Functional Skills reform – what’s the latest?

By: Alexandra Shaw

PR Officer

Wednesday 12 April 2017


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Following a comprehensive review of English and maths Functional Skills, led by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) at the government’s request, new Functional Skills qualifications will be introduced in 2019 with a view to making them more robust and more credible.

The ETF’s review, ‘Making maths and English work for all’, found that work could be done to improve the relevance and content of Functional Skills, as well as improve their recognition and credibility in the labour market. The government wants to ensure everyone has an appropriate opportunity to improve their maths and English skills and achieve a qualification that employers recognise.

The results of the consultation undertaken by the ETF showed that employers’ main focus was the need for employees with good maths and English skills, regardless of the type of qualification, and almost half of employers now recognise Functional Skills as an alternative to GCSEs.

David Russell, ETF chief executive, said at the time that although “GCSE is the principal qualification in England for maths and English, and will remain so”, many younger and older adults “who have struggled with these subjects at school, benefit from being taught Functional Skills because they see clearly how they will benefit them in life and work. The aim is then to help learners achieve a recognised qualification that provides them with the skills they need to support them in gaining employment and with everyday life.”

The ETF’s recommendations – and how they fit into the post-16 skills landscape – are currently being considered by the government, and a further consultation is expected to be launched by the Department for Education (DfE) soon.

The latest update we’ve had is that the launch of the revised Functional Skills qualifications is delayed until 2019, but NCFE will continue to be actively involved in the consultations as things progress.

The ETF will be working to prepare teachers and to run an awareness campaign, which will be important in ensuring that the revised qualifications are understood and valued by all parties.

As part of the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) Functional Skills group, NCFE is leading the way and we plan to be one of the first to offer new qualification specifications, support materials and events.

There’s nothing that centres need to do at this point but it’s worth being aware of the changes coming up. Until we receive confirmation from the DfE and Ofqual, we won’t know exactly what the new qualifications will look like, but keep an eye on our blog for further developments and find out more about NCFE Functional Skills here.  You can also see the latest news on the reform programme from the ETF here

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