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Update on our Functional Skills offer

This web page sets out our latest advice on:

  • NCFE’s approach to awarding for 2020-21 – see the document linked on the right
  • Teacher Assessed Grade (TAG) approach for Functional Skills – information from the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB)
  • availability of online assessment for Functional Skills qualifications
  • remote invigilation
  • legacy and reform Functional Skills paper based assessments
  • paper modifications for paper-based Functional Skills
  • legacy Functional Skills paper based assessments
  • entry level and SLC Controlled Assessments
  • extension of exam support service for Functional Skills.
  • Functional Skills requirements for Level 2 apprentices
  • Flexibility permitting EPA prior to FSQ achievement.

Approach to awarding for 2020-21

Qualifications that are not like GCSE or A Levels in their structure, such as Functional Skills, will continue remotely. They can be awarded through a Teacher Assessed Grade only where assessments cannot take place on public health grounds or remotely. You can read more in our approach to awarding document. You can also read about our remote invigilation solution which allows your learners to complete assessments remotely, anytime, anywhere here.

 Teacher Assessed Grade (TAG) approach for Functional Skills

Following the publishing of the latest version of our approach to awarding for 2020-21 document earlier this week, we can now provide you with further information on Teacher Assessed Grades (TAG) for Functional Skills. The Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) has published an approach to Functional Skills (legacy and reform) agreed by all awarding organisations who offer the qualifications. This confirms the principles for TAG arrangements, learner eligibility, and guidance on the evidence requirements.

We will now work to operationalise this approach and will provide further details on the detailed NCFE specific arrangements shortly.

Read more

Availability of online assessment for Functional Skills qualifications

Our online assessment for Level 1 & 2 Functional Skills Qualifications (FSQ) (both legacy and reform) remains open for those centres that can complete the assessments safely, as per Government guidelines and in line with our Regulations for the Conduct of External Assessment.

We have already put in place an invigilation exception request for Functional Skills to provide additional support to you.

Remote invigilation

Remote invigilation is now live and we can’t wait to have you on board! Your learners can sit their Functional Skills assessments anytime, anywhere – supporting the vital achievement and progression they need.

Our remote invigilation solution has been rigorously trialled and tested by organisations like yours, meaning that we’re fully equipped and prepared to support you with the challenges you’re experiencing due to the ongoing restrictions of in-person assessments.

Read more

Legacy Functional Skills paper based assessments

In January 2021, NCFE suspended all paper-based Functional Skills external assessments scheduled to take place from 1 February onwards in direct response to the national lockdown measures.  Following Ofqual’s consultation on alternative arrangements for the awarding of VTQs, it was confirmed that qualifications such as Functional Skills can continue either remotely or in person, in line with public health measures.

With this in mind, NCFE can confirm that centres with existing registrations on the below Functional Skills legacy qualifications can start to make bookings from 29 March 2021 for external assessment components:

Paper based external assessments must be delivered in line with our Regulations for the Conduct of External Assessment.

Please note that the last date for booking legacy paper-based assessments for English and maths is 18 June 2021, with the last assessment date being 30 June 2021 ahead of the qualification certification cut-off date of 31 July 2021. To help support learners in their final preparation for their English and maths legacy assessments our Provider Development Team have created revision recordings with resources for your learners here.

Reform Functional Skills paper based assessments
We’re pleased to confirm that from Monday 12 April 2021, centres will be able to book paper-based assessments for reformed Functional Skills qualifications.
These assessments are available on-demand (removing the requirement to sit within an assessment window) and we also offer the results from 6 working days of receiving the assessment papers back from the centre.

Paper modifications for paper based Functional Skills

Where you previously submitted a paper modification (such as an enlarged paper request) for an assessment which was subsequently cancelled, and either have or shortly will make a new booking for your learner, you must resubmit a new paper modification request via QualHub at your earliest opportunity. Our normal timescales will apply, however will fast-track new requests as best as we are able if they are outside of these, with priority given to those with previous bookings and paper modification requests for now cancelled assessments.

Entry Level and SLC Controlled Assessments

Entry level and SLC assessments can continue for both legacy and reform Functional Skills. This should be where they can take place where centres judge it is safe and appropriate to do so, and where they can ensure they still adhere to the required controlled assessment conditions. Both legacy and reform SLC assessments are able to be assessed remotely using an appropriate video conferencing tool in an environment that meets the controlled assessment conditions.

Extension of exam support service for Functional Skills

We're pleased to confirm that the DfE Exam Support Service has been extended to include FSQs in apprenticeships, where assessments were planned to be delivered in the workplace. We recognise that many providers have experienced issues relating to accessibility, venues and invigilators and we hope that this will help. You can read more information on the government website here.

Functional Skills requirements for Level 2 apprentices

The current temporary flexibility that suspends the funding rule requiring Level 2 apprentices to study towards and take a Functional Skills assessment at Level 2 has been extended until 31 July 2021. This extension recognises the continued disruption to the apprenticeship programme due to Covid-19.

A Level 2 apprentice will still require a Level 1 in English and maths to complete their apprenticeship. The temporary suspension applies to both apprenticeship standards and frameworks. You can read more information on the government website here.

Flexibility permitting EPA prior to FSQ achievement

A new temporary flexibility has been introduced to allow apprentices at all levels that are ready and waiting to take their FSQ assessments in English and maths, to go through to take their end-point assessment (EPA), and later return to complete FSQ assessment.

This flexibility is only available to apprentices where all possibilities to access FSQ assessment via face-to-face and remote assessment have been exhausted, and they have confirmed their intent to continue and complete their FSQ within three months of starting their EPA. Confirmation of this must also be evidenced in the learner file/evidence pack. Apprentices who are waiting to take their FSQ assessment now have the opportunity to pass through gateway and take their EPA without any further delay.

To be eligible to take their EPA before achieving the required functional skills qualifications, the apprentice must:

  • not be on a break in learning (an apprentice may return from a break in learning to take their end-point assessment)
  • meet all other gateway criteria to progress to their EPA as specified in the apprenticeship standard (except meeting the English and maths requirements)
  • have been confirmed by you and their employer as ready for both their EPA, and to take a functional skills qualification assessment
  • start their EPA on or before 31 May 2021.

NCFE’s approach to awarding for 2020-21


Anytime, anywhere assessment

Remote invigilation is now live!

Find out more

Approach to awarding for Functional Skills

Thursday 1 April 2021 at 1pm – book now