Reform Programme background and earlier phases

In 2015, the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) was invited by the then Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to lead a programme to reform maths and English Functional Skills qualifications. The main aims of the Reform Programme were to provide opportunities for all learners to improve their maths and English skills in a contextualised and flexible way, producing qualifications that are rigorous, challenging and well-taught.

The ETF’s programme to reform Functional Skills was based on an extensive research report, ‘Making maths and English work for all’.

From January to March 2015 ETF undertook a major review of employer views of qualifications in maths and English. This was the first major study of its kind; 1400 employers, learners and training organisations took part.

Key findings

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. Download ‘Making maths and English work for all’.

Based on the detailed consultations and research conducted in 2015, the ETF, with its delivery partners – Pye Tait Consulting and Learning and Work Institute (LWI) – embarked upon a set of consultations designed to achieve an updated set of National Adult Literacy and Numeracy Standards, Functional Skills Subject Content and, ultimately, Functional Skills maths and English qualifications, recognised and valued by employers.

Reports and background documents from the first phases of the reform programme consultation are available to download. These include: