Maureen’s blog

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There is so much good news to excite us in functional skills world…this is going to be a VERY merry Christmas. There is good news from Matthew Hancock, who announced at the AOC conference last month that the functional skills funding is doubling for apprentices and adult learners; effective from now. We’re not sure where he’s going to get the money from as there is no new funding, but he’s agreed it. If you haven’t seen the details of the announcement the link is here: http://readingroom.skillsfundingagency.bis.gov.uk/sfa/funding_rates_for_english_and_maths_qualifications.pdf

This is very welcome news. You will know that many of us have been arguing that post-16 providers continue to pick up the pieces as schools continue to churn out over half of their students not secure GCSE Grade C. We’ve also been arguing that the unlisted funding for classroom based learning, effectively meaning that these learners in college can have as much funding as needed, whilst those who are working in the workplace who have a single fixed amount, that reduces with age. This reduction with age, which reflects the employer contribution, continues under the new arrangements, but with a doubling of funding for every category this is still very good news. We have updated the Funding View Point to reflect the new rates.

More good news on the funding front is that there is a ‘freeing up’ of the Innovation Code. This allows centres to draw down funding for new qualifications that are being developed. It has been available since April as a way that providers can develop qualifications with AOs to support local needs, but like many good initiatives paperwork got in the way and I’ve heard that the hardly any of this funding was taken up. The SFA have now agreed to fund some of the new English and mathematics qualifications that are being developed as ‘stepping stones’ to full functional skills. City and Guilds, OCR and Ascentis all have qualifications that can be funded using the code, so if you are working with adults and think these qualifications can help…do check their websites to see what they have on offer. The SFA will fund both the ‘stepping stones’ qualifications as well as functional skills. And remember that you can use the ForSkills diagnostic assessment to evaluate which skill areas your learners need to work on and then link one of the new qualifications to the topic. How to use ForSkills initial and diagnostic assessment effectively is the subject of a new Fact Sheet that is now available for you, so check this out.

Using new qualifications in English and maths to focus on the particular skills that learners have identified through initial and diagnostic assessment, as progression to Functional Skills is one of the approaches we’ve identified in the new View Point. We’ve looked at many different approaches to delivering Functional Skills and trust that you will find them useful. The research for this View Point and some of the feedback we’ve gathered has prompted Nelson Thornes’, For Skills and other partners to put together an ‘All Things Functional ’ event for practitioners, with some real hands on workshops. We will be using the Nelson Thornes’ materials in the subject-based workshops for delivery and assessment of functional skills; there will more information on how to use the funding that’s available, more case studies from work-based and college providers that are already implementing Functional Skills and some showcase events for new products. We are holding the event in the New Year in Birmingham. For more details www.eventelephant.com/FunctionalSkillsEvents

We hope to see you there!

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