Functional Skills: from reform to reset

Hilary Gwilliam, City & Guilds Senior Category Manager, shares her experiences on rolling out reformed qualifications during the pandemic and helping to re-set delivery post-pandemic.

09 March 2022

City & Guilds offers Functional Skills across a wide range of settings from colleges to community centres, and in a wide variety of different workplaces, each with its unique challenges. There’s no question that the past 2 years have posed challenges to fully embedding reformed Functional Skills, while also gradually withdrawing the legacy qualifications in English and maths - and managing delivery and assessment throughout the pandemic. So, as we all continue to recover, we’re committed to providing all the support you need for successful delivery.

Why Functional Skills are still so relevant

For many learners, Functional Skills qualifications continue to support the entitlement for all in England to achieve a Level 2 qualification in English and maths. At any age, in life and in most workplaces, the ability to read, write, speak, listen and communicate, work with numbers and calculations, and be digitally competent, remain critical skills which, for many, continue to underpin success in both life and work.

Functional Skills supports apprentices

Alongside GCSEs, Functional Skills provide a flexible, valued, alternative route for apprentices to develop and recognise their maths and English achievements, as well as supporting longer-term goals at work and in a career. Indeed, the main driver for changes to the purpose and subject content of reformed Functional Skills qualifications introduced in 2019 was to reflect the knowledge and skills needed by employers, providing:

  • reliable evidence of learners’ achievements against demanding content relevant to the workplace 
  • assessment of learners’ underpinning knowledge as well as their ability to apply this in different contexts 
  • a foundation for progression into further study or employment.

We recognise that learning and assessment at work can be tough and the pandemic has also shown us all the value that technology, where practical and possible, can add.  So we’re now able to support more remote qualification delivery through technology solutions, including our e-Functional Skills and Open Assess platforms, and through Remote Invigilation (RI). We’re also supporting these solutions with regular ‘how to’ support and training for tutors and assessors.

Functional Skills helps adults achieve success in maths and English

English, maths and digital qualifications also support individuals as they develop the vital skills needed to progress in learning and life. We know that low levels of basic skills continue to limit the progress of adults. Recent statistics tell us more than one quarter of working-age adults have low levels of literacy and/ or numeracy skills.
2019 OECD Skills Strategy: England, OECD, 2019.

Being able to demonstrate solid literacy, numeracy and digital skills continues to be key to progression and improving chances, particularly for those whose livelihoods may have been impacted by Covid and who may be considering transitioning to new careers or job switching.
Building bridges towards future jobs, City & Guilds Group, 2021.

Our Functional Skills qualifications provide a valuable first or next step for many and whether 16 years old and fresh out of school, or 60 years old and facing up to a fear of maths, a Functional Skills qualification may be the first step towards obtaining:

  • improved work competency
  • career progression
  • personal development
  • a boost in confidence and motivation.

Functional Skills supports 16-18 progression and foundation learning

City & Guilds has over 10 years’ experience in delivering Functional Skills qualifications and we’ve been offering qualifications in maths, English, ESOL and ICT in colleges for nearly half a century. We recognise the importance of obtaining GCSEs in English and maths as an important milestone for many young people on study programmes, but also the importance for some learners of achieving other qualifications on their journey, as well as the need for flexible alternatives on shorter programmes.

Alongside Functional Skills we offer other qualifications in ESOL and literacy and numeracy which build skills and confidence towards GCSE, meet funding requirements and help kick start careers and improve life and work prospects.

Supporting tutors and delivery staff to achieve success

As we reset our delivery post-pandemic, we want to make sure that you’re aware of all the help and support available to you, and it includes access to a host of world-class tools, resources and personal support:

  • City & Guilds Functional Skills offers flexible assessment, either classroom or on screen – to support individual learning styles and learning programmes.
  • Our Open Assess platform delivers a better learner-tutor experience, with more features and the capacity for more detailed individual feedback than ever before.
  • For maximum convenience, we now offer fully integrated RI for all existing City & Guilds centres, and for a number of other e-volve tests.
  • Our flagship support platform, e-Functional Skills acts as a virtual assistant for Functional Skills tutors and assessors, for streamlined online delivery and progress monitoring.
  • We’re on SmartScreen too! Here, training providers and learners are able to access even richer teaching and learning resources for their Functional Skills qualifications.
  • Everystep-of-the-way support. Whether you’re a training provider with apprenticeship programmes, adult-funded courses or full-time learners, we’ve got your back whenever you need it.

Download the City & Guilds 10 Steps Guide

We’re focused on enabling confidence, competence and success for every learner, as they progress in the world of work and beyond. City & Guilds offers a bank of resources and information on our dedicated webpage.

We’ve also collated a user-friendly guide to ensure that centres can navigate their Functional Skills journey and get up to speed in 10 easy steps and deliver with confidence.

Download the guide