English and maths for all?

The Functional Skills reform is under a year away from completion, with the new Functional Skills qualifications going live from September 2019.

The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) created a report ‘Making maths and English work for all’ in 2015, something which was a huge factor in the decision to review the qualifications. But the big question is, will the new Functional Skills qualifications gain the recognition they’ve been lacking from educational institutions and employers?

After all, historically, achievers of the qualifications have struggled when it comes to employment, as the qualifications often aren’t included in entry requirements with GCSEs being a favoured option.

Functional Skills qualifications are tailored towards being more transferable to the workplace than other alternatives – so why wasn’t this connection being made by employers up to this point, and will the reform be able to successfully address this issue?

New developments in education can take decades for employers to recognise (note the move from O Levels to GCSEs) and it’s certainly a concern that if the qualifications aren’t implemented well, the results required from the reform won’t be recognised by employers quickly enough to really make a difference.

The government intentions seem positive, with the aim being that the reformed qualifications create opportunities for everyone to improve their English and maths skills and achieve a credible, recognisable, coveted qualification that could stack up against mainstream options such as GCSEs – the main benchmark for employer measurement of English and maths skills.

The positives we can take from the mission statement of the reform is that a huge focus and driving factor behind the change is improving their creditability and recognition in the labour market by improving the relevance and content of the qualifications.

Another positive is that employers have been one of the key stakeholder groups that the ETF has consulted with regarding the proposed changes to the qualifications. Giving employers early exposure and input to the qualifications will make buy-in much easier when they are in place from next year.

Next month will see Awarding Organisations, including NCFE, start to submit their reformed qualification proposals to Ofqual. Proposals have been developed in line with the Department for Education (DfE) and Ofqual consultations which have seen changes such as increasing the weighting of spelling, punctuation and grammar in English to 40-45% at levels 1 and 2, and 50-70% at the entry levels, as well as revising the monitoring of speaking, listening and communication assessments.

So, will the reform make maths and English work for all?

There’s certainly a buzz around the new qualifications and we’re extremely hopeful that the reformed qualifications will be adopted in a more effective way, allowing learners who have achieved them to access employment and education options with no hesitation on their worth or equivalence.

We’ll certainly be flying the flag, as always, for these qualifications in both our Awarding Organisation and employer capacities – helping to ensure that we create opportunities for success with Functional Skills recognition.

What are your thoughts on the reform? Will the new qualifications close the gap between learning and work? As an employer, are you ready to welcome the change?

Kristina Gray
Marketing Officer, NCFE