NCFE and the Functional Skills Reform
Blog posted by: Kievah Wallace, PR and Social Media Officer, Wednesday 18 October 2017.
In their simplest form, Functional Skills are practical qualifications in English, Maths and ICT which provide learners with essential knowledge, understanding and skills that will enable them to operate confidently, effectively and independently in life and work. On paper the offer makes sense, but historically the problem has been that rather than Functional Skills qualifications being given the recognition they deserve as technical and practical alternatives to traditional academic routes, there has been an ongoing disconnect in gaining that recognition from employers and industry.
At NCFE we are passionate about the importance of Functional Skills being widely recognised and appreciated as high quality, robust qualifications and we are continually working to improve our offer for both learners and centres delivering our qualifications. We welcome the reform and are doing all we can as an active member of the Functional Skills Working Group to ensure that learners are at the heart of any changes made. Here we take a look at the stages so far in the Functional Skills Reform, and look ahead at how we deliver our own Functional Skills offer in the future.
Ofqual’s Thematic Review of Functional Skills across all Awarding Organisations (AOs) in 2015 identified a need to make the qualifications more valid and more reliable. The review found that Functional Skills weren’t broken, but that work could be done to improve their relevance and content, as well as improving their recognition and credibility in the labour market. Alongside that, the Department for Education (DfE) commissioned The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) to consider how Maths and English provision and qualifications available to those over 16 are understood and meet the expectations of employers.
Thus began the Functional Skills Reform.
Recognising that reform would only work if there was clear communication and teamwork, NCFE and most of the AOs offering Functional Skills qualifications voluntarily set up a working group to help support the process. In December 2015 the FAB (Federation of Awarding Bodies) Functional Skills Group was created and NCFE became an active member looking to ensure that our knowledge and experience of Functional Skills was heard by those involved in making key decisions.
The DfE commissioned its own review of Functional Skills in 2016 with the aim of proposing new qualifications better suited to the needs of the industry, practitioners and learners in post-16 education. The ETF, working with Pye Tait, then launched its consultation consisting of surveys and focus groups on the opinions of employers, providers, practitioners and learners.
After the consultation process, the ETF revised the National Adult Literacy and Numeracy Standards and worked on the revised Functional Skills subject content. During this time, NCFE engaged through our subject experts to provide detailed feedback on the content and ensured our Chief Examines and EQAs took part in the reviewing of materials proposed by Pye Tait and the ETF. We had a presence at all of the review events to ensure that we could relay feedback from our customers and help shape the future qualifications.
In January of this year the ETF submitted to the Minister the standards, subject content and a short report with recommendations and Ofqual stated that the new qualifications would go live in September 2018. However, with the snap General Election this summer, the DfE has asked for more time to review the standards and the decision has been made to put back the go-live date to 2019.
Ofqual and the DfE will be consulting further with AOs, employers and providers in the coming months on a range of areas including amongst others, assessment structure, policy requirements, stakeholder confidence and subject content.
We want to ensure that as well as meet the requirements set out by governing bodies, we also exceed the requirements of our learners and as such are constantly developing our Functional Skills offer.
NCFE Functional Skills come with a fantastic range of supporting resources to support learner achievement rates. With free access to ForSkills Initial Assessment and Diagnostic Tools for every learner, and a guaranteed turnaround of results in 6 working days, we’re confident that NCFE is the number one choice for Functional Skills.
Looking to the (very near) future, we are continuing to improve our English and Maths resources and will be introducing interactive, editable and customisable resources to allow for differentiated learning. We also have a new resources platform, Study Hut, which gives you a short-hand, quick and easy way to access online resources that have been moderated, categorised and summarised by us.
We have exciting plans for Functional Skills feedback for online assessments in that we plan to offer free, automated, individual, electronic feedback for all learners sitting a Functional Skills Assessment online. The feedback will map directly to the Functional Skills standards, giving you and your learners a chance to look at performance in different areas, and a basis for preparing for future resits.
With all of the new developments both in the sector and in our offer, we’re really looking forward to what the future will bring for Functional Skills. Our core commitment is that our customers are at the heart of everything we do and we can ensure them that we will be with them every step of the way.
You can find out more about NCFE Functional Skills and our wider portfolio of qualifications here: https://www.ncfe.org.uk/functional-skills/
Take part in the current consultations:
The Department for Education (DfE) have launched a consultation of the standards. Give your views before the 7 November for proposed subject content on all 5 qualification levels in maths and English. Find out more
Ofqual have launched a regulatory consultation looking at the approach to regulating the qualifications. This consultation closes on 22 November. Find out more.
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