News story

Improvements to the quality and assessment of functional skills

Awarding organisations are improving functional skills qualifications to better reflect the achievements of students and meet employers’ needs.

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Functional skills are important qualifications taken in large numbers. Over a million were awarded last year. These qualifications allow students to demonstrate their skills in key areas such as English and maths.

Today we are publishing our report which sets out the improvements that awarding organisations are making to current functional skills qualifications, following our recent review. These changes will make sure that the qualifications are high quality and that standards are consistent. We want functional skills qualifications to better reflect the achievements of students and more effectively meet employers’ needs.

In particular, awarding organisations will be:

  • improving the quality of assessments, to provide more real-life context and allow students to demonstrate a wider range of skills
  • strengthening awarding processes and undertaking additional monitoring to give greater assurance that standards have been met
  • working more closely with employers and other users to make sure that the qualifications meet their needs

We will review their progress in autumn this year. In the meantime we will set out guidance on question design and work with awarding organisations to make sure standards are set more consistently.

Jeremy Benson, Executive Director for Vocational Qualifications, said:

We take the quality of Functional Skills qualifications very seriously and have high expectations of the awarding organisations that offer them. The changes awarding organisations are making should result in real and visible improvements to Functional Skills assessments – making them more relevant and more reliable. We will follow up on these changes and if we find that qualifications don’t meet our requirements, we will take further action.

David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, said:

Practical English and maths skills are vital to help young people and adults get on in life and in work. We know from our work that functional skills qualifications, when delivered well, can make a real difference to learners by making learning relevant to them.

We welcome the work Ofqual is doing to improve the quality of these important qualifications. It is vital that they are understood and valued by learners and employers, the quality of the qualification itself and the way it is taught are both important parts of that.

Notes to editors:

  1. Functional skills qualifications were introduced in 2010.
  2. Functional skills represent around 7 per cent of all regulated qualifications taken in England each year.
  3. In 2013/14, over one million were awarded, compared to 300,000 in 2010/11.
  4. Functional skills qualifications are available in English, mathematics and ‘information and communication technology’ from entry level to level 2. Our review focused on qualifications in English and mathematics at level 2.
  5. The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) has launched a consultation which seeks views from employers and others on how literacy and numeracy skills can best be acquired and recognised. We welcome this review and are working closely with ETF. We will consider any findings from the review that may have an impact on qualifications such as functional skills.
Published 27 January 2015