August 30, 2020

For adults returning to learn, GCSEs are crucial too, with 55,000 adults in England taking GCSEs in English and maths in 2018/19 alone.

For adults who missed out at school, getting your GCSEs represents a key personal educational milestone. Whilst the current focus will understandably be on younger people, it’s worth reflecting that many adults will also benefit from the new clarity on how their qualifications have been awarded. In contrast to schools, most adults have been taking their GCSEs in a one-year programme, much of it disrupted this year. Adults are also likely to have been balancing their study commitments alongside the extra challenges to health, work and caring responsibilities created by the pandemic.

Despite the availability of good alternatives, such as Functional Skills, many employers rely on GCSE grades as a proxy for workplace English and maths skills when recruiting. In some professions, GCSEs in English and maths are an entry requirement and many adults become motivated to improve their GCSEs when considering a career switch. So ensuring that adults don’t miss out on hard-earned GCSE grades is essential at a time when many are facing the prospect of having to find new employment, or consider re-training.

OECD research suggests that in the UK, over 5 million adults who are in work have low basic skills.  As the stark economic impact of coronavirus on the labour market becomes clear, we must ensure support is there for adults to address essential skills needs, including literacy, numeracy, basic digital skills and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). L&W’s research shows that low paid workers, including those with lower levels of qualifications, face greater job insecurity as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is wound down.

We need a new national mission on adult English and maths, to ensure that everyone has good English and maths skills needed for life and for work. Adult participation across all kinds of English and maths provision is falling – including GCSEs and Functional Skills – despite the availability of fully-funded courses.

Improve your English, maths and IT skills

You need basic reading, writing and maths skills to apply for most jobs or to study further, for example, for many qualifications which are in the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF).

If you’re over 16 and you’ve left school, you normally do not have to pay to do:

  • English or maths to GCSE level
  • some information and communication technology (ICT) courses
  • English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) – courses are also normally discounted or free depending on your employment status and how long you have been resident in England

If there’s a fee, you may be able to get Learner Support.

Find a course

Search for a course on the National Careers Service course finder or call the helpline.

National Careers Service helpline
Telephone: 0800 100 900 
8am to 10pm, 7 days a week 
Find out about call charges

You can also ask for an adviser to call you – this will not cost you anything.

Where you can learn

You can do courses at:

  • further education colleges
  • adult education centres
  • some libraries, children’s centres and other community venues
  • other training providers
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