Functional Skills – News and Updates

Welcome to the Functional Skills news and updates page. This is a rolling page where you will find all the latest news and updates regarding Functional Skills, from both NCFE and the sector.

March 2018

Flexible Entries for Paper Based Assessments

We are pleased to announce that we now offer an enhanced level of flexibility for paper-based Functional Skills assessment with our new development, flexible entries.

Learners will now be able to sit their paper-based assessment at any point in time, up to 5 working days before or 5 working days after the booked assessment date. We’re granting centres automatic approval to follow this process which means you don’t have to contact NCFE if you’re changing the date and time of an assessment.

This process is now live and the Invigilator Register has been amended to allow you to record the separate assessments, should this occur. Please note that you will still be required to give 10 working days notice ahead of booking an assessment.

More Level 1 & 2 Samples

  • We’ve released new Sample Papers and Mark Schemes for Level 1-2 mathematics (P000291 and P000292)
  • We’ve released a new Sample Papers and Mark Schemes for Level 1-2 English – Reading (P000295 and P000296), Writing (P000299 and P000301)
  • For existing Sample Papers Level 1-2 mathematics (P000310 and P000312) these are now also available to sit online, when scheduled via Secure Assess.
  • More NEW Sample Papers will also become available to sit online in the coming weeks!

Automated Feedback for online assessments – Level 1-2 English and mathematics

  • After Easter we’ll be rolling out automated feedback for each online assessment sat for Level 1-2 English and mathematics.
  • Automated feedback will provide centres with a score report based on the learner’s performance in an assessment, based on the Coverage and Range statements.
  • More information will be released in the coming weeks! 

More NEW Level 1 and 2 ICT Pre-Release Data Files for LIVE paper-based assessments available from January 2018

  • Please ensure you have the latest pre-release data files in advance of running any paper-based ICT assessments. 
  • The latest files can be accessed here.

Coming soon CPD Delivery Events for Functional Skills Tutors

The Functional Skills team are going to be hitting the road in May/June and doing a tour of England to deliver some CPD training events for Functional Skills Tutors. These events will be an opportunity to meet like-minded professionals working in Functional Skills and an opportunity to share good practice. The day will cover internal assessment standardisation, how to contextualise a speaking, listening and communication assessment, delivery workshops, exclusive resources, ForSkills demonstrations and an update on the reform. The confirmed dates are as follows:

Newcastle – 2nd May

London – 9th May

Manchester – 16th May

Birmingham – 23rd May

Bristol – 1st June

Details around booking on these paid events will be released shortly, keep an eye out on the NCFE Functional Skills group on Linkedin for up to date news.

Functional Skills Reform

The DfE released the new Functional Skills subject content at the start of March for both English and mathematics from Entry Level 1 through to Level 2. They also issued the consultation response from last year’s consultation along with the equality impact assessment.

If you are a Functional Skills provider it is crucial that you are familiar with these new content documents as they will be forming the basis of the new Functional Skills qualifications that are going live in September 2019 (centres will get access to the new qualifications from March 2019). You can download these documents on the below links:

Subject Content Functional Skills English

Subject Content Functional Skills Mathematics

Functional Skills English and mathematics subject content: equality impact assessment

Functional Skills English and mathematics subject content – Government consultation response

Ofqual will be doing a Technical Consultation at the end of March relating to the regulatory conditions and guidance so keep a look out for that. The DfE are also looking to consult on ICT/Digital Skills which will include Functional Skills ICT, again this will happen in the next few weeks.

NCFE will continue to keep you informed as and when any further updates happens. Once we have confirmation of the final content and guidance we will run a webinar covering the key points.

November 2017

Christmas Results Dates

With the festive period fast approaching NCFE would like to let you know that our offices will be closed from midday Friday 22rd December and will re-open on Tuesday 2nd January.

If you require your learners’ results before Christmas then the last date you can return your papers/upload your assessments to NCFE is Thursday 14th December. Anything received or uploaded after this date will be issued 6 working days later which will be after the holiday period. Please see the table below for clarification:

Date assessment received/uploaded

Date results issued

Thursday 14th December

Thursday 21st December

Friday 15th December

Tuesday 2nd January

Monday 18th December

Wednesday 3rd January

Tuesday 19th December

Thursday 4th January

Wednesday 20th December

Friday 5th January

Thursday 21st December

Monday 8th January

Friday 22nd December – Tuesday 2nd January

Tuesday 9th January

Compact Feedback

We always listen to customer feedback on how to improve our Functional Skills package and we’re delighted to provide a new Feedback service, Compact Feedback.

A Compact Feedback report is produced by a subject specialist and provides a succinct and clear high level breakdown of the assessment, mapped to the Coverage and Range statements. This includes the total number of marks available for each statement, and the number of marks gained by the learner for the corresponding statement.

Alongside details on the learners’ marks, the report also includes Feedback Codes and a Glossary to indicate how learners missed opportunities to gain marks e.g. incorrect use of capital letters, not stating the unit of measurement.

Moreover, we know that time is important for you and that is why we aim to produce the Compact Feedback within 6 working days of the request.

