Lancashire Adult Learning is celebrating two decades of delivering free Maths and English qualifications to adult learners on the 20-year anniversary of a landmark Government initiative.

In March 2001, the Department for Education created the Skills for Life strategy which began a long-term programme to break the cycle of low literacy and numeracy skills in England. The target was to improve the skills of 2.25 million adults in England by 2010, and it was met over two years early.

The 20th anniversary of the launch is being celebrated nationally by those offering Functional Skills qualifications. A new report, funded by the Further Education Trust for Leadership (FETL), considers the lessons to be learned from Skills for Life and asks how the next generation of policymakers might build on it to enable England to rise to the challenge of poor adult basic skills.

Lancashire Adult Learning and its precursors have enabled thousands of learners aged 19-plus right across Lancashire to gain Functional Skills qualifications to progress in their careers, get back into work and support their families.

Rachel Duckett, 37, from Accrington was LAL’s overall Learner of the Year in 2017, and achieving Functional Skills qualifications enabled her to go into a career as a Teaching Assistant at Green Haworth CE Primary School.

Rachel said:

“I absolutely love my job – it is the best thing I have ever done. I now support children’s learning in class in my role as a Teaching Assistant, and I also teach a phonics class and provide specialist 1:1 support for two of our children with special educational needs.

“Not only has achieving qualifications and developing a career helped me develop educationally, I’m a much more positive and confident person and our family life is much happier now.”

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Mark Jones, 45, from Preston, works for Lancashire County Council’s waste management division, and was LAL’s Maths Star of the Year in 2019 after completing his qualification.

Mark said:

“I wanted to better myself and improve my prospects and doing my Functional Skills Maths qualification has done exactly that. Since achieving my Maths, I’m in a job four grades higher than I was previously and I want to do my English next. I absolutely love the job I am in, and I’m always pushing Functional Skills to anyone because of what is has done for me.

“I had low confidence with Maths ever since I left school, but now I have the confidence and ability to do sums in my head. My tutor was absolutely amazing and deserves so much credit for supporting me. He made the learning so much easier.”

Lancashire Adult Learning

NHS maternity support worker Keelie Barrett, 44, from Burnley, boosted her career after gaining her Functional Skills Maths and English qualifications with LAL in 2017.

Keelie, who works at Burnley General Hospital, said:

“I remember being worried that everyone else in the class would be younger than me. My tutor made everything so easy though, and I was well supported in my learning. I never felt uncomfortable asking questions.

“Achieving my qualifications has definitely given me the boost in confidence I needed and to encourage me to keep developing my knowledge in the future.

“I’m now part of a team developing a new job role and training package for other maternity support workers. In my Trade Union education, I have completed my Diploma in Employment Law and I’m currently doing my Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety.”

Andrea Cowton, Head of Curriculum at Lancashire Adult Learning for Maths, English and ESOL, said:

“It has been a wonderful trip down memory lane revisiting case studies of adult learners from previous years, hearing first-hand about the transformational impact Functional Skills qualifications have had on people’s lives – professionally and personally.

“Having English and Maths at Level 2 are essential, and they open the door to so many opportunities in work, further learning and Higher Education. We are extremely proud of our Functional Skills offer at Lancashire Adult Learning. Our provision is free of charge and it is accessible to adult learners across the county, whatever their circumstances.

“We look forward to continuing to upskill Lancashire’s adult population, in line with regional skills agendas, as we create more Functional Skills success stories over the next decade.”

Adult learners in the Red Rose County are being encouraged to ‘take control’ and make a positive start to 2021 through a new offer of courses designed with the current climate in mind.

The new courses are largely free, flexible and available online, and include courses to boost health and wellbeing, options to retrain, classes to improve digital skills, and family learning opportunities.

Further information on the new range of courses for adults can be found on Lancashire Adult Learning’s website at www.lal.ac.uk, or by calling 0333 003 1717.

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