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Creative Education Functional Skills Collaborative Projects – Dynamic Training Ltd and Health Education England Case Study

Functional Skills Development for Healthcare Assistants Progressing into Nursing Apprenticeships and Associates

Background and Intent

With changes in nurse education, and increased emphasis on vocational pathways into Higher Education, it was essential that as an organisation Dynamic Training Ltd looked to contextualise, integrate and embed Level 2 Functional Skills into the Health Care Standards and our delivery. Prior to this project, both Vocational and Functional Skills teams operated in relative isolation and although clinically competent and confident, literacy and numeracy skills were sadly lacking among apprentices.

Our long-term vision (with our partner organisation Health Education England) was to improve retention and progression with the aim of achieving a higher level of first-time Functional Skills Level 2 achievers and reduce the number of deferrals to HE. Our immediate objective and intent was to bring the Vocational Health Care and Functional Skills teams together.

There was a real light bulb moment for some, and you could tell they were ready to embark on the adventure.

Tutor, Dynamic Training Ltd

Our Approach

Our first priority was to plot where Functional Skills appear in the Adult Nursing Pathway in the Level 3 Diploma as part of the Clinical Healthcare Support Apprenticeship Programme. Unit 15 “Study Skills for Senior Healthcare Support Workers” was the next unit to be delivered to our learners. This is where we concentrated our efforts to embed the English aspects of the curriculum, focusing on Level 2 Speaking, Listening and Communication

A joint staff development day was arranged to coincide with a course review meeting where attendance was mandatory. We disseminated the project’s overt aims of learner progression and timely achievement, with the underlying aim of reducing barriers for Health Care staff as regards the delivery of Functional Skills. We realised that the delivery of Functional Skills within vocational delivery would involve a paradigm shift. Previously staff had been offered support and recommended, and then more formally requested, to sit the Functional Skills tests themselves, however overall uptake was very poor.

With this in mind we knew there would be some resistance to our suggestions and therefore by using the staff development day to demonstrate the English and maths already naturally occurring within the vocational delivery we helped to allay fears and build confidence. Pre and post questionnaires were distributed at this point and later to capture insights and reactions to this new approach.

Ultimately, we had a Health Care delivery team of 7 supported by 1 Functional Skills tutor delivering to 19 Clinical Health Apprentices.

Successes and Incremental Gains

The main challenges of the project centred on logistics and timing i.e. who, what, where and when. These included the time taken to research and contextualise the resources and get delivery staff on board and keep them on board.

However, through persevering and after embedding the delivery of English, our first cohort of 19 learners sat their Speaking, Listening and Communication Level 2 Functional Skills assessment and all 19 passed. Added to this, our awarding organisations took an interest in

the work we were doing, which has opened up further discussions as to how we can signpost Functional Skills more effectively within vocational delivery.

Employers are also a vital part of  this process and by embedding and integrating the Speaking, Listening and Communication  Assessment we reduced the time out of the workplace. Further, by focusing Level 2 presentations and discussions on workplace clinical competencies, we were able to increase relevance for the learner, employer and vocational delivery staff.

As an organisation we are now working more closely together with each team, Health Care and Functional Skills, having developed a better understanding of each other’s delivery expectations and content.

This in turn has benefited the learner, who now sees the relevance of the Functional Skills assessments that they are expected to complete to the job they are training to do. This has led to increased motivation amongst learners.

Equally, our survey revealed that Vocational staff is now more positive and confident in the delivery of Functional Skills and showed a marked improvement in attitude towards embedding and contextualisation. Functional Skills staff also feels validated and expressed a greater connection to the delivery of the Apprenticeship Programme as a whole.

The impact of this work has been so significant that other vocational areas such as Business Administration and Team Leading are taking an interest in our project and therefore we intend to appoint ‘Champions’ in each curricula area to help carry our work forward.

I feel that the biggest benefit is that both learners and staff members now see the relevance and link to not only their jobs, but everyday lives.

Functional Skills Tutor, Dynamic Training Ltd

Conclusion and Next Steps

Having established a precedent within Unit 15 – Study Skills for Senior Healthcare Support Workers of the BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Healthcare Support, we will now continue with the other Units and look to our other cohorts and vocational areas. In particular, we will engage with those cohorts where English is not their first language and where success rates have been particularly poor. Apprenticeship delivery team cohesion can only improve the attitude, motivation and achievement of learners. The challenge will be to keep the channels of communication open.

Qualified Nurses are in high demand and this project and its continuation has helped and is helping us embed the necessary skills which will hopefully lead towards progression into HEIs and ultimately the workforce.

Further Information

For further information on anything you have read here or if you would be interested in hearing about taking part in future project opportunities please contact [email protected].

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Matt Dean

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