They are the cornerstones of any competent education system.
In fact, success levels in maths and English can be seen as benchmarks of just how progressive and refined any country or society is.
That is why sharp deficiencies in qualification rates in these key subjects in schools in England have been targeted for improvement since August 2013.
Perhaps the government was shocked into action by figures a year earlier which showed 285,000 16-year-olds were leaving secondary school without a C grade or better in both GCSE English and maths.
It was little better for those aged 19, 255,000 of whom still did not have that level of attainment in either subject despite the extra years of study.
What is certain is that young people were being failed, and change came not before time.
Michael Gove, the then Education Secretary, insisted that “good qualifications in English and maths are what employers demand before all others”, adding: “They are, quite simply, the most important vocational skills a young person can have.”
He was supported by business bosses, who claimed poor literacy and numeracy skills were socially damaging and economically unsustainable.
Mr Gove promptly turned the system on its head, forcing all post-16 education institutions to ensure students who did not gain GCSEs in these subjects at grades A*-C continued to study them as part of their programmes. Those which did not would lose funding.
He also introduced a new funding formula which ended the link between funding and qualification success rates, removing an incentive that encouraged some Further Education institutions to enter students for easier qualifications, or less challenging subjects.
These are changes I support, and that Learning Curve Group adapted immediately by introducing functional maths and English to many of our courses. This has helped improve our already highly successful and attuned model of educational excellence, while giving further opportunity to learners seeking to become better qualified.
Maths and English are now integral to many of our learning programmes, including apprenticeships in business administration, management, and health and social care, and at our Skill Centres, where they are embedded in subjects such as plastering and joinery.
Support comes from highly qualified tutors, proving that teenagers who did not attain in the classroom can do so with the right encouragement later. Indeed, education watchdog Ofsted found our tutors motivated and stimulated learners to meet high expectations of achievement.
Not all is plain sailing across the FE sector, and concerns have been expressed about the quality of teaching and learning. Colleges and schools have had to review and improve their curriculum and support plans.
Undoubtedly, much hard work lies ahead, but there are good examples of progress. And we are on the right track with plans for a series of roadshows throughout February to showcase our own future plans for English and maths, as well as provide guidance on funding policy and rates, audit compliance and delivery best practice.
The events – which are being organised in partnership with ForSkills – are FREE to attend and designed for anyone working in the FE sector. More information is available on our website www.learningcurvegroup.co.uk
Brenda McLeish is the Group Managing Director of Learning Curve