Details, by awarding organisation, of the different assessment options available for functional skills in 2021.

Arrangements for 2021

There are 3 ways learners will be able to access a result.

  1. Assessments can continue to take place in a training provider, college, school, employer premises or alternative location, where it is safe for them to do so in line with public health guidance.
  2. Assessments can be taken remotely or online.
  3. Where neither of these options is possible, and learners need a result to progress, then the grade can be awarded through alternative arrangements.

This flexibility will mean many learners will be able to quickly progress and not be delayed. It will also ensure that apprentices can progress through their apprenticeship and to future employment.

As lockdown restrictions lift, more learners will be able to access assessments at their school, college, training provider or workplace as well as remotely, and the need for alternative arrangements will decrease.

The options available

Learners who are ready or waiting to take their functional skills assessment can do so now. They can do this through in-person or remote arrangements. Remote arrangements can refer to the use of remote assessment, remote invigilation, or both. The table below shows what assessment options each awarding organisation offers.

Awarding organisation Remote invigilation On-screen or computer based Paper based Awarding organisation provided test centre
AQA No No Yes No
C&G On request Yes Yes On request
EAL No Yes On request On request
FAQ Yes Yes Yes On request
Highfield Yes Yes Yes No
NCFE Yes Yes Yes No
NOCN Yes Yes Yes On request
OCR Speaking and listening component for English only Yes Yes On request
Open Awards Yes Yes Yes On request
Pearson On request Yes Yes No
Skillsfirst Yes Yes On request No

Learners should speak to their training provider, college or school about which options are offered by the awarding organisation that they are registered with. If the most appropriate option for the student is not offered by the awarding organisation then it is possible to swap to another awarding organisation.

To find out further information about these options please contact the relevant awarding organisation.

If none of these options are possible, and it is not possible to delay assessment until spring or summer, then the result can be awarded through alternative arrangements.

Remote arrangements can refer to the use of remote assessment, remote invigilation, or both.

Remote assessment

Remote assessment is an assessor examining a learner while they are completing the required and timed assessment tasks. The assessor is in a different location to that of the learner. It is a live assessment and is different to on-screen or online assessment. It does not cover independent completion of required tasks or generation of evidence without direct supervision and/or observation of an assessor.

Remote invigilation

Remote invigilation can be one or both of live supervision or after-the-fact supervision of a learner completing the required assessment tasks. The invigilator is in a different location to the learner. It ensures that the learner completes the assessment under the required conditions so that the awarding organisation can assure itself of the validity of the assessment and secure the award of the qualification. The invigilator is not assessing the learner.

Note that remote assessment and remote invigilation can take place in a location outside of an approved centre (such as at the learner’s home or an employer’s premises). Remote invigilation can be a sole measure or part of a suite of measures to ensure that the assessment has been conducted under secure conditions.


Awarding organisations, colleges, training providers and schools have been working hard to offer functional skills assessments that are safe and convenient for learners throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, however, circumstances have meant that many learners who are ready to take their functional skills assessments have not yet been able to do so.

Following our joint consultation with the Department for Education, it has been confirmed how functional skills assessments can be awarded.

Please see the ESFA’s guidance to providing apprenticeships during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. It describes temporary flexibilities which have been applied during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and how and when apprentices can safely train and undertake an assessment in workplace, educational and assessment settings.

About functional skills

While some functional skills learners take these qualifications alongside other qualifications and over a normal academic year, many others do not. Functional skills qualifications are:

  • small in size (55 guided learning hours)
  • often assessed after learners complete a short course
  • available ‘on-demand’ in many cases, which means learners can take their assessment when they are ready to do so

Since the start of the pandemic most awarding organisations have put in place a range of options to enable assessments to take place, such as offering online assessments that can often be delivered remotely or increasing flexibility over the timing of assessments. Taking an assessment enables learners to get their results quicker than going through a process that requires evidence to be gathered to support a teacher grade which, in many cases, will also need to be checked by awarding organisations before a result is issued. This means the impact of the disruption may be less as learners are still able to take the assessment now or can catch up later in the spring and summer.

The purpose of functional skills qualifications is to provide reliable evidence of a student’s achievements against demanding content that is relevant to the workplace. They need to provide assessment of students’ underpinning knowledge as well as their ability to apply this in different contexts. They also need to provide a foundation for progression into employment or further technical education and develop skills for everyday life. Unlike assessments for larger qualifications, which have had to mitigate for lost learning, the content for functional skills qualifications has not been reduced.

Published 25 February 2021 Contents