DfE to spend over £100m on digital platform for Multiply maths scheme

It will be designed to assess skill levels and provide online tutoring

It will be designed to assess skill levels and provide online tutoring

19 Apr 2022, 16:29

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The government is preparing to create a digital platform worth over £100 million to aid its Multiply maths scheme for adults.

A recently published prior information notice (PIN) states that the tool will not only signpost to the new free courses being created in local areas, but also assess skill levels and provide online tutoring.

Suppliers, who will soon be sought to bid for the work, are told that the platform needs to track participation, progress and achievement and report the data back to ministers.

Multiply, part of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, is worth £559 million in total over the next three financial years to the end of 2024-25.

The Department for Education unveiled the local area allocations for the scheme last week: £270 million is being dished out in England while another £160 million will be spread across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Local areas have now been tasked with developing bespoke numeracy courses with training providers and employers to adults who do not already have a GCSE grade 4 or higher in maths free.

A DfE spokesperson told FE Week the remaining £129 million includes the department’s budget for a new digital online platform set to be launched “later in 2022”, as well as “a programme of work to evidence what works in addressing adult numeracy” which will include randomised control trials..

Documents published alongside the PIN for an upcoming tender to build the platform state that this will be the national “front door” for Multiply, giving people the “ability to learn at their own place (including at work, or at home), and pace”.

Through the platform, the DfE wants to see people sign up for “personalised free online tutorials” to help them “build their confidence and take the stepping stones towards a maths qualification”.

The tender will have several components: a digital learning platform, platform content, and an online tuition offer.

The DfE said: “Across all three, we would like the platform to provide a diagnostic tool to assess skills levels (e.g. identify strengths and weaknesses) to help guide learners through the learner offer; and recognise a learner’s progress.”

Outputs for the digital learning platform include:

  • Ability for users to have an account that stores their participation, progress and achievements
  • Offer some recognition of progression throughout the learner journey (e.g. certification) via the diagnostic and assessment tools
  • A mechanism to route users to local Multiply interventions

Outputs for content include:

  • A digital diagnostic tool to assess current skills levels
  • An assessment tool to benchmark user progression, against the initial diagnostic
  • Online content and learning materials (e.g. practice exercises), which could be contextualised to real life (e.g. household finances) and particular industries (e.g. construction, business)
  • Content can be a mixture of suitable, relevant existing materials and bespoke new content

And outputs for the online tuition function include:

  • Provision of Multiply remote tutoring for the lifespan of the programme, including recruitment and training of suitable tutors
  • An online booking system and support services such as a telephone line and / or webchat
  • A diary management system for the coaches and tutors
  • A mechanism to assess a learner’s eligibility (e.g. UK based) to participate in the tutoring or coaching offer
  • The offer should also consider access to the platform for learners in prison

The procurement is expected to launch in July 2022.

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  1. Phil Hatton

    Great shame that many years ago the Basic Skills Agency did not provide this kind of platform that has been a missing requirement for decades, particularly starting with free diagnostic testing tools. Being proficient in English, as well as mathematics, should be a right for everyone who leaves school and the wider FE sector should be enabled by providing free diagnostics, delivery resources and assessments for everyone that they support post-16. I know of an outstanding apprenticeship provider who has developed their own set of online functional skills resources for English and maths, because of the mixed bag of commercial resources available and prohibitive costs. Sadly from my long experience of government initiatives, these kinds of contracts are awarded to companies with the best bid writers, rather than those who can demonstrate their proven ability and expertise in the areas required. One such bid orientated company once told me that they had fulfilled the minimum requirements of a brief to produce a website rather than one which functioned well [after I had challenged them on how poor their product was], because that was all that the contract specified. Get some experts involved with educational backgrounds in developing specifications for what is required and not civil servants who are from a different world academically to those who require the help to improve their skills.