South Bank Colleges – Functional Skills Maths Success for ESOL Learners

South Bank Colleges have undertaken an innovative project to develop the wider skills and aspirations of ESOL learners.

21 June 2023

Asma Ahmad, Director for Young People’s Essential Skills at the colleges, identified that whilst ESOL learners were improving their English skills, they were often being held back by limitations in numerical ability or qualifications. The college wanted to build the confidence of ESOL learners to use maths every day and therefore, enhance their overall life experiences and work opportunities. They felt it was important to challenge the misconception that ‘ESOL learners can’t do maths’ and to empower both learners and teaching staff to feel confident with numeracy, to support their progression in work and education.

south bank college logoThe colleges therefore devised a strategy for a pilot project to enrol ESOL learners onto Functional Skills Maths programmes. A critical element of this strategy was the decision to use ESOL tutors to teach the maths classes. They worked with staff to communicate the ‘why’ of the project and to demonstrate the potential impact they could have on the lives of ESOL learners. Barriers – both physical and mental – for learners and teaching staff were identified and addressed.

As part of the project implementation, South Bank Colleges chose to work with City & Guilds as their Functional Skills Maths awarding body. City & Guilds were able to provide support and training for managers and teaching staff, alongside NATECLA and The Education & Training Foundation. The colleges also sought regular feedback from teaching staff and learners to guide the execution of the project.

At the end of the teacher training, 260 ESOL learners were enrolled onto Entry Level 1 and Entry Level 2 Functional Skills Maths programmes. The first semester results came back in January 2023, with a 98+% pass rate at both levels, figures which are remarkable for any Functional Skills Maths programme.

In semester two, many learners progressed onto higher levels and the colleges are expecting similarly amazing results. Learner feedback has also highlighted how the project has opened up new opportunities for them and increased their aspirations, whether that be starting a new business, managing personal finances or feeling capable to help their children with maths homework.

But the project hasn’t just impacted on the lives of learners; teaching staff have also reported benefits such as developing a wider skillset and building confidence.

South Bank Colleges' future plans are to continue to grow their maths programmes for ESOL students by raising further awareness of the benefits of Functional Skills Maths for ESOL learners and providing ongoing support to ESOL teachers.

Asma Ahmad said: “The engagement and support from City & Guilds has really contributed to this project’s success. The Industry Manager, External Verifier and other staff at City & Guilds have always been on hand to help. It really has been a journey together, and we look forward to continuing to work with City & Guilds on our Functional Skills Maths programmes.”