Maths and English



Maths and English

Rockborn Management Associate Christine Edwards has produced a blog post on the reformed Maths and English qualifications due to come online in September 2019.

GCSE Maths and English resits for young people are so unfair…

Functional Skills are a sound alternative that will be even more relevant when the reformed Maths and English qualifications come online in September 2019.”

In the wake of the 2018 Summer GCSE results and new academic year starting for young people wanting to move onto the next stage of their life and start their careers, there are sadly far too many who will be facing the daunting task of carrying on with GCSE work in Maths and English, something they are doing not through choice, but because they are told they have to. Even those lucky enough to be given the option of working towards Functional Skills as a ‘stepping stone’ towards attaining the elusive Grade 4/5 are still required to work towards the GCSE required grade on their achievement of the Level 2 Functional Skill. It is a saddening thought that Functional Skills, Maths and English, the qualifications preferred by many employers, are not being seen as having the same real value by the people who decide the qualification structure and funding rules for 16 – 19-year-olds.

It was really encouraging when Functional Skills came up for the standard and regulatory 3/5 year review.

All be it way beyond the time it should have been reviewed. After all, the Functional Skills currently in place have pretty much remained unchanged since their pilot days in 2007, so they were definitely in line for a refresh! It was also encouraging that it was decided to not only keep the name ‘Functional Skills’ (one thing less for everyone to try  and to explain in the wake of all the changes the post 16 sectors are currently dealing with), but also that entry levels of development were not being separated from the Level 1 and Level 2 Functional Skills, as they were in the days of Key Skills.

The very nature of Functional Skills makes it so much easier to relate to real work and life and help learners see the value of, what in my opinion are, the most important skills everyone needs to be confident and competent with. The change in the 9 -1 GCSE has also meant that in order for Functional Skills to remain current and valid, as an alternative to GCSEs, they needed to be developed to have higher levels of stretch and challenge. Functional Skills, Maths and English hold real value for so many people, including employers, and not just in Apprenticeships!

What is therefore shocking is the general and widespread low level of understanding around the content of the reformed Functional Skills, Maths and English and the ignorance that the qualifications are in the process of being reformed.  I am also surprised by the lack of planning and implementation preparation in place for many colleges and organisations, large and small, delivering Functional Skills currently. 1st September 2019 will be upon us before we know it and for colleges, in particular, September 2018 is the last possible intake for, what is now being called, the Legacy Functional Skills in Maths and English. Legacy Functional Skills Maths and English will be ‘switched off’ on 31st August 2019.

Some forward thinking and progressive organisations are embracing these reforms and using this time as an opportunity to build capacity for the delivery of maths and English within their teams. There is a recognised shortage of good maths and English teachers and tutors, so it makes sound business sense to build capacity in-house. There are some significant changes that need to be embraced with the new Functional Skills and upskilling staff; reviewing processes and resources, and possible changes to delivery programmes all need to be considered and planned for to ensure that learners do not get a raw deal with these reforms.

Support is available to help organisations prepare for a smooth implementation of the changes. Change will be essential. Planning and preparation to minimise disruption to organisations, success rates and quality of teaching to learners, already bruised by their ‘failure’ within the school system, is a simple decision to make, taking proactive steps sooner rather than later.

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Christine Edwards

Rockborn Management Consultant,Christine Edwards,QTLS


Christine has accrued significant experience across the private and public sector before entering post 16 education in 2003. Christine has been involved with Functional Skills since the pilot stages in 2007. She has supported the transition from Key Skills to Functional Skills within a range of Apprenticeship and 14+ provision and has been actively involved with the various phases of development and consultation completed to achieve the new Functional Skills specifications. Instrumental in championing the early adoption of Functional Skills across all provision offered, by the ITP, Christine ensured a successful and full transition from Key Skills by September 2012.

Christine has also been an active member of the Education and Training Leadership group and is supporting the preparation for release to the FE sector of the Level 3, Learning Mentor; Level 4, Assessor Coach; and Level 5, Learning and Skills Teacher Apprenticeships.


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