Frequently Asked Questions

Here you'll find answers to frequently asked questions about our reformed Functional Skills qualifications.

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General

The purpose of the newly reformed Functional Skills has changed slightly from the legacy.

“Functional Skills qualifications should provide reliable evidence of a student’s achievements against demanding content… [and] provide a foundation for progression into employment or further technical education and develop skills for everyday life.”

There is now more focus on employment and educational progression within the qualifications at levels 1 and 2.

Guided Learning Hours have been set by the Department for Education. The new GLH will be 55 hours, for both English and Mathematics at all levels. This is an increase of 10 hours.

The legacy will be an equivalent qualification for the reformed, so in normal circumstances this would not be allowed. This is a question regarding funding and so, should be referred to the provider’s own funding expert.

The Level 2 Functional Skills will still act as an equivalent qualification for GCSE grade 4 and above on apprenticeships and T Levels.

We estimate with the first year of the reform it will take approximately 28 days for results.

Yes, they are available for both English and Mathematics.

Yes, they are available for both English and Mathematics.

We are looking at some more GRTT events in the summer and will also have some more detailed online sessions too.

Resources will be released on our website throughout Summer 2019.

Timelines

The first registration date is 1 September 2019.

The first assessment date is 24 September 2019.

This is unlikely. These dates have been set by Ofqual.

Yes, we will offer the maximum transition period of one year.

The last assessment date is 12 July 2020. This is to allow time for receiving scripts, marking and certification.

The last date is the 30 June 2020. By this point, a centre will need to have its direct claim status signed off. Entry Level assessments can continue after this date as long as they are claimed in enough time

The last date is 30 June 2020. By this point, a centre will need to have its direct claim status signed off. Entry Level assessments can continue after this date as long as they are claimed in enough time.

Registration

No. With the reformed Functional Skills English, Ofqual will no longer allow centres to use spiky profiles with learners. This means learners will need to complete all three elements of the Functional Skills English at the same level.

No. Ofqual have stipulated that there will be no transference of credits between the Legacy and the reformed Functional Skills English. What this means is that if a learner does not complete all three elements on the legacy by 31 August 2020, they will have to complete all three elements again on the reform.

Yes. Under the reformed Functional Skills, Ofqual have decided that learners need to be registered on the level of Functional Skill they will be completing. This will mean that there will be no more bundled registrations.

Assessment: General

We have worked with a language specialist in the writing of our sample assessments to ensure that the language used is appropriate for all learners, especially those with English as a second language.

We understand that this is a major factor in their achievement for some learners. This practice will continue throughout all our reformed Functional Skills assessments moving forward.

We have worked with practitioners and learners to ensure that the contexts we use in our assessments are suitable for the majority of learners.

We carried out a piece of research in 2018 on this and the results can be seen in our sample assessments and support materials for the reformed Functional Skills.

For Levels 1 and 2, it is through externally set and externally marked assessments. For Entry Level, it is through externally set, internally marked and verified controlled assessments.

Our Level 1 and Level 2 assessments are available on demand, both paper-based and onscreen. Our Entry Level assessments are also available on demand and are downloadable from our secure website.

For both onscreen and paper-based tests, we introduce new assessments at regular intervals throughout the year. By introducing new tests in this way we ensure that there are sufficient tests in the bank for any learners who require a resit. 

When we create new test versions, we have a 'test specification' that is followed by every writer so we can be confident that each test version is as close as possible in terms of coverage of the subject content statements set out by DfE and each test version provides a consistent level of assessment for learners.  However, we also acknowledge that in some cases, a new test version may be slightly more or less challenging and we therefore carry out an awarding process for each individual test version to ensure that the pass threshold is set fairly for each test version. 

Due to the way in which we construct our tests, with a tightly defined test specification and clear parameters for writers to work within, any differences in pass mark are likely to be minimal. Learner responses are scrutinised as part of the awarding process so we can be confident that the pass mark we publish accurately reflects learner achievement for that particular test version. Over time, as we build up a bank of data on test performance, we can produce even more consistent tests and can reduce or even eliminate any variation in pass marks but that will take time.

This is related to the need to award every assessment set individually as we need to build up a bank of data with learner responses that is then used to inform the awarding decision. Until we have sufficient data available and have set the boundary mark, we cannot release those results to centres. We anticipate this will be in the region of 20 working days.

Assessment: Mathematics

The main change to the reformed Functional Skills maths, is the introduction of a non-calculator paper across each level. This will form approximately 25% of the overall assessment (for both time and number of marks).

Both non-calculator and calculator papers will be assessed in the same sitting as one paper. Because of this, there will be one overall mark with no partial resits. The assessments will be split into two separate sections.

No, learners will be given an overall mark, not a separate one for each section.

