Chris Briggs, Sector Manager Post 16 English and Maths at Pearson.

Pearson’s Functional Skills specifications and sample assessments have recently been accredited by OFQUAL. Pearson is leading the way in learner-focused Functional Skills content and we caught up with Chris Briggs, Post-16 Sector Manager at Pearson to find out more about the accreditation process and next steps.

Congratulations on getting accredited. Who have you worked with in developing the qualifications?

We’ve done extensive work with practitioners, centres and learners to ensure our offer is the best it can be. We are now ready to start to share what we have learnt and how we have implemented that feedback as part of the reform of our Functional Skills qualifications.

How did you test the new material?

Part of our research was to trial our draft sample assessments. It was so positive to see learners and practitioners engage with our new materials and give us feedback. This proved to be invaluable to our submission to OFQUAL. We also learnt a great deal about the nature of our learners and their attitude to assessments. The learners responded well to the new questions and their feedback was incredibly useful too.

We are also about to embark on another set of trials, on a larger scale, of our accredited materials which will allow us to provide further guidance on areas that learners may need more support in. We will also be using this work to create exemplar resources of real marked learner work to help practitioners understand the necessary standards.

What accessibility issues did you consider?

Our research with practitioners, learners and centres mean we are confident in the accessibility of our sample assessments. Our contexts were chosen to demonstrate an understanding of the needs of employers and learners, to ensure the assessments were something that learners could engage with.

Similarly, we have worked on the language we use in our maths assessments to ensure that it does not adversely affect the outcomes for learners, especially for those with English as a second language background. We have kept the word count to a minimum, while still using contexts that support achievement.

We believe these are Functional Skills qualifications for a new generation with fully updated - and tested - contexts and language.

So post-accreditation - what’s the next stage?

Now we are accredited, the focus within the team has moved towards the creation of resources to support teaching and learning.

We have created sample assessments as part of the accreditation process. In addition, we are in the process of creating two sets of practice papers which we will uploaded onto ExamWizard, as well as mapping hundreds of legacy questions across. We are pleased that with the reform, we will be introducing Entry Level Functional Skills to ExamWizard.

ExamWizard is our online resource containing a huge bank of past paper questions and support materials to help you create your own mock exams and tests.

Schemes of work are in production and will come in two formats, a traditional paper-based version and an interactive version. The interactive version is very exciting, as it will allow users to move the content around electronically and plan for delivery over 30, 15 and 5 weeks.

Will you be running training sessions?

Yes. As well as the resources, we will continue to provide training. Our webinars on the reform have proved to be very popular, and we have expanded the range to include question and answer sessions, as well as sessions on specific elements of the reform such as Speaking and Listening. They are a quick and easy way to engage with the reform with a real-life person to discuss things with.

In May, we will be running our biannual network events and also running Getting Ready To Teach Events from the summer onwards. These are free events focusing on Entry Level Maths, Entry Level English, Levels 1 and 2 Maths and Levels 1 and 2 English. These are practitioner focused events all about the teaching and learning of the Reformed Functional Skills.

We believe passionately that Functional Skills matter and really change lives. After all the hard work, it’s going to be immensely satisfying to see these reformed qualifications rolled out. On a personal note, I’m really looking forward to meeting practitioners over the next few weeks and months and getting their feedback.

Chris Briggs, Sector Manager Post 16 English and Maths at Pearson.

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