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Supporting numeracy for staff at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust

7 Dec 2022

By Sally Hilton, National Relationship Manager

National Numeracy has been working in partnership with Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust for the last four years to support numeracy provision for their workforce.

With 49% of the UK population having the numeracy skills expected of primary school children, a lack of confidence and skills in numeracy across UK workforces has been identified as a major issue. Frimley had identified this issue amongst their own workforce and the negative impact it was having on the health and wellbeing of their staff. They also identified it as a major stumbling block for those who wanted to progress onto their career development programmes but were unable to do so because they didn’t have the confidence or the maths qualifications to progress.

Through our initial discussions, Frimley highlighted that they had a huge demand for their Functional Skills Maths course, with over 80 members of staff sitting on the waiting list and only limited places available. And often those who were offered places on the programme would not show up on the day, or they would start the course and drop out after one or two sessions because they found it too challenging. For those who were anxious with numeracy, moving straight onto a Functional Skills programme was too big a leap, and it often reinforced the negative beliefs they felt about their ability to do maths.

As a result, we decided to introduce the National Numeracy Challenge as a prerequisite for entry on to the Functional Skills programme. This identified whether staff were committed, while also giving them an opportunity to develop their confidence and skills in numeracy so that they were ready to take on the Functional Skills qualification. This process has continued with the introduction of BKSB (an eLearning platform for GCSE and Functional Skills), with only those who have completed the National Numeracy Challenge and gained the Essentials of Numeracy being enrolled on the site.

This graph shows engagement with the National Numeracy Challenge by staff expressing interest in a Functional Skills programme. Of those who took the quick-check, 76% of staff did not have the Essentials of Numeracy; this reduced to 59% after using the learning resources on the National Numeracy Challenge, with 41% of those who engaged reaching the Essentials.

Graph showing the results of the users taking Functional Skills, showing an overall improvement from the starting levels.

Nicola Morgan, Learning & Development Manager, said of the using the Challenge for Functional Skills: “Because of the long waiting lists for Functional Skills courses we wanted an offer to keep interested people ‘ticking over’ while they waited. So we introduced the National Numeracy Challenge.

“When people asked about going on a Functional Skills course, I sent them the link to the National Numeracy Challenge and explained that they would need to work towards and gain the Essentials of Numeracy. Doing this demonstrates a commitment to learning so anyone that did this would be given priority on the next functional skills course.

“This has helped with the waiting list but also prioritised people. I also receive reports from National Numeracy so I can see if they have logged on, who is committed to learning etc. Through these sessions it has been great to see people starting to realise that, yes, they can achieve their goals.”

As the partnership progressed, we started to explore how we could offer numeracy provision more widely across the workforce, as the majority of staff were not on career development programmes. It was also felt that it would be more beneficial to staff if we did this in two ways:

Firstly, we included a mandated numeracy module into the Care Certificate induction programme. This is introduced by the Learning & Development Team who have trained as National Numeracy Champions. The module is introduced during the induction programme by way of a one-hour attitudinal session where the Champions open a conversation to explore how staff feel about maths, and encourage them to share their maths journey with the group. This is an important first step in allowing staff to express their anxieties around maths, and realise that feeling anxious is more common than they think.

Kelly Green, Numeracy Champion, explained: “When I introduce the numeracy module as part of the Care Certificate, I always talk to staff about my personal journey with maths and how challenging it was for me. This allows healthcare support workers to open up about their own anxieties around maths and talk about their journeys. They often tell me how much better they feel to have this support available to them as they challenge their own struggles with numeracy.”

They then ask staff to register on the National Numeracy Challenge and complete the initial quick-check to understand their current numeracy levels. Staff are then tasked with achieving the Essentials of Numeracy over the three-month duration of the Care Certificate programme."

This graph shows engagement with the National Numeracy Challenge by staff on the Care Certificate. 69% of those assessed did not reach the Essentials of Numeracy when first starting; this reduced to 40% after using the learning resources, with 60% of those who engaged reaching the Essentials.

Graph showing the results of the users taking the Care Certificate, showing an overall improvement from the starting levels.

Secondly, the Numeracy Champions support National Numeracy’s annual campaigns and content themes (National Numeracy Day, Checktember and Number Confidence Week) by promoting and signposting staff to the resources available to help them feel more confident with numeracy. The campaigns and themes are a great way to raise awareness across the whole workforce and reach all staff who might not be part of a learning and development programme. Using National Numeracy’s communication toolkits and an anonymised partner code, the champions are confident that they are using the correct messaging and support to encourage staff to get involved.

The partnership between National Numeracy and Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust has grown from strength to strength, and we are delighted that through a strong working relationship we have been able to support hundreds of staff across the trust to improve their confidence and skills in numeracy, and open up career opportunities which they may not have felt possible.