Blog post

Supporting staff to gain functional skills

Find out how National Numeracy has been supporting NHS employers and individuals to gain maths skills and progress their careers.

23 November 2020


  • Sally Hilton External link icon National Relationship Manager at National Numeracy

Sally Hilton, national relationship manager at National Numeracy, shares with us how her organisation is supporting employers and individuals to gain maths skills and confidence. This has allowed staff to go on to gain their functional skills at level 2 in maths and into careers that they have been held back from.

Maths is a topic which many of us try to avoid. Anxiety, fear, and stress around numbers are common. However, to fulfil our potential and make the most of our career prospects we all need numbers.

In many cases we need a level 2 qualification to access an apprenticeship or training programme. This holds many people back. For people feeling anxious about maths, a level 2 qualification can feel like a big step. It’s understandable that returning to a maths classroom might be daunting or fills people with dread, especially if they don’t feel confident and have bad school memories.

Working with healthcare assistants, we see this often. To move into nursing, staff need level 2 maths (A*-C/9-4 at GCSE or level 2 functional skills). Many of the staff we work with express such a high level of anxiety that they are willing to stop themselves from getting a dream job to dodge maths. Often, those who do manage to take the step of accessing the qualification find it too much of a leap and drop out because they think they can’t do it.

However, difficulties with numbers need not stop people in their tracks. With support from National Numeracy and employers, numeracy skills can be easy to gain.

For many people, a stepping stone that addresses any anxiety, confidence or skills gaps could help to narrow the distance between where they are now and where they need to be to succeed in a qualification.

5 tips to support numeracy in the workplace:

  • Many people will avoid standalone maths sessions due to their fear of maths. Introducing numeracy modules into existing programmes like the Care Certificate helps to normalise the process.
  • Running awareness campaigns allow staff to engage with maths anonymously and change the culture around maths in the workplace.
  • Having a network of trained Numeracy Champions who can support those with maths anxiety can prove invaluable. Getting someone started on their maths journey and encouraging them to keep going is important for the anxious learner.
  • Join the National Numeracy Challenge, an online learning resource designed to help low confidence, low skilled learners. Using our unique access codes, you can benchmark your staff numeracy levels and provide resources to help them improve.
  • Reach the essentials before starting a qualification – Scoring 80 points or more on the challenge is broadly equivalent to adult level 2 numeracy and you can be confident that their skills are about right for taking on functional skills.

For more information on how national numeracy can support your staff to gain confidence and skill with numeracy, contact