Basic skills qualifications in numeracy and literacy for adults will cease to be funded for new starts from August.

The Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) is no longer funding a centrally held test bank which supports Adult Basic Skills (ABS) qualifications and Key Skills Communication and Application of Number qualifications at Levels 1 and 2.

A BIS spokesperson said: “Ofqual has confirmed the operational end-dates of these qualifications mean that no new enrolments will be taken beyond August 2012 for ABS Certificates and September 2012 for Key Skills qualifications.

“The certification end-dates are August 2014 and September 2013 respectively.”

However, BIS could not say how much it would save by no longer funding the test bank.

“The cost of managing the test bank was minimal and as it approached the end of its duration the remaining tests were allocated to awarding organisations. We have not costed procuring a new test bank, as responsibility for development and maintenance of adult English and maths qualifications is now a matter for the awarding organisations, regulated by Ofqual,” added the spokesperson.

In their place, the Skills Funding Agency will fund English and Maths QCF qualifications – from Entry Level up to Level 2 – from September 2012 that “provide necessary rigour and flexibility to support” progression.

However, while Entry Level ABS qualifications will continue to be funded into 2013, as they do not rely on the test bank, it is not known how the move will affect ESOL learners.

The BIS spokesperson said: “ESOL qualifications are being reviewed as part of the simplification on funding for all qualifications.”

Carol Taylor, NIACE’s director for development and research, said the body believes Functional Skills will support adults to undertake the “realistic basic skills demands of everyday life, developing, as we believe they do, the ability to apply skills” to other settings.

However, she also added: “There are challenges – it may take longer for learners to achieve, but the review of Skills for Life recommended longer courses, and Functional Skills will be more challenging for all learners and especially at lower levels, hence the decision to retain Skills for Life qualification for Entry Level learners for a period.”

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