Phonics included in reformed functional skills

12th September 2017 at 13:51
Consultation is launched on reformed functional skills qualifications in English and maths, due to be introduced in 2019

The new functional skills qualifications in English will include phonics, while maths courses will have a stronger focus on context, according to a consultation document launched today.

Following engagement with employers, subject experts and other stakeholders, a number of changes have been made to the content of the qualifications, which have been reformed by the Education and Training Foundation.

“The content now has a greater focus on oral communication, and the requirements for spelling, punctuation and grammar have been strengthened," according to the consultation document. "Phonics has been added in order to effectively build reading skills, providing the foundation needed to sound words out in order to read words automatically on sight.”

And in maths the reformed content has “a strong focus on contextualising knowledge and skills to improve the relevance for students; for example, calculating percentages based on VAT or calculating simple compound interest". Also included is mathematical literacy, approximation, estimation and checking.

'High-quality and well-regarded qualifications'

The new qualifications are set to be introduced in 2019, and the consultation into the proposed subject content launches today. Establishing the content of the reformed qualifications is "a critical part of improving functional skills and making sure they meet the needs of students and employers", according to the government. It wants to ensure that people of all ages have “high-quality and well-regarded qualifications that demonstrate their skills to employers”, the consultation document goes on to say. 

Further education sector leaders have repeatedly called for reformed functional skills qualifications to be accepted by the government as an alternative to GCSE resits in English and maths. At present, students achieving a grade 3 or D are required to retake the subject.

More than one million functional skills maths and English courses were started in 2015-16. The consultation, which will close on 7 November, asks whether the proposed subject content represents a demanding course of study, and whether it develops the numeracy and literacy skills required for employment.

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