad range of issues, but sector leaders are clear on what they want it to say

The House of Commons Education Select Committee today heard from a range of sector leaders on the FE White Paper, expected in the autumn.

Each of the speakers highlighted the need for extra funding, as well for a national plan considering both the sector as a whole and local and regional need.

All participants were asked what three things they would like reflected in the government’s plans for FE. Here is what they said.

Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association:

“It is absolutely essential that we protect the applied general qualifications, BTECs and so on, because that is going to disenfranchise a huge number of young people if we don’t do that.

“We must make sure that funding levels are fit for purpose, and we have got to make sure that we take a rounded approach to opening new provision for 16- to 18-year-olds and make sure we are joined up.”

Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute:

“We should set a higher ambition, backed by investment. We argued for another £1.9 billion pounds across England, which would help to double attainment at level 1 and 2.

“The second is a lifelong learning entitlement for people – a broader entitlement that includes retraining and the right to retrain. And the last is investment in learning and skills as part of a local ecosystem where we measure the outcomes.”

David Robinson, director of Post-16 and Skills at Education Policy Institute:

“The first priority is funding. The second is ensuring that we don’t just focus on T levels and higher technical qualifications, but also focus on the tail of underperformance we have. We have got 43 per cent of people not achieving a level 3 by the age of 19 and some of the lowest literacy and numeracy across developed countries – that needs to be addressed.

“And lastly, it is about closing the disadvantage gap. We see disadvantage continuing to have an effect. There is a strong argument for expanding from area-based disadvantage funding to pupil-based funding.”

Jane Hickie, managing director at the Association of Employment and Learning providers:

“One is putting the apprenticeships funding on a long-term sustainable footing, which is about letting levy-payers use the funding as they wish and having a standalone budget for SMEs.

“The second is better support for level 2, and more investment in the adult education budget so that works better.”

Kirstie Donnelly, chief executive of City & Guilds Group:

“To me, they are interlinked. We need to address adult lifelong learning and almost drop the ‘adult’. Lifelong learning should be the ecosystem that underpins the White Paper. The FE White Paper should be looking at lifelong learning that goes all the way through and the transition we were talking about. There needs to be more investment and funding into lifelong learning. As part of that, we’d like to see an entitlement for careers, advice and guidance.

“The second would be a national plan for skills, but one that is then devolved locally and regionally with flexible funding to have flexible skills credits and flexibilities that can respond to local need.

“My third one would be for us to reimagine how learning could be supported by digital transformation because it is not going to go away. It is more an employer-owned agenda than it is a solely state-owned agenda.”

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges:

“My three are a national strategy which is backed up by place-based plans in collaboration of everyone in the locality. Secondly, I want colleges to be funded to provide advice directly to employers in specialised sectors of the economy that needs it.

“And thirdly, I want Dame Mary Ney’s nurturing relationship implemented. And that will need a complete stripping out of bureaucracy, moving to outcome-based funding and a much more mature, strategic relationship between government and colleges.”

What will Ofsted’s interim visits actually look like?

This is an article from

Caption: Paul Joyce, deputy director of Ofsted.

The inspectorate will begin visiting colleges from the end of this month – and today, its deputy director shared what that will look like

Ofsted is shortly due to start a series of interim visits to colleges and providers to look at provision this academic year in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The inspectorate has repeatedly stressed these will not be inspections and institutions will not be graded – but in some cases, a visit may lead to an inspection.

Today, Ofsted’s deputy director for further education and skills Paul Joyce told the Association of Employment and Learning Providers’ Business Recovery Conference just what these visits will – and will not – entail.

Paul Joyce said while inspectors would be carrying out interim visits from this month under the inspectorate’s inspection powers, “they will not be inspections”. “My idea is that these will support the sector”.

“These really are discussions, constructive conversations and what it is like on the ground. What is working and what are you struggling with – that is what this is all about,” he added.

How many of these visits would be made depending on when routine inspections could resume – and the inspectorate is keeping that under review during the autumn term, said Mr Joyce.

Ofsted will also carry out additional new provider monitoring visit with providers judged to be making insufficient progress, and those who would have been due their full inspection up to or during this interim phase from September 2020 but have not received it. If sufficient progress has been made, providers will be able to start learners on apprenticeship programmes on the back of these visits, said Mr Joyce. That means they do not have to wait for full inspections to restart.

Three themes to visits

He added visits will focus on all providers with “inadequate” or “requires improvement” inspection grades and on providers where risks or concerns have been identified. Ofsted will also visit a sample of “good” and “outstanding” providers and newly merged colleges, visits will usually involve two inspectors for up to two days.

Mr Joyce said there are three questions the visits will be based around:

  • What actions are leaders taking to ensure that they provide an appropriate curriculum that responds to the reasonable needs of learners and adapts to changed circumstances?
  • What steps are leaders taking to ensure that the approaches used for building knowledge and skills are appropriate to meet the needs of learners?
  • How are leaders ensuring that learners are safe and well informed about potential risks, including from online sources?

After the visit, a “short written report” will be published by Ofsted to “give some measure to government and provide a body of examples and practice”, Mr Joyce said.

Ofsted confirmed that on the visits, it will not:

  • Evaluate measures put in place at the point of lockdown or during lockdown or judge providers on their response to Covid-19 during the spring and summer terms of 2020.
  • Use the EIF and further education and skills inspection handbook to make any graded or progress judgements.
  • Look for evidence of the impact of actions since September.
  • Carry out lesson, workplace observations or deep dives.
  • Expect leaders to prepare for anything beyond what is part of the normal business of the provider.
  • Ask providers for documents or records in a certain format.
  • Require staff to prepare any additional work.
  • Review self-assessment, quality improvement plans, points of improvement from previous inspections or visits or achievement data.

Ofsted says it will:

  • Have a series of “professional conversations” with leaders and, where appropriate, staff and learners.
  • Endeavour to work on-site at the provider’s premises wherever possible, although it might be necessary to carry out some meetings, discussions or aspects of the visit remotely.
  • “Observe social distancing and take account of any remote or online education taking place”.

Ofsted may ask for:

  • Current learner numbers by learner type.
  • The programmes and courses run.
  • Information about the institution’s organisation with staff names and responsibilities.
  • Information on subcontracting arrangements.
  • Locations where meetings will take place.
  • Contact details for employers and learners agreed during the planning call.