New Functional Skills Standards/Reforms

New Functional Skills Standards/Reforms

The proposed new reforms are very reminiscent of the Adult Core Curriculum and this is very welcome.

At ForSkills, we have always used the more granular Core Curriculum as a blueprint for our resources before mapping them across to the Functional Skills standards. The Core Curriculum always showed a clear progression through the levels and this is very apparent and welcome in the new reforms.

In English, there is an emphasis on spelling, punctuation and grammar with a clearly mapped progression. At entry level, the use of phonics to aid reading and spelling has been highlighted. Homophones now make an appearance at E3 rather than Level 1. Punctuation also shows a clear progression from capital letters to apostrophes and colons (not previously explicitly stated in the curriculum). Grammar continues the more academic trend with a reference to definite and indefinite articles at E3 and modal devices at Level 2.

In maths, there is an embracing of the old Core Curriculum headers of number; measures, shape and space; and handling data, and also a recognition of the importance of developing and testing underpinning skills along with the application of skills for problem solving. Like English, the standards appear more challenging. At Entry 1 a learner is expected to work with numbers up to 20, and at Entry 2, numbers up to 50. Recognition of simple fractions and decimals also starts at Entry 2. At Level 1, there is a reference to calculating simple interest, and at Level 2, calculating compound interest and VAT.

These reforms have succeeded in displaying a clear progression with an added academic weight to give them more rigour alongside the GCSE route.

A full breakdown of the proposed reforms along with a link to provide your feedback is available via this DfE page.


  1. H Peacock says:

    There needs to be more standardisation of the exams between the awarding bodies. At the moment, some awarding bodies appear to have considerably easier exams than others – so how does this ensure the reliability of the qualifications?

  2. Sue Maddeaux says:

    I like the inclusion of phonics in the entry levels; so many of my learners needed to be taught the basics of decoding and encoding words, but time was limited under the normal guided learning hours.
    I agree with other comments that there needs to be more standardisation of exams, also more consistency between published exam practice papers and the actual exams.

  3. David Greenhalf says:

    I tend to believe, in general, that if phonics haven’t worked by the time they get to FE, they won’t work then. I try to work on whole word recognition, trying to improve students’ sight vocabulary. Sadly this approach is seldom used in schools, as they don’t have the time to work with individuals. In FE we are not really given time, but where I can, with a willing student, progress is made. My son, who is 15, is dyslexic and we were informed that he would never be a free reader. He is now, after years of specialist input that we paid for out of school hours. Phonics do not work for him. He was lucky that we could afford to pay for the specialist that many cannot. He will always struggle with new words, but he already has a vast sight vocabulary, which help him to read effectively. The problem is often that he cannot follow through with multisyllabic words. Short-term or working memory is often present in dyslexics of his type. Overlays don’t work for him; it’s a different type of dyslexia.

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