The new qualifications will be ready for teaching from September 1. Some aspects have stayed the same, but you need to be aware of a few vital changes, says Ian Sugarman

Reformed functional skills qualifications in English and maths will be taught from September 1. The Department for Education and Ofqual have consulted on and confirmed their overall approach to regulating these new qualifications, although some aspects have remained the same.

There are, however, a number of challenges. The reformed qualifications continue to:

• have the three components of speaking, listening and communicating, reading and writing, which all need to be passed to achieve the overall award of English.
• have the three core sections that relate to number, measure and shape, and data handling, which all need to be passed to achieve the overall award of mathematics.
• enable level 1 and 2 to be available to support skill development, progression and attainment.
• enable each level to build on the skills of the previous levels and encompass the skills of the previous levels.
• have assessments that will be accessible, flexible and varied to meet learner needs.
• ensure that level 1 and level 2 assessments will be externally set and externally marked, apart from the speaking, listening and communicating component, which will still be internally assessed by the centre and externally moderated by the awarding organisation.

These skills will require providers to consider the increased challenges for learners

Speaking, listening and communicating
The new definition is: “Speaking, listening and communicating’ within functional skills English qualifications is non-written communication, normally conducted face-to-face and can also include ‘virtual’ communication methods such as telephone or spoken web-based technologies.”

This definition allows the greater use of remote “video-chat” technology such as video-phoning, video-conferencing, Skype, etc. This comes with a new challenge, as without a physical presence and a limited view of the learner, how is body language and non-verbal communication observed and assessed?

The new definition is: “The independent understanding of written language in specific contexts. This can be demonstrated through the use of texts on screen or on paper.”

Learners are now expected to not only provide their personal “take” on the content of the text, but also to justify these views. Many of their responses will be based upon personal experiences and the understanding of current issues which, because of their age, they may not have.

The new definition is: “Write texts of varying complexity, with accuracy, effectiveness and correct spelling, punctuation and grammar and understand the situations when, and audiences for which, planning, drafting and using formal language are important and when they are less important.”

Learners will now need to spell, punctuate and write grammatically without using dictionaries, and spelling or grammar checkers. They will also need to spend more time learning the skills to communicate in the appropriate language, tone and style to meet audience needs. Again, many of these skills come with the experience of written communication, which many learners may not have.

Some of the changes include:

• an indication that learners can demonstrate their ability through appropriate reasoning and decision-making to solve realistic problems of increasing complexity.
• exposing learners to concepts and problems which, while not of immediate concern, may be of value in later life.
• enabling them to develop an appreciation of the role played by mathematics in the world of work and in life.

Learners will need to perform calculations without a calculator, to know times-tables and to use mathematics as standalone skills, as well as part of problem-solving contexts.

These new requirements demand that learners not only need to be “mentally competent” in mathematics, but also provide commentary on the outcomes of problems and to provide a simple rationale on the application of their skills to solve mathematical-based problems.

These reformed skills will require providers to consider the increased challenges for learners. They will now have to demonstrate independent competence across the range of skills, a greater expectation to “perform” to the required level and to fully cover the qualification content to support successful end-assessment.