Research and analysis

Improving functional skills qualifications

This report sets out the improvements that awarding organisations are making to functional skills qualifications following our review last year.



There are some skills that are fundamental: to be successful in life and at work, people must be able to read and write and to use numbers with confidence. People need these skills for a functioning society and a healthy economy.

Once a person has these skills, this should be recognised by a qualification that allows them to progress into a job or go on to further study. That is what functional skills qualifications aim to do. They enable students to demonstrate real-life literacy, numeracy and IT skills through assessments set in everyday contexts.

Our review looked at level 2 functional skills English and mathematics qualifications. These are important ‘gateway’ qualifications, used in adult education, in apprenticeships and by young people who have not already secured grade C or above at GCSE.

We concluded that aspects of the qualifications need to be improved. As a result, awarding organisations are making changes in four key areas: improving the quality of assessment materials, reducing the risk of malpractice and maladministration, strengthening standard setting procedures and evaluating better how far qualifications are meeting user needs.

As awarding organisations make these improvements, functional skills qualifications should become more valid and more reliable: assessments will more effectively provide real-life contexts and will allow students to demonstrate greater breadth and depth of skills. The majority of improvements will be in place by this summer. We will carry out a follow up review in the autumn to check that the qualifications meet our regulatory requirements.