It might be a company whose work involves little to none of the subjects, but if you’re looking for a job with no formal English and Maths qualifications it can really set you back. So, what is it that employers are looking for when they demand them?
It is a debate that has raged for centuries – what are the right levels of Maths and English to expect in employees?
Education in the UK has not always been available freely or to all. And when it was made available to boys and girls, there were differences in what they were taught. Likewise, there were no expectations for the lower classes to have a high level of education, let alone to read and write or perform a calculation.
Education is now open to everyone in the UK to access as they want, can and need to. There are still debates raging within education from class sizes to schools being ‘exam factories’.
And then, there are employers who tell us that the skills they want and need in employees are not there. They are concerned about lack of basic, fundamental skills, two of which are English and Maths.
But what are we really talking about here? Is it language or literacy? Is it being able to perform specialist equations or apply numeracy across work tasks?
Sometimes, when employers and unions talk about employees lacking in mathematical prowess, they are talking about numeracy (or lack of). Is there a difference?
Some people argue that there is: maths, they say, is the study of specialist mathematical concepts whereas numeracy is the ability to grasp mathematical concepts and how they apply in the real world.
For example, if a small tub of margarine weighing 500g is priced at a special deal of £1, which is the better way to buy 1kg of the product? Would it be two 500g tubs or a 1kg tub at £1.98?
Numeracy is about the basic mathematical concepts that we need to be able to understand basic concepts and apply to real life such as managing personal finances, being able to perform simple, yet important arithmetic when at work such as mathematical concepts of averages – median, mean and so on – as well as frequency.
Some employers and unions say that in recent years, school-leavers have lacked these basic numeracy and maths skills that are so vital when trying to get a job.
Again, it is easy to become confused especially with the increasing multi-cultural society we live in. We assume that when employers talk about English, they are referring to people having a certain level of English language ability in terms of speech and understanding.
Like numeracy is the application of mathematical concepts, literacy is the everyday application of English language. But literacy is more than just have words or being able to read.
It is about comprehension. That is, the ability to understand the different ‘modes’ of the English language that we will come across.
This is sometimes referred to as information literacy. As an employee, your employer needs you to be able to read, write, spell, listen and speak to a certain standard but that you can also change or modify the way that you do these things to fit appropriately with the circumstances.
For example, you can write an email that is formal, yet friendly. You are able to follow written instructions, as well as converse with customers in a way that is open, friendly and courteous.
Caught up in the wider circles of English and Maths, literacy and numeracy are two other skills that employers also want and need in order for their businesses to thrive;
Interested in looking at thinking skills further? Consider theories such as Bloom’s Taxonomy, DeBono’s thinking skills and Lipman’s modes.
Referred to in schools and colleges as core subjects, maths and English are essential subjects. So, as you deliberate completing a distance learning A Level English Literature or an online English GCSE course you may be wondering why they are such important subjects.
After all, as an engineer, you may not be expected to write a short story, but you will be expected to write a report, read others and apply mathematical principles. As a retail worker, you will need a high level of numeracy and spoken English too.
They are seen as basic, fundamental skills and subjects on which the other essential skills and abilities are built. It has also been found that;
There are also issues linked to low numeracy levels which can have an impact on the person and this means that in turn, there is an impact on business as well as wider implications for the economy.
For someone with poor numeracy skills…
The emerging picture is clear: the ability to use both Maths and English in an everyday setting is important not just for work, but for the emotional, social and physical well-being of people. Many experts believe this is because people will have a higher level of understanding of the world around them when they have a higher numeracy and literacy rate, and that they can advocate on behalf of themselves better.
In a work environment, it is essential that people understand the world around them and that Maths and English are the building blocks not only for future skills and qualifications, for us to develop as people too.
We use maths and English more than we think or realise, from sending text messages to being in charge of the company’s social media platforms. They are subjects that contain basic, underlying principles that play out in the real world all around us.
Ensuring you have GCSE (or equivalent) Maths and English is essential. But you can upskill yourself in these valuable subjects, completing courses such as a distance learning A level English Literature course or a Maths course will highlight that you do have the ability to use language and maths in everyday situations. We offer a variety of online GCSE Courses which you can purchase online. We also can provide you the opportunity to undertake your A levels online.
Education has always been and always will be a political hot potato. It is the one subject that is sure to ignite fierce debate and the recent findings by the Labour Party indicating that over half a million of children in schools across England are being taught by unqualified teaching staff is sure to provide a basis for yet more argument and discussion.
What’s the Problem?
To some, the difference between a qualified member of teaching staff and an unqualified one is simply a piece of paper. For a teacher or a qualified teaching assistant, it simply shows that they have the knowledge, the skills and ability to work with children, young people and adult students too. Some would say that the real qualification depends on the subject and that there are many people who have a lot to offer within education but that a teaching qualification isn’t a necessity.
There are others that argue that it is a necessity. A teaching qualification allows standards in education not only to be maintained but driven forward. But why are unqualified teachers and other people making it into the classroom?
Again, the answers say some, lay in the political landscape. One of the biggest changes to hit education in England was academies and free schools. These were institutions that were set up and run by people that were not necessarily first and foremost teachers or headteachers. Under David Cameron, the Tories removed the need for anyone teaching in these schools to be qualified.
Thus, argue some, the floodgates were open with Labour announcing that 613,000 in state-funded are regularly being taught by people with no formal teaching qualification. Their experience in education may not be lacking, their intention may be good, they may the students at the forefront of every activity but it is a state of affairs that will set the education system back, say some.
Getting Qualified – The Obstacles
There is an abundance of teaching courses, or so it seems, and for a long time, securing a place on a teaching course was difficult. But there are obstacles and factors that put people off including;
With university fees and costs now an issue, many more people find accessing education and professional qualifications financially impossible. Not only do course fees have to be paid, many teaching qualifications are taught full-time and are college based, necessitating someone to give up their full-time job. For mature students with rent and mortgages to pay, this is difficult.
Some teaching qualifications may only take an additional year, but it is an intense and all-consuming year of education. For students with families and other commitments, this is a difficult commitment to manage.
Pre-requisites in terms of qualifications set the bar high and whilst this has a steady impact on students entering the profession, it also rules out some people. As a result, some people feel that some teaching courses are not accessible to them.
As a profession, education across all sectors from primary to secondary, further and higher education along with special education provision is painted as a high-stress and high-challenge working environment. Long hours, coupled with an ever-changing curriculum and policies has left many teachers and teaching assistants drained. These are just some of the reasons why teachers are leaving the profession and why some people are not entering it.
Working in education, whether that is as a headteacher or teaching assistant, will see you plunged into a rewarding career. Days are busy and there is a lot to do. Every child and student you work with is unique, with their own stories and issues that they will look to you to help them with.
There are moments of euphoria as there are moments of tension. And it is important to be qualified. A professional teaching qualification, from a PGCE or diplomas from other teaching courses, empower you with the skills, the abilities and the attitude needed to help students grow, learn and flourish.
It helps you to learn the basics of behaviour management within a classroom or educational setting. It also helps you to understand some of the many emotional, social and behavioural difficulties that children and young people deal with alongside trying to learn and grow. It helps you understand what safe practice is when working with children, young people and vulnerable adults, and how to keep you safe within education.
Teaching courses and qualifications are valuable and important and with teaching courses online, you escape some of the limits and boundaries other courses present. So why not become a qualified teaching assistant with an online course, studied in your own time and at your pace?