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Concern over delay of reformed functional skills

Specifications for the new qualifications may not be available until May – only half a term prior to their introduction

The specifications for the new functional skills qualifications that are due to start being taught from September have yet to be released

Specifications for the new qualifications may not be available until May – only half a term prior to their introduction

The specifications for the new functional skills qualifications might not be ready until the May half-term, a Department for Education official has said.

A new suite of English, maths and digital functional skills qualifications is due to start being taught from September. The current functional skills qualifications will no longer be funded for new students from 31 August, with only continuing students or apprentices able to study these “legacy qualifications”.

This has led to concerns from college leaders and functional skills teachers that there will only be the last six weeks of the summer term for staff to carry out the continuous professional development (CPD) needed to teach the new qualifications.

Speaking at the Association of Colleges' (AoC) English and maths conference today, Jim Addison, the DfE’s head of post-16 basic skills, said that, from conversations he has had with awarding organisations, he expected the new specifications might be released at some point in March or April, but that the “worst case” scenario would be May half-term.

'Cause for concern'

When asked whether the new qualifications would be ready for a September delivery, Mr Addison responded that he was "confident".

He said: “It’s very tight for you, but we’re confident we will have a range of qualifications.”

AoC senior policy officer Catherine Sezen said the delay to the release of the specifications was a “cause for concern” for colleges hoping to manage CPD and delivery, and asked for updates to be shared with colleges.

Mr Addison said the department was not expecting the specifications to be published in May half-term, but rather that it was a worst-case scenario.  

“We are hoping more for March or April," he said. "I have asked the question, what is the absolutely last time it could be released? And I was told it would have to be by May half-term.

“We are in regular contact with Ofqual about how it is going."

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