Functional skills passes fall by almost 20%

The fall in passes follows the introduction of reformed functional skills qualifications in September 2019
18th June 2020, 5:16pm

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Functional skills passes fall by almost 20%

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/functional-skills-passes-fall-almost-20
Functional Skills Entries Fall By Almost 20%

The number of students who have passed functional skills has fallen by almost 20 per cent in a year, according to new data published by Ofqual today.

Between April 2018 and March 2019, 677,710 students received a certificate for functional skills - compared with 548,515 between April 2019 and March 2020, a fall of 19 per cent. 

Eddie Playfair, senior policy manager at the Association for Colleges, said the drop could be due to the perception that functional skills tests had got "tougher" after the qualifications were reformed and some providers might be choosing to enter more students with a grade 1 or 2 for GCSEs instead of functional skills.

He said: "In functional skills, students either pass or fail but students entering GCSEs can demonstrate progress by improving their grade, even if they haven't yet gained a grade 4."


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Background: Pass marks could drop in reformed functional skills


From September 2019, reformed functional skills qualifications were rolled out in colleges across England. Association of Colleges chief executive David Hughes previously said the approach taken to reforming functional skills qualifications could prove to be a "real mistake". He said the new version of the English and maths qualifications looked "much more academic" than the legacy version.

Mr Playfair added that the changes to the exams system this year may also have had an effect.

He said: "In the current context of the pandemic and teachers calculating student grades this summer, providers may have withdrawn some candidates from functional skills on the basis that they weren't yet ready to pass."

In September 2019, Ofqual warned that pass rates could drop for functional skills this academic year. In a letter, the exam regulator stated that the reform of functional skills qualifications aimed to ensure that the new qualifications "better meet employer needs in terms of the knowledge and skills that learners achieve".

However, in February this year, awarding body Oxford Cambridge and RSA (OCR) announced its decision to stop offering functional skills altogether from 2020. In a statement published on its website, at the time OCR said that it does not believe it is "able to provide a service that best suits English and maths functional skills teaching and learning".

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