Apprenticeship providers continue to ignore Functional Skills

Nine out of ten apprenticeship providers are still delivering Key Skills, rather than Functional Skills, according to a recent survey by the Association of Learning Providers (AELP).

The study, which had 173 responses over five working days, found that training providers had a remarkably low level of confidence in the delivery of Functional Skills in apprenticeships (click here to download).

The figures cast doubt on the effectiveness of Functional Skills, which are due to replace Key Skills completely in October 2012.

John Hayes, Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, said in a letter to Graham Hoyle (click here to download), chief executive of AELP on September 28: “I am fully aware that there are issues implementing Functional Skills.

“The provision of maths and English in apprenticeships is being considered in the context of the government’s response to the Wolf review and our review of literacy and numeracy provision for adults.”

Jill Lanning, chief executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies, added: “Particularly within apprenticeships and work based settings, we need to continue to discuss what the issues are and how they can be resolved.”

Respondents to the AELP survey include national, regional and local organisations that deliver over 100,000 apprenticeships with financial support by the Skills Funding Agency.

Ron Champion, Director of Cornwall College Business, said: “If the choice were to remain between functional skills and key skills, we would use key skills for the majority of our learners and know that our employers would choose this option too.”

The survey found that only eight per cent of respondents were delivering Functional Skills exclusively to their apprentices.

Additional comments to the survey suggested some employers had started using Functional Skills earlier in the year, but were now choosing to revert back to Key Skills.

Mr Champion said: “We have trialled functional skills in two areas, in one the result was similar to the expectations we would have had for key skills, in the other there were extreme difficulties experienced by the learners.”

Functional skills were launched in 2010 and teach learners the practical aspects of English, mathematics and ICT which are relevant for work.

AELP says that learners and employers are increasingly disillusioned with the additional teaching requirements and failure rates associated with Functional Skills.

A spokesperson from the AELP said: “Time is running short for providers to be ready, so a decision from the government is needed soon.

“The challenge is to make Functional Skills testing fit for a work based learning environment.  Right now, it certainly isn’t.”