ETF launches Functional Skills Reform consultation

Today, 14 January 2016, the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) launches its consultation to review maths and English Functional Skills qualifications. The review was commissioned by the Skills Minister Nick Boles with the aim of proposing new qualifications better suited to the needs of industry, practitioners and learners in post-16 education.

The consultation runs until 7 April 2016 and will be carried out by Pye Tait consulting in partnership with Learning and Work Institute, with an independent evaluation by ICF Consulting Services.

We intend to present a report to Ministers by the end of August 2016 with a view to reformed qualifications being ready to teach by September 2018.

David Russell, ETF Chief Executive, said: “The Education and Training Foundation is delighted to be leading this important piece of work.  Many employers have concerns about the standards of maths and English of prospective employees.  However, of those employers that have first-hand experience of Functional Skills, 87 per cent found them to be a useful qualification.

“GCSE is the principal qualification in England for maths and English, and will remain so.  Many adults – young and older – who have struggled with these subjects at school benefit from being taught Functional Skills because they see clearly how they will benefit them in life and work.

“We are seeking the views of teachers and trainers, employers and their representatives to ensure that our proposals to Ministers are as widely and soundly based as possible.  The aim is then to help learners achieve a recognised qualification that provides them with the skills they need to support them in gaining employment and with everyday life.”

The ETF’s review, ‘Making maths and English work for all’, published in March 2015, found that Functional Skills were “not broken”, but that work could be done to improve their relevance and content, as well as improve their recognition and credibility in the labour market. The government wants to ensure everyone has an appropriate opportunity to improve their maths and English skills and achieve a credible qualification that employers recognise.

You can register your interest in this process by completing the form on the Functional Skills Reform registration page of the Pye-Tait website or email:

You can also read Sue Southwood’s blog on the Functional Skills Reform Programme.

Notes to editors:

Further information about consultation

  • With one million Functional Skills awarded per year, these are the most popular qualifications after GCSE.
  • A steering body, including the Association of Colleges (AoC), the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, Holex, the Federation of Small Businesses and the UK Commission for Employment & Skills, will help oversee the process.
  • Both the consultation partners were selected by tender, announced on the ETF website.
  • The consultation will also result in a revised set of National Adult Literacy and Numeracy Standards. The standards will provide a detailed specification of the skills and capabilities that describe each skill, together with descriptors that define the level of performance of each capability. 

Making Maths and English Work for all – Key findings
From January to March 2015 we undertook a major review of employer views of qualifications in maths and English. This is the first major study of its kind; 1400 employers, learners and training organisations took part.

There are three interrelated themes that figure strongly in this review:

  • Functional Skills are gaining widespread recognition across small and large employers.  Employers who know about them like the approach they embody i.e. applied skills, flexible assessment and problem solving.
  • Functional Skills are benefitting learners because they focus on helping people to acquire skills that are valued by employers.  They are needed because otherwise those who have not achieved a good pass at GCSE have no public certification of the skills they have acquired.
  • The system of Functional Skills is not broken but could be improved.  If government continues with the policy of investing in the literacy and numeracy skills of young people the current arrangements for Functional Skills are a good basis on which to build.  However, there are steps government and others can take to accelerate the rise in employer recognition and further improve the relevance, rigour and value of these qualifications.

For more information, contact:

James Goode, Press & PR Officer, Education and Training Foundation | 020 3740 8280

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