Ofqual chief Glenys Stacey issues ‘stability’ plea over quals as Skills Minister Nick Boles considers Functional Skills rebrand

Qualifications should remain “as stable as possible,” Ofqual chief Glenys Stacey (pictured) has warned Skills Minister Nick Boles as he considers a major relaunch of Functional Skills qualifications.

Ms Stacey (pictured), replying to a letter from Mr Boles early last month in which he said Functional Skills would “continue to be one of the types of qualification that learners have available,” welcomed the minister’s “clear statement about the importance you attach to Functional Skills qualifications”.

But she had cautious words for his plans for a rebrand of the qualifications, saying: “The brand of a qualification is important. It takes some years for qualification titles to become understood and trusted, particularly by employers and others who are not close to  the education system.

“In general, our view is that we should keep the qualifications system as stable as possible, to allow qualifications time to prove themselves. We did a small survey of employers and others recently and found that employers in the  survey had a broadly positive view of Functional Skills qualifications, as do colleges and other providers.

“So our advice is that you consider carefully the benefits of change balanced against the benefits of stability.”

She added: “If you do wish to rebrand, then perhaps we could work with your officials to test out the views of employers (and others) more widely about the options?

“Assuming the changes are not major, qualification reforms can usually be introduced over a two to three-year period allowing time for consultation, enactment and communication to education providers and students; so colleagues here will also discuss with your officials the options and timing for any reforms.”

Nick Bowles Minister for Skills on Thursday 2 Oct. 2014. Photo by Mark Allan/
Nick Boles

It comes after Mr Boles (pictured right) revealed a more supportive view of Functional Skills at a fringe event organised by FE Week at the Conservative Party Conference early last month.

The qualifications, which include English, maths and ICT skills, had previously been described as “stepping stones” to GCSEs by previous Skills Minister, Matthew Hancock.

And in her response to Mr Boles, published this month, Ms Stacey said Ofqual’s review of Functional Skills had so far found areas for improvement.

She said: “In our review of these qualifications we are finding some of them wanting but capable of improvement and we intend to act to ensure they are improved.

“We will say more about our findings later in the year. As with GCSEs, the ownership of the curriculum and the purposes of these qualifications lies  with policy Departments, so while we understand you are not seeking fundamental changes in these areas we welcome continuing engagement with you and your officials in this area.”


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