“ English, Maths, Lifeskills / Lifestyles, Work Based, English As A Second Language „
Having decided I wanted to go to university I found out I needed to take literacy and numeracy (English and maths to most people) at level 2. I was pleasantly surprised that learn direct offer this for free as there are companies out there that charge £300 + for each course.
They first run a diagnostic (a test) to see whereabouts in your given subject. I was unfortunately at level one. I was not looking forward to maths as I've always hated it and was even scared of it but after 3 visits to learn direct i'm already noticing improvements.
The course is all computer based so you can easily do it at home if you have a computer and internet and if your reading this I'm guessing you probably do. My learn direct centre is in a library where you can also use their computers. Their are 3 tutors who are helpful friendly and the classes are really informal.
I started working for Learndirect three months ago but before I could be let loose on any learners I had to sign up as a learner myself. I was told that I would have to complete my level 2 Maths, English and the ECDL (European Computer Driving Licence). So this review will be based on my experience as a learner of Learndirect.
HISTORY OF LEARNDIRECT
UFI - University of Industry is a concept created from the government's pledge to ensure that every adult in the UK achieves a level 2 qualification in basic skills (numeracy and literacy) by 2020. This was brought about by a report that suggested that 5 million adults of working age had no qualifications. Learndirect is a brand name of UFI and provides the necessary skills and learning needed to bring every adult up to the desired government standard.
FUNDING OF COURSES
As will most things if you do not work or are on any type of means tested benefit then all courses are free. If you are working below level 2 in literacy or numeracy and do not have GCSE's A-C grade or equivalent then again Learndirect will fund the basic skills courses. It can get a little confusing after this but other people especially those with no formal qualifications can get an NVQ free as it is classed as an entitlement to reach level 2. As everyone will have different needs and abilities course funding is best discussed with a qualified Advice and Guidance tutor.
There are two main funding streams for the Learndirect courses and these will depend on how you actually find Learndirect. If your employer has suggested that you undertake a course then it is likely the funding will come from a pot labelled 'Train to Gain' but Learndirect is not just for employers or employees it is there for anyone to wander off the streets and just sign up. In fact in my centre where I work a majority of our learners wander in off the streets after reading one of our posters or leaflets. The best thing about Learndirect is that apart from the induction and initial assessment there are no entry requirements or application process like that found in a college or university. This means that there is about 3 hours between walking in through the door and actually starting the course, so is obviously much easier than waiting for a reply from an admissions department at the local college.
At your first session with Learndirect you will be expected to fill out and complete a lot of paperwork in fact it can be quite tedious. At this first appointment you will be asked to complete an assessment called the 'Initial Assessment' this is designed to help your new tutor get a rough idea of your existing levels and the best way to move forward with courses. This initial assessment is not a test and I was told that if I didn't know an answer this was great as it would enable them to provide better suited support. Every learning centre is different and with over 800 Learndirect centres your first appointment is sure to vary from this.
After your first appointment and completion of the initial assessment you will sit with your tutor and discuss the best course for you. I think this is the best bit about Learndirect as I knew the service I was getting was most tailored to my needs.
The tutor will ensure that you are progressing throughout the course they will provide help, support and advice. My tutor was obviously one of my new colleagues in fact my new boss and I found it very easy to ask him for support, mainly as that is what he is trained for and qualified to do.
The tutor will be assigned at the beginning of the course and will usually be qualified to at least level 4 within that particular subject. My tutor was brilliant at maths and could explain percentages, decimals and ratio in a way I had never thought about and really restored my confidence in the subject.
When you sign up you will be given a learner page. This page hold all of the contact details for your tutor and you can chat to your tutor about anything you need help with. Your tutor can monitor your progress and mark assignments online so really you can complete a whole course from the comfort of your own home. Alternatively if you do not want to learn from home you can make an appointment to visit your centre and work with your tutor.
The skills for life course is split into two sections numeracy and literacy but there are not two courses. The great thing about Learndirect is that you can learn at your own pace in your own time and the courses reflect this. Not everyone joins Learndirect with the same starting level. There are many levels and the courses reflect this.
The lowest level Learndirect cater for is Entry Level 1, this level is very basic and the courses reflect this.
Entry Level 1 (being the lowest)
Entry Level 2
Entry Level 3
Level 2 (being the highest)
Again the way the courses are taken depend a lot on the initial assessment results. In fact the initial assessment may seem tedious and pointless at first but it does actually map your learning so is a very important feature of the learning process.
Your tutor may give you an additional diagnostic assessment called a skills check which will determine which courses are required or they may just place you on a revision course called a 'Brush Up' and this will enable you to practice and prepare for the actual test. I completed a Brush UP course in numeracy (maths) as my initial assessment was better in maths than literacy and I had to do a 3 hour assessment (split into three sections) for literacy (English) to pinpoint my exact areas of strength and weakness.
The Brush UP course is the easiest way to achieve your level two qualification, but you will only be able to do this if you initial assessment says you are able to do it. Otherwise the skills check will show where a course is required and for me this was in writing. I completed the writing course and an additional assignment before completing two practice tests so really both routes involved an equal amount of work.
COURSE REVIEWS AND COMPLETEING COURSES
When you feel ready you will sit and discuss your progress with your tutor and you will both discuss the 'next step'. In many cases the next step is to take the test and if this is your only/last course you will then fill out an exit form and wait for your certificates to arrive a few weeks later. Some people choose to stay for more courses and your tutor will discuss these with you.
There is so much I could say about Learndirect such as the website, the advice pages their job and careers advice, the support line and the employability courses but this review is only about the Skills for Life aspect of Learndirect. I will be adding a review about the website and Learndirect in another section, so look out for that one soon.
Overall the Skills for Life program is very useful and I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to renew their qualifications or even gain some for the first time. You will receive excellent support and advice throughout.
Skills for Life is a government funded initiative to enhance literacy and numeracy skills in the workplace. Many school leavers go straight into employment never to go near English and Mathematics again. I know that the moment I left school virtually everything I learned in the classroom about fractions, ranges and formulas went straight out the window. I struggled through maths in school and on leaving have avoided it as much as possible relying on my ever trusty phone calculator.
However, have you ever wondered if there are skills of real value you may have forgotten? I know I have struggled increasingly with valuable maths skills such as percentages and long multiplication over the years. As such, it is becoming an increasing headache to check even simple things such as my taxes, wages and monthly outgoings. This is why Skills for Life comes could well prove to be the saviour of many people similar to myself.
Fundamentally, Skills for Life this is a work based distance learning course. A rep will sign you up at your workplace through one of the many training partners the government uses, LearnDirect being the most obvious, and you will be asked to take an initial assessment. Although they do not like to call these assessments tests, this is what they are. However, they are multi-choice and have no time limit. They are used as an assessment tool to figure out were your strengths and weaknesses lie and this is what your tutor will target for you to work on.
There are two levels to the Skills for Life courses with the first being an introductory course, and the second a recognised equilavent of a GCSE in Maths and English respectively. Those of you who have grey cells that vaguely remember parts of their Maths and English from school or have used them in their working lives may find they fly through the initial assessment and progress straight on to level two. Others who may have not encountered a train leaving Glasgow at fifty five miles an hour for a long time may well struggle initially. However, the joy of Skills for Life is that there is no pressure. There are no time limits and you are encouraged to leave blank on your initial assessment anything you are unsure of. For example, I think my English is relatively good but when it comes to apostrophes I' shove' them' every'where'. As such I left this section blank.
What this allows your tutor to do is provide you with workbooks and guidance that target the specific areas that your assessment shows you to be weak at. This makes a change from every other course I have done in which you are expected to cover all topics regardless of whether you know them back to front or not. As a result, I actually did not mind applying myself to the workbooks provided. I could see myself progressing and understanding that little bit more with each exercise and as a result I now know were apostrophes should be used and were they should not. Similarly, in maths I can finally tackle fractions without fear, something I never even managed in my GCSE's all those years ago.
I should perhaps, say a bit about the tutors themselves. You will be assigned a tutor on registering and they will be your tutor for the duration of the course for both Literacy and Numeracy. How fast you work through the course is entirely up to you and how often you want them to visit is up to you also. My tutor has visited weekly and I am flying through as a result. If you prefer a monthly visit that is up to you but be prepared for work to take longer. I can only speak from my experience but I have found my tutor to be friendly and approachable and most importantly he does not condescend and patronise. All too often, work based tutors treat their pupils like idiots, but this seems to be a programme that moves away from that and is all the better for it.
Of course, once you finish your booklets there is a test to gain your qualification. However, you cannot fail and it is simply a matter of answering multi-choice questions on a laptop. If you have a bad day you can re-sit in a week, then the next and so on. There is no pressure and your result is available instantly. None of the waiting associated with equivalent qualifications.
If the fact you get a qualification, knowledge and the satisfaction you have completed something is not enough for you then the government also gives thirty pounds worth of high street vouchers to you on completion of level two in both courses. Not bad is it? A recognised qualification and thirty quid for a free course you can do in works time!
As you can see I am a big fan of the Skills for Life programme and would recommend it to everyone as an employer and an employee. It is a well-constructed, interesting set of courses that targets your weaknesses and addresses them. For me it is a much better way of doing things than the regimented GCSE and NVQ programmes and I urge anyone interested to take a look. Anyone can do this and what is more you may finally be able to work out your wages and taxes!