Functional Skills Revision

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Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Making maths and English work for all.

The report commissioned by Nick Boles has been published and, probably much to the surprise of Nick Boles, the report shows wide support for Functional Skills.  Sure there is room for improvement but that is neither a surprise nor a problem, after all Functional Skills are now approaching 8 years old and keeping them relevant and fresh is vital.  In summary:
  • Functional Skills are gaining widespread recognition and employers who know about them like them and the approach they embody.
  • Functional Skills benefit learners because they focus on the skills that are valued by employers. 
  • Functional Skills are a good basis on which to build.

One of key things I drew from the report is that employers who know about Functional Skills certainly value them in the world of work – more than 87% say they are very or fairly useful, leaving just 13% saying that Functional Skills are not very or not at all useful.    

So the top level challenge for Government is almost certainly to improve the number of Employers who know about Functional Skills – the report quotes 47% of employers who are aware of Functional Skills.  A further top level challenge is not to change for the sake of change as Functional Skills are “not broken”.

My view of the recommendations of the report include
  • There is a clear need for rigorous but flexible qualifications that show a learner has mastered practical and applied English and maths skills
  • The standards, content and assessment methods of Functional Skills should be reviewed to ensure they remain relevant to the needs of employers
  • Non-GCSE English and maths qualifications should be rationalised to ensure greater public and employer recognition, the inference being to put greater support behind Functional Skills
  • The purpose and value of Functional Skills should be the focus of a publicity campaign to employers to improve awareness and understanding with simple, consistent and well-evidenced messages and it is important to avoid promoting any perception that Functional Skills are a consolation prize awarded by a GCSE focused system
  • A minor change of name to use “Functional Maths” and “Functional English” would make it clear to employers that learners have gained practical literacy and numeracy qualifications   
  • Support for teachers/tutors to improve their maths and English skills needs to continue.

For those wishing to dig a little further into the data, this document was also published. Much longer, more detailed but definitely worth a read - and we're honoured to see that our research (the 2015 Functional Skills Annual Survey) has been referenced as a source. 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Newsletter edition 182 for post-16 maths and English

It's been such a busy period that this weeks newsletter is all about review, taking stock and planning for the future.
In terms of review and taking stock, we have links to the last two major conferences, plus news from BIS/DfE about a range of policy positions and a link to conform the recently announced Apprenticeship wage review.
Looking to the future, ForSkills has a deserved reputation for offering a cohesive family of products with a consistent user interface and clear and simple upgrade paths.  A good time, therefore, to remind readers of the ForSkills product offer.  
And finally, don't forget to enter the "celebrating 10 years" ForSkills e-portfolio prize draw with more than £250,000 of vouchers up for grabs.  Simply click here to enter.
As always, feel free to contact Jonathan Wells, the editor of this newsletter on 0191 3055045 or and if you'd like to comment on the new style of newsletter, including the picture to the right - please do! 

Thursday, 5 March 2015

DoE and BIS left hand and right hand

The Government, through a Dept of Education spokesperson says this.

"We are replacing the system which rewarded schools to push pupils to scrape a C and moving to a new system which encourages high-achievers and recognises schools for the progress made by all pupils."

At exactly the same time we have the Dept for BIS making it a condition of funding and saying that anyone who misses scraping a C must do GCSE re-sits until they do scrape a C instead of the far more practical and useful Functional Skills option!

It just really doesn't work does it?

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

A good newsletter this week - Functional Skills finds support!

Education and Training Foundation research - emerging findings

Hot off the press, we have the emerging findings of the very recent research into making maths and English work for all.  They are:
  • Employers want practical and applied maths and English skills
  • Engagement and motivation are critical to successful learning in maths and English
  • Alternative routes are needed for some young people and adults to achieve Level 2 in maths and English
  • Functional Skills level 2 should be an alternative route, not a stepping stone and its purpose clarified and widely communicated.
The consultation ran until 27th February 2015. Full findings will be published in March.
We can't wait to see the full results!

The latest political position on Apprenticeships

To round off this weeks edition of the maths and English newsletter, we thought it would be good to remind readers of what the Minister and Shadow Minister think about Apprenticeships.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

2015 Survey results - full release

Highlights from the results of this year’s survey include:
Within the sector, confidence in and experience of Functional Skills is at an all-time high. The position re GCSE is the complete opposite, with confusion over policy, a lack of experience and very limited confidence that GCSE is the right qualification for learners within the sector.
Awarding Organisations have improved customer satisfaction for Functional Skills with more than 75% of all respondents declaring they are very or quite happy with their provider. C&G and Pearson have almost established a duopoly supplying more than 80% of all institutions in the FE and WBL sector. Many of the smaller awarding organisations find success in other sectors away from the mainstream.
The market for assessments, diagnostics and resources is dominated by BKSB and ForSkills/Guroo with more 90% of all respondents saying they used one or the other. In terms of supplier performance, respondents overwhelming nominated ForSkills/Guroo as their supplier of choice in all 8 categories of resource type and use.

For the first time, the survey asked about e-portfolio use and about half of respondents said they used a system. The three largest systems mentioned were OneFileSmart Assessor and SkillsPortfolio. Results show that customer satisfaction with e-portfolios is high at 80%+ with the one exception being users of Smart Assessor systems.

ELATT - Outstanding Grade 1 provider and ForSkills user

Congratulations to ForSkills customer ELATT on their very recent OFSTED "Outstanding" Grade 1 inspection result.  One of things that the inspectors noted was how well they used the information from their initial assessment and the diary function in SkillsBuilder.

"Teachers and learners use individual learning plans and the results of initial assessment of skills very effectively in planning further work. Every learner reflects on their learning in a daily diary, recording what they found difficult and what they found easy, which again helps planning. Where diaries have an emphasis on the tasks completed rather than what new aspects were learnt, the planning process is not as effective."
Can we help you achieve grade 1? 

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

ETF Consultation - deadline 24th Feb

Following on from the Ofsted Thematic Review which was focused on awarding organisation, in particular standards and assessment, the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) has launched a consultation entitled "Making maths and English work for all".
This consultation is very much focused on the learner – it is open until February 24th, so don’t delay, have your say today!

Want to know more? The TES report on the issues in the  sector, brings together several issues - branding, rigour, assessment and review.  FE Week also ran an article in a similar vein.