ESFA update - changes to functional skills

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) have made the following changes to the 16 - 18 English and maths progress measure which will apply to 2020 performance tables.

  • They have increased the relative progress points for achieving Functional Skills Level 1 and Level 2 qualifications so that providers can further support students to take the level 2 qualification which is most appropriate for them.
  • They will reflect the new GCSE grading system and make the points consistent by moving from the old 8-point scale to the new 9-point scale, with each grade worth one point.
  • Currently attainment of any entry level qualifications receives 0.4 progress points. From 2020 tables, Entry Level 1 will receive 0.25, Entry Level 2 0.5 and Entry Level 3 0.75 points.

We think this is a really positive step forward for learners who choose to take a technical education route choosing Functional Skills. With the Functional Skills reform, the qualification has higher quality threshold and more rigour, and by awarding more points to Level 2 than a Grade 3/Grade D this is reflective in the progress measures. By recognising progression for learners, these new measures further emphasise the move towards achieving parity of esteem with traditional academic routes.

NCFE’s purpose is to create opportunities for success to enrich society. When it comes to English and maths we believe that equal opportunities aren’t given to all qualification types. There isn’t currently a level playing field for English and maths and we want to raise awareness of this issue and make a change to ensure that learners are given the opportunity to take the qualifications that are best for them.

We recently launched our #FullyFunctional campaign, asking that the government overturn the current policy which means that learners who achieve a Grade 3/D must re-sit a GCSE exam until they pass for English and maths. This isn’t the case in any other subject area or at any other grades so seems extremely out of place and disadvantages learners.

You can find out more about our campaign here: https://www.ncfe.org.uk/fully-functional

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Matthew Burton
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Matthew Burton is the head teacher at Thornhill Community Academy in Dewsbury and appeared on Channel 4’s Educating Yorkshire. Matthew has written for NCFE about making pivotal curriculum decisions on behalf of learners.