We anticipate that this report will help increase the performance of learners when they sit a resit, and therefore we can support those learners to realise their ambitions.

Find out more about Compact Feedback

Level 1 & 2 Samples

  • We’ve released new Sample Papers and Mark Schemes for Level 1-2 mathematics (P000310 and P000312)
  • We’ve released a new Sample Papers and Mark Schemes for Level 1-2 English – Reading (P000328 and P000330), Writing (P000329 and P000331)
  • We’ve released a new Sample Paper and Mark Scheme for Level 1 ICT (P000268)
  • We’ve released new Sample sets for Level 1-2 Speaking, Listening and Communication controlled assessments.
  • We’ll be releasing more new Samples across each subject and level, so keep an eye out.

Entry Level Samples

We have developed new sample assessments and mark schemes for all Entry Level subjects and levels.  This will be available on the Learning Resources page of the NCFE website before the end of November.

FS Reform Update

The Ofqual and DfE consultation has finally closed and both parties are now reviewing all the responses to their questions. We expect to hear an update of some sort in the early part of the New Year.

First teachings for the new Functional Skills are still scheduled for September 2019 and Awarding Organisations will be going to market with their sample papers and learning resources at the start of March 2019.

If you want a quick recap of the reform and the latest news we have a webinar here that gives you just that!

Speaking, Listening and Communication (SLC) at Level 1-2: audio-recording of Learner Assessment Record evidence

NCFE now permit the Learner Assessment Record evidence to be audio-recorded. Take a look at the new guidelines in the NCFE Assessor Instructions and Guidance (p8) for further information.

Please note we do not require the actual assessment to be recorded, this remains supplementary evidence rather than mandatory. This relates only to the Assessor observation and learner feedback.

September 2017

Functional Skills Reform……what’s happening?

As you know there is currently a reform of Functional Skills taking place.

Things have been quiet for a little while as Ministers decided how they want to move forward and then there was the General Election; this has led to the launch of the proposed new qualifications being put back from 2018 to 2019.

At NCFE we’ve been involved behind the scenes ensuring we’re very much part of the process. We’ve been waiting for some time for the DfE and Ofqual to announce public consultations on the new Functional Skills content and on the regulatory requirements and recently they’ve finally been launched.

It’s important that people actually delivering Functional Skills get the chance to put their views across on the content and the regulatory approach, so we’d encourage you to get involved and access the consultations as below. If people want a bit of a background to the Functional Skills Reform you can go to PyeTait website here or to catch up on the different stages we’ve a blog on our website here.

DFE site for the content consultation.

Ofqual site for the regulatory element consultation.

Feedback for the future

We have some exciting plans for Functional Skills feedback for online assessments, happening this academic session. We plan to offer free, automated, individual, electronic feedback for all learners sitting a Functional Skills Assessment online. The feedback will map directly to the Functional Skills standards, giving you and your learners a chance to look at performance in different areas, and a basis for preparing for future resits.

More on this, coming soon!

Feedback for the present

Having listened to your observations on our current learner feedback, we’re going to offer a new report to help learners who have not achieved. This report is going to be at a significantly reduced price in comparison to our current Feedback report, and it will provide targeted information for each learner, indicating which area they have lost marks and how those marks were lost. This will be available from October and we’re excited to give greater support to you and your learners.

Practice makes perfect

We’ll shortly be releasing brand new Sample assessment papers for all L1-2 Functional Skills subjects. 

All new Samples will be available:

  • paper-based
  • online (via SecureAssess)
  • Instantly in browser, via the NCFE website.

Adding Additional Assessments

We’re releasing more Live and Sample L1-2 Speaking, Listening and Communications assessment sets.

And we’re currently working on the development of a new set of Controlled Assessments (Set 9) for Entry Level Mathematics and English and hope to have these live by the end of October.  We have listened to your feedback and comments and you will see an exciting set of new papers that your learners will appreciate the ‘functional’ nature of.

In addition, we will also have new samples available for all of the three subject areas to help you when preparing your learners for their assessment. These will be released at the same time as the Set 9 assessments.

Becoming more flexible

NCFE are looking to make life more flexible for our centres who use our paper based external assessment. We are looking to move away from the current process of sitting the external assessment at the time and date stated upon booking the assessment. We plan to give more control to centres to choose when their learners can sit their paper based assessment and we will be running trials soon before launching to all our customers, so watch this space!

Controlled Assessment coming to you, in a different way

We’ll soon be changing the way we issue our Functional Skills controlled assessment materials.

Currently all Functional Skills controlled assessments are emailed to your centre’s designated Programme Contact, following registration. However, we’ll soon be releasing all live controlled assessment sets to the NCFE website for centre’s to be able to self-serve. All controlled assessment sets will be password protected.

 NEW Level 1 and 2 ICT Pre-Release Data Files for LIVE and SAMPLE paper-based assessments available from September 2017

With the Easter period fast approaching NCFE would like to let you know that our offices will be closed from 5pm on Thursday 29th March and will re-open on Tuesday 3rd April.

Anything received or uploaded after this date will be issued 6 working days later which will be after the holiday period. Please see the table below for clarification: