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How Ofqual is currently reforming Functional Skills qualifications

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Functional Skills Qualifications (FSQs) in English and maths are being reformed. Here we explain what’s changing and why.

You can also find up-to-date information on the progress reformed qualifications have made through our technical evaluation process.

What’s changing and why

The government has introduced this reform programme to improve the rigour and relevance of Functional Skills, and to ensure that these qualifications better meet employer needs in terms of the knowledge and skills that learners achieve. Ofqual will regulate the new FSQs.

Many aspects of current FSQs are being retained. So, for example, the qualifications will remain graded on a pass/fail basis, questions will often continue to be based on everyday contexts and scenarios, teaching and assessments can still be delivered flexibly, and teachers will still be able to mark assessments for Entry Levels and the speaking, listening and communicating component of English.

But there are some important changes. In particular, there is much more specific common content. This should help to increase comparability between awarding organisations’ qualifications.

The content also reflects the Department for Education’s curriculum intention that reformed FSQs should include assessment of underpinning skills.

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  • For English, this means a focus on spelling, punctuation and grammar without dictionaries or computer aids; and at Entry Levels there are now detailed reading and spelling expectations based on the structured teaching of phonics.
  • For maths, this means more of an emphasis on the underpinning knowledge and skills required to solve mathematical problems. This includes using times tables and working with and without a calculator.

In light of the reforms and changes to content, the Department for Education has decided that the Guided Learning Hours for FSQs will increase from 45 to 55 hours.

Progress so far

The Department for Education confirmed the FSQ subject content for English and maths in February 2018. In July 2018, we published the rules against which we will regulate the reformed qualifications. Awarding organisations have been developing their qualifications since then.

All new FSQs will go through our technical evaluation process before being made available, to ensure they are high quality and support consistent assessment and awarding. Using a combination of subject experts and Ofqual assessment experts, we review the materials submitted by each awarding organisation against our rules. These materials include the specification and the sample assessments. We consider issues such as their level of demand, coverage of the Department for Education subject content, and the quality of the questions and the associated mark schemes. We also review the awarding organisation’s assessment strategy, the key document in which they explain the approach they are proposing to the design and delivery of their qualification.

The window for technical evaluation opened in September 2018. We are committed to ensuring that the new qualifications are high quality, and that schools and colleges have adequate time to prepare for first teaching in September 2019. The last date for new starters on the current qualifications is 31 August 2019.

The status (as at 18 February 2019) of each of the qualifications currently being developed is as follows:

  maths maths English English
  L1/L2 Entry L1/L2 Entry
AQA 4 4
City and Guilds 4 1 2 1
Future Quals 3 3
Highfield 2 2
IQ 3 3 3 3
NCFE 2 2 2 2
NOCN 3 3 3 3
OCR 3 3 3 3
Open Awards 3 2 3 2
Pearson 4 4 4 4
Skillsfirst 3 3

Key:

  1. Awarding organisation is yet to submit materials to Ofqual for technical evaluation
  2. Currently undergoing technical evaluation by Ofqual
  3. Has been through technical evaluation by Ofqual and is back with awarding organisation
  4. Resubmitted to Ofqual and undergoing technical evaluation
  5. Has completed Ofqual process of technical evaluation
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