A senior delegation of nine teaching and learning experts from colleges in Wales have returned from a five-day tour of Canadian colleges, where they explored the key issue of improving learners’ literacy and numeracy skills.

The Welsh delegation travelled to Canada with a particular interest to see how the education system worked to deliver literacy and numeracy skills to make explicit links to the needs of employers.

A key task by colleges in Wales is to reduce the link between poverty and educational attainment, as well as to support the young people and adults who arrive at a further education college with poor literacy and numeracy skills.

Canada has a reputation for getting to grips with such issues, and so representatives from Wales travelled to Ontario as part of ColegauCymru’s Teaching and Learning Network, funded by the British Council Wales, to visit six Canadian colleges.

Bridgend College vice principal, Robert Evans, a delegate of the Canadian mission, said: “We received a terrific welcome from each Canadian college. We were able to participate in master classes and lectures, and experience teaching with some of the best resources for vocational education in North America.

“The development of specific literacy and numeracy skills to meet the needs of different occupational areas was a key feature. Students then apply these skills in live projects, often designed by industry.

“We hope to further develop the excellent relationships established by sharing resources, developing staff and student placements and by holding a number of dissemination events.”

In Canada, support is provided in the classroom and online using subject specialists to teach both literacy and numeracy. Just as in Wales, they focus on identifying and filling the specific gaps in the skills of those students coming to them from school.

Chief executive of ColegauCymru, Greg Walker, said: “I am particularly pleased that colleges decided to work together on a collaborative approach. This intensive visit to six colleges and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities in Canada is already proving its worth. Partnerships are being formed, ideas are flowing.

“Colleges in Wales may be looking at very challenging budgets over the next few years, but they are looking at every opportunity to maintain and improve quality and achieve excellence in teaching and learning. Through ColegauCymru’s Teaching and Learning Network, colleges are pooling good practice from within Wales and further afield and going from strength to strength together.”

Chris Lewis, head of education at British Council Wales, said: “We were very pleased to fund this study tour. We’re keen to develop the skills sector in Wales and sharing best practice with colleagues abroad can be one of the best ways of developing the education sector at a professional and college level.”