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Research project launched to improve early years apprentice success rates with 'real-world' functional skills

As a leading End-point assessment organisation, NCFE has embarked on a groundbreaking research initiative to support early years apprentices in achieving their maths Functional Skills qualification (FSQ) by leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies. 

In collaboration with the Greater Manchester Learner Provider Network (GMLPN), NCFE is investigating the impact of using contextualised resources and assessment papers as part of the Functional Skills Maths Level 2 within early years apprenticeship standards.  

The pilot, commissioned as part of the Apprenticeship Workforce Development Project, funded by the Education and Training Foundation, is a response to Ofqual’s review of the reformed FSQs that highlighted a pressing concern around the decline in pass rates linked to the perceived difficulty of the qualification. It aligns with the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) 'Spelling it out, making it count summary', advocating for the integration of real-world scenarios to enhance learner motivation and skill acquisition. 

David Redden, Commercial Manager at NCFE, said:

"Our research project aims to explore whether contextualised maths resources and assessments can increase the likelihood of early years apprentices passing their Level 2 Maths FSQ. 

“As a result, this would enhance their prospects of completing their apprenticeship and in turn support them to meet the growing need for qualified practitioners in the sector. By addressing this challenge head-on, we aim to demonstrate the crucial role of maths in the workplace and its relevance to apprenticeship job prospects." 

The initiative gains further significance against the backdrop of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority's Education Skills Intelligence report, which highlights the difficulty early years settings face in recruiting staff, exacerbated by skills gaps within their teams.  

Moreover, recent changes to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) statutory framework have underscored the importance of Level 2 Maths qualifications for apprenticeship completion, further emphasising the necessity of this project in addressing industry needs. 

David Redden added:

"Our collaborative effort brings together apprenticeship training providers, an awarding organisation, and a provider network with a shared objective of increasing apprenticeship completion rates. 

“Through this project, we aim to not only enhance apprenticeship success in the early years sector, but also establish a framework that can be replicated across different industries and apprenticeship standards." 

The project will operate under the guidance of NCFE, with GMLPN overseeing project management and facilitating collaboration amongst project partners, DH Associates, Kids Planet Day Nurseries, Rochdale Training Associate and Salford City College, and wider apprenticeship stakeholders. Through a combined effort, it’s hoped they can bridge skills gaps, empower apprentices, and foster workforce development in the early years sector and beyond. 

Matt Leigh, Project Manager at GMLPN said:

"Our members have indicated that achieving functional skills maths is a significant contributory factor to non-completion of apprenticeships. We’re keen to understand whether making maths functional skills more 'functional', through contextualising learning and assessment to the job role, could empower more apprentices to understand and achieve maths and therefore contribute to increasing apprenticeship completion rates."


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