An update on our accredited Functional Skills offer

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Welcome to an update on the reform of Functional Skills English and maths.

Let’s start with some good news: Pearson’s specifications and sample assessments are now accredited by OFQUAL. After two years of hard work, working with practitioners, centres and learners to ensure our offer is the best it can be, we can now start to share what we have learnt and how we have implemented that as part of the reform.

What's happened around accessibility?

Our research with practitioners, learners and centres means 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.

Feedback from trialling

As I mentioned in our previous blog, part of our research was to trial our draft sample assessments, and it was positive to see learners and practitioners engage with our new materials and give us feedback, both positive and not so positive. 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 useful too. In terms of the content, we learnt that learners with good resilience were able to use their mathematical skills to access new areas of content they were unfamiliar with. It also highlighted a need for learners to be refreshed in their understanding of certain content areas such as bearings (L1 maths), compound interest (L2 maths), inferring information from an image (L1 reading) and writer’s voice (L2 reading).

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

Full speed ahead with resources

Now we are accredited, the focus within the team has moved towards the creation of resources to support teaching and learning. We feel this is vital support for you to help with the success of your learners.

We have created sample assessments as part of the accreditation process. In addition, we are in the process of creating a further set of practice papers. This means you will have access to two examples of assessments for each level for both English and maths.In addition, we are working on uploading these onto ExamWizard, as well as mapping hundreds of legacy questions across. We are pleased to announce that with the reform, we will be introducing Entry Level Functional Skills to ExamWizard.

Our accredited specifications are already on our webpage and we will be creating exemplification documents to support your understanding of how we will assess the new content.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 you to move the content around electronically and plan for delivery over 30, 15 and 5 weeks. The interactive version will also contain links to all the applicable support and resources we provide for a particular topic, as well as, links to our paid for support.

What training is available for me?

As well as the resources, we will continue to provide training for you. Our webinars on the reforms 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. We are running update sessions for our centres which, again, are proving to be popular. I spend a great deal of my time travelling up and down the country from Newcastle to Exeter supporting our Curriculum Development Managers and Regional Account Managers who in turn support you.

See you soon! 

In May, we will be running our biannual network events in a location near you. These are half-day events, split between FE and Work Based Learning, which allows you to network with others in your area as well as get support from our Subject Specialist (me).

Finally, we will be 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 full-day events all about the teaching and learning of the Reformed Functional Skills.

As you can see, there is a lot going on. Hopefully, we can chat more at one of our upcoming events.

Chris Briggs

Sector Manager Post 16 English and Maths