5 stages of the Functional Skills Reform

By: David Redden

External Quality Assurance Officer

Wednesday 21 June 2017


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Functional Skills qualifications are changing. As an active member of the Functional Skills Working Group, we want to keep you up to date with everything that is going on with the reform and open up a conversation with you, our customers, as this is your opportunity to create the qualification your learners need. Take a look at the 5 stages that have been taken so far in the journey of the Functional Skills reform.

Stage 1

Ofqual carried out a Thematic Review of Functional Skills across all Awarding Organisations (AO) and published a report in January 2015 identifying a need to make the qualifications more valid and more reliable. Alongside that, the Department of Education (DfE) commissioned The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) to consider how Maths and English provision and qualifications available to those aged over 16 years are understood by and meet the expectations of employers. This review found that Functional Skills were not broken but that work could be done to improve their relevance and content, as well as improving their recognition and credibility in the labour market.

Stage 2

As the process was moving forward, NCFE and most of the Awarding Organisations currently running Functional Skills voluntarily set up a working group to help support the process. In December 2015 the FAB (Federation of Awarding Bodies) Functional Skills Group was created and NCFE became an active member looking to ensure that our knowledge and experience of Functional Skills was heard by those involved in making key decisions.

Stage 3

The DfE commissioned a review of Functional Skills with the aim of proposing new qualifications better suited to the needs of industry, practitioners and learners in post-16 education. The ETF, working with Pye Tait, launched its consultation in January 2016 and this ran through until April 2016. The consultation covered the following areas:

Stage 4

After the consultation process, the ETF revised the National Adult Literacy and Numeracy Standards and put them out for consultation. They then worked on the revised Functional Skills subject content. During this period, NCFE engaged through our subject experts to provide detailed feedback to the contents. We also ensured our Chief Examiners and EQA took part in reviewing materials proposed by Pye Tait and the ETF. We had a presence at all the review events to ensure we could help shape the future based on our customer's feedback

Stage 5

The ETF submitted to the Minister the Standards, subject content and a short report with recommendations in January 2017. Originally, Ofqual had stated that the new qualifications would go live in September 2018. However, the DfE has asked for more time to review the standards, and with the snap General Election, the decision has been made to put back the go-live date to 2019.

Next steps

We’re expecting both Ofqual and the DfE to consult with AOs, employers and providers later this year and the consultation will be asking for your thoughts on a range of issues. The areas they’re considering are:

  • assessment design/structure
  • comparability of standards
  • stakeholder confidence
  • policy requirements
  • subject content

As soon as we know when and how this is taking place, we’ll ensure we inform our customers in a timely manner and let you know how we’re involved. Keep an eye out for our upcoming blog posts to find out more and please do get in touch if you’d like to discuss this further.

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