DfE consults on improving Functional Skills qualifications

Published: 27 Sep 2017

Since April this year, those taking Level 3 Early Years Educator qualifications can have Level 2 Functional Skills in maths and English instead of GCSEs at grade C or above. The requirement was changed after a long campaign by the sector because of the recruitment crisis caused by the GCSE rule.

Functional Skills qualifications at Level 2 are broadly equivalent to GCSE grade C and above.

The Government is reforming these qualifications with the aim of improving their relevance and credibility in the labour market.

The consultation document asks respondents to read the proposed subject content for all qualification levels in mathematics and English, and then complete a questionnaire to provide feedback.

The questionnaire asks whether the proposed subject content for Functional Skills represents a demanding course of study for students who will take the qualifications, and whether it will help them develop the numeracy and literacy skills required for employment.

Entry level Functional Skills qualifications in both English and maths are designed to develop a grasp of the subjects within familiar situations, while Levels 1 and 2 aim to equip students to solve problems successfully in the workplace and other real life situations.

The updated subject content is intended to improve students’ underlying skills and knowledge, such as reading, spelling and arithmetic, as well as improving communication skills.

The revised English content has an increased focus on oral communication, and the requirements for spelling, punctuation and grammar have been strengthened. Phonics has also been added to help build reading skills.

New mathematics content aims to contextualise skills, for example by teaching students to calculate simple compound interest or percentages based on VAT. Mathematical literacy is included, as is approximation, estimation and checking.

The proposed subject content has been developed in consultation with teachers, employers, students, awarding bodies, subject matter experts and education associations.

Speaking to Nursery World earlier this month, Sue Southwood, head of maths and English at the Education and Training Foundation, said, ‘Revising qualifications doesn’t happen very often. If Functional Skills qualifications are important to your staff or your learners, I’d urge you to get involved in the consultation.’

Ofqual will be consulting separately on revised regulatory requirements for the new Functional Skills. This consultation will focus on proposals to test a student’s ability to apply knowledge and skills without the use of external spelling and grammar checks, for example computers or dictionaries, and to introduce weightings for calculator and non-calculator based assessment.

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