The Open University, working with Further Education Colleges, is extending its Functional Skills free course materials to include Level 2 Maths and English. With flexible study options on the OU’s free OpenLearn platform, the courses give an applied and everyday approach to learning these core skills which can have a real impact in getting people into work or apprenticeship schemes.  Already, 12,000 people have accessed the OU’s Level 1 Functional Skills free course materials in Maths and English; and an initial survey of some of these learners showed 53% were studying to improve their career prospects. [1]  


As one of the projects funded by the Department for Education’s Flexible Learning Fund, the OU is partnering with three colleges in England – Bedford College Group, Middlesbrough College and West Herts College – to deliver the scheme. 


People can access the free course materials on OpenLearn at their leisure and study at a pace and time that suits them. Each college supports learners in their area and facilitates exams so that eligible learners can go on to get their Functional Skills qualification if they wish – all for free. The survey of some of the Level 1 learners found that 36% of students did want to gain qualifications.


A vital stepping stone

Andrew Law, Head of Business Propositions at The Open University, said:

“Functional Skills are part of the core skills needed in everyday life and work. For many they are also an essential stepping stone for getting into work or progressing at work and particularly via apprenticeships (in the absence of GCSEs). The Functional Skills courses on OpenLearn use The Open University’s digital learning expertise to offer a free, flexible way for people to really improve these basic skills and their prospects. It’s great to be extending our offering with local colleges to Level 2 Functional Skills – it’s a key way to begin to address the skills gap in the UK, developing people’s abilities and confidence.”


Each of the Level 2 Maths and English courses takes between 40-50 hours of study to complete. There is an Open Licence on the materials, which means that anyone can copy and re-use the course content for their own teaching and learning.


Positive impact in the community

Zoe Lewis, principal and chief executive of Middlesbrough College, speaking of the functional skills courses said: “We’ve already seen the positive impact Maths and English courses from The Open University have had across the community.


“As an inclusive college that is passionate about taking people higher, we’re pleased this fantastic opportunity is being extended to even more people. The courses on offer are ideal for those who are looking for promotion at work, those wanting to support children with homework or to upskill.”


The scheme also involves collaborations with organisations and community groups including Local Enterprise Partnerships, WEA, Unison, Leonard Cheshire Disability and other union and business groups.


The OU is also currently in discussion with Department of Work and Pensions to explore how these Functional Skills courses (and other free employability courses from the OU) could be promoted in Jobcentre Plus centres to help improve job prospects in a number of regions.


Paul Thompson, Employer and Skills Manager at South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Both basic levels of numeracy and literacy are essential, not just for jobs in the labour market, but in personal life as well especially with developing a financial capability. The extension of the Functional Skills provision by The Open University is beneficial both to local capacity and in providing flexible, easy access for individuals and businesses.”

 Alongside funding as one of the Flexible Learning Fund projects, this pilot is benefiting from a kind donation by one of the OU’s supporters, Dangoor Education.


In parallel with the English pilot, the OU is partnering with colleges in Wales on a similar pilot to deliver Essential Skills in English and Maths.  The Welsh pilot is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.



Bringing Learning to Life Survey March 2019 (survey of 170 registered FE learners)

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter yesterday

RT @FENews: NGWLive: Network Rail: NGWLive: Network Rail
View Original Tweet

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter yesterday

City of London Corporation provides Square Mile schoolchildren with food vouchers during half term break:…
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page