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Case Study: Basic Skills Training in the NHS


Kathleen Hopper, Basic Skills and IT Tutor for Careconnect Learning gives a personal account of the work being carried out in the NHS to improve basic and IT skills among staff.

Basic Skills is:
"The ability to read, write and speak in English, and to use mathematics at a level necessary to function at work and in society in general."
The Basic Skills Agency

Skills for Life, the national strategy for improving adult literacy, language and numeracy launched in 2001, is committed to raising the quality of teaching and learning in adult literacy, numeracy and English as a second language provision.

I have been working with Careconnect Learning since March 2003 as a basic skills and IT tutor.

Careconnect Learning is the health and social care sector hub for LearnDirect, offering innovative basic skills, IT and care-related courses for people who work in hospitals, care homes and other social care workplaces.

Their range of courses are either delivered online or by CD Rom with an accompanying workbook.

Supporting Staff
My role at Careconnect Learning is to support staff on basic skills courses who have no or few qualifications and who have often been put off by traditional methods of learning.

Courses are mapped to the Adult Basic Skills Standards and are delivered flexibly to fit in with busy working and home lives.

As part of this initiative I have been working with groups of care assistants at a large hospital in south-east London, who are currently studying for their NVQ Level 3 in Health and Care.

Basic Skills Pilot
Working closely with the training manager at the hospital, we instigated a 20-hour pilot course in March of this year, to support the group in literacy, communications and IT skills.

As we are nearing the end of the first group's sessions, we have set up a second and larger group for the same course.

The subjects covered in the course have been an introduction to using a computer, mouse skills, software, the Internet and using e-mail.

The learners also undertook a course on letter writing skills, the objectives being to plan, draft and revise writing, to be able to present writing in appropriate styles or for specific purposes, such as job applications, invitations, enquiries, complaints and keeping in touch.

The letter-writing course has been embedded into IT training as an introduction to using MS Word.

It has enabled the learners to acquire two additional skills within a shorter time frame than if they had taken them as separate courses.

It has also proven a very effective and popular tool for learning, as most of the learners were very keen to learn how to use a computer and write letters using a computer.

Extending E-Learning
This work is just the tip of a very large iceberg as more and more NHS workers are being prepared, not just for basic skills training, but are being offered many more courses through LearnDirect, with IT courses being especially popular.

At the hospital where I am working learners are enrolling on what are essentially e-learning courses and we are able to offer additional support at the hospital's learning centre, either by the training manager or myself.

Those without access to computers are able to use the training centre's computers by prior arrangement.

As part of Adult Learners’ Week, the hospital set up a stand within the hospital providing details of courses in basic skills and IT provision and it is anticipated that we will be offering IT courses in additional to the existing basic skills courses.

In south London, Careconnect Learning works in partnership with both Lambeth Social Services and the South London and Maudsley Hospital NHS Trust.

Employees from both organisations are able to take up learning opportunities while at several sites operated by the NHS trust in Lambeth, Croydon and Lewisham, computers are available for employees to follow Careconnect Learning’s programmes.

From August 2004, Careconnect Learning will also manage the delivery of LearnDirect courses for the NHS through their network of learning centres.

The courses are proving very popular and effective in the Skills for Life initiative, thus providing basic skills and IT training to those who, for whatever reason, have not had the opportunity to gain appropriate basic literacy and numeracy skills to transfer into their workplace and everyday life.

* For further information on Careconnect Learning and their role in Basic Skills Provision visit the website


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