A new year, a new beginning and what’s in store for those delivering Functional Skills?


The signs are that the government is really warming to Functional Skills. They are putting Functional Skills at the core of their policy statements, often in preference to GCSE, rather than referring to them as an afterthought! It seems that Functional Skills are seen as a credible alternative to GCSE, particularly for apprentices and adults. What wonderful news for those of us who have been banging the drum about these great qualifications for so long!

Why do I think this?

Firstly the Skills Funding Statement 2012-15, published last December, which lays out the qualifications the government will fund from next September made it clear that they want to make sure that maths and English Functional Skills are part of Apprenticeship programmes, adult learning and should be the focus for the unemployed.

Secondly, they will be used for offender learning, family learning and in the community. Employers will be encouraged to use them to improve the skills for their staff.

And finally for younger learners, new Traineeships recently announced by Mathew Hancock will have maths and English Functional Skills at the core and the new Programmes of Study for full-time learners will have to include maths and English Functional Skills from next September.

And so..as this is the month for resolutions… what should those working in Functional Skills world be resolving to do to take full advantage of these many opportunities to support the range of learners to improve their maths and English skills ?

Firstly, make sure that your organisation understands the available funding for the learners that you work with, as it’s not the same for everyone. I’ve found that many of you are not taking full advantage of what’s on offer.

Then, make sure that those delivering Functional Skills really understand the structure of the qualifications and don’t forget that if you have Entry level learners you will have to mark the assessments yourself. This is a good way for learning how the higher level papers are constructed.

Key to effective delivery is ensuring that staff have sufficient depth of knowledge to deliver the subjects. Many of the groups I have been working with have encouraged their staff to take the functional skills themselves, this is a good starting point. There are also new qualifications available to support practitioners to develop their understanding of English and maths which can form the basis of an effective staff development programme.

And when it comes to using the resources available to you, make sure that you have everything you need for both effective initial assessment so that you know what each learner needs in order to achieve and then make best use of all the resources available . I’m finding that practitioners are using the Nelson Thornes Progress to support in classroom teaching and encouraging student’s to use ForSkills to practise at home.

Luckily, the Nelson Thornes Fact Sheets and View Points now cover most of what you will need for delivery and assessment , so make downloading them a priority for this month.

And finally, Nelson Thornes and partners continue to look for more ways to support the sector. We mentioned our ‘All Things Functional’ event in the last newsletter. This event will give you a great overview of what you need to know to implement Functional Skills successfully. The practical workshops will focus on teaching each of the subjects , as well as provide case studies of good practice, details of funding, qualifications …a bit like our facts sheets (you may wonder where the inspiration came from?!)