We have made the decision that the non-calculator paper will be assessed first.

We have taken the decision not to specify certain topics as non-calculator only. That being said, approximation will predominantly be a non-calculator skill.

If this is their preference, yes. The onscreen paper does have a built-in calculator function that copies the working out into the working out box, which we recommend using.

Level      

  Non-calculator

  Calculator

  Total

Entry 1

  20 min

  60 min

  80 min

Entry 2

  25 min

  65 min

  90 min

Entry 3

  25 min

  75 min

  100 min

Level 1

  25 min

  90 min

  115 min

Level 2

  25 min

  90 min

  115 min

Level      

  Non-calculator

  Calculator

  Total

Entry 1

  5

  15

  20

Entry 2

  7

  21

  28

Entry 3

  9

  27

  36

Level 1

  14

  42

  56

Level 2

  16

  48

  64

Underpinning skills questions may or may not be in a context but they are more structured than the problem-solving questions. They assess the learner's knowledge and understanding, rather than their ability to apply this knowledge and understanding.

An example: Find the surface area of a cube – underpinning

How much paint would you need to cover a cube with a coverage of 1 litre per 1 metre squared – problem solving – wouldn’t use the phrase surface area.

Underpinning skills covers 25% of the assessment.

Formulae will be supplied if it outside what a learner would be expected to know.

Learners are advised to use the online calculator to make use of the copy to working feature that reduces transcription errors. It will also make it easier for invigilators to ensure there is no malpractice taking place. However, learners can use their own non-programmable calculators if they wish.

Learners can use their normal way of working for their working out.

Assessment: English

Level  

 Reading

 Writing

Speaking and Listening

Entry 1

    45 min

   50 min

    10-15 min

Entry 2

    45 min

   50 min

    15-20 min

Entry 3

    45 min

   50 min

    20-25 min

Level 1

    60 min

   60 min

    30 min

Level 2

    75 min

   60 min

    40 min

There are many small changes with the content, with new content coming in and content moving down levels.

For Entry Level, each learner will need to take a spelling test. For the writing assessments, learners will no longer be allowed access to a dictionary or spellcheck facility.

In terms of Speaking and Listening, there is much more focus on the content on the listening skills of the learners and this is reflected in the new assessments

 

Yes, they can. If fact, there will be a dictionary based questions at each level.

Yes, they can, but the spellcheck facilities will need to be disabled for the writing papers.

The spelling test that Pearson has adopted is a multiple-choice gap-fill exercise where learners have to transcribe the correct spelling into the gap.

This was chosen in order to reduce the burden on assessors, especially those running assessments at multiple levels at the same time.

In addition, we felt that a traditional spelling test may unfairly disadvantage some learners, especially those who rely on a communicator in their everyday life.

Phonics is the Department for Education’s preferred methodology for the teaching of Entry Level English learners. However, it does not form part of the assessment.

No, but we do recommend you do video two examples of each task at each level for monitoring purposes.

We will have exemplar marked learner work available for download shortly.

Our sample assessments are available on our website.

Yes, there will be exemplar videos on the website and additional videos for the OSCA process.

OFQUAL would prefer Awarding Organisations to sample live assessments, however, video recordings can be used as a last resort if it is not possible for a live assessment to take place during an SV visit - for example, if learners are absent at short notice. We would need two separate recordings of each task at each level. How this is managed by a centre is down to the individual centre.

There will still be a requirement to complete an OSCA exercise for L1 and L2 SLC.

As long as it does not impede the learner, yes.

Support

We have the following free training:

  • Support Update Visits: will be delivered by the centre’s CDM/RAM
  • Network events run by Sector Specialist will run from May, split into Further Education and Work-based Learning
  • Getting Ready to Teach Events will run nationally from June onwards, focusing on new aspects of teaching and learning
  • Webinar Masterclasses on new aspects of teaching and learning and assessment logistics available
  • Webinar Support Sessions will continue throughout the year

Please see our training from Pearson page for dates.

 

Yes. We will be updating ExamWizard to include the reform SAMs and mapping across applicable questions from the legacy qualifications.

Yes, there will be a traditional paper-based scheme of work as well as a free interactive scheme of work.

The paper-based schemes of work should be available in early May 2019, as will a demonstration version of the interactive scheme of work which will be shown at the network events 2019.

Yes, this will be updated to reflect the new questioning techniques in the reformed Functional Skills.

Yes, our exemplar resources will be based on real-life learner work.

We will be producing the following free resources:

  • lesson plans
  • schemes of work
  • exemplar resources
  • exemplification of the specification
  • set of sample assessments
  • set of practice assessments
  • guide to contextualising and embedding reformed functional skills

 

We will be producing direct-to-learner resources and a digital support package.