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Minister calls for overhaul of functional skills qualifications

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The skills minister has asked the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) to come up with “a programme of reform” for overhauling English and maths functional skills qualifications, it has emerged.

In a letter to FE principals and college chairs of governors, Nick Boles said yesterday that he believed functional skills should remain the main alternative qualification to GCSEs, but had to suit employers’ needs and be properly taught and assessed to be credible and well respected. “I have, therefore, asked the foundation to set out what a programme of reform to update English and maths functional skills qualifications would involve, working closely with [the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Department for Education] and Ofqual,” he writes.

The letter also sets out Mr Boles' wider ambitions for the FE sector, stating that the new Parliament offered “a unique opportunity for us to develop a sustainable skills system that will address long-term weaknesses in the country’s performance”.

The announcement follows a review of the qualifications by the ETF, commissioned by Mr Boles and published in March, which concluded that functional skills qualifications were “not broken”, but needed improving. More had to be done to improve employers’ awareness and understanding of functional skills if the qualifications were to be respected, according to the report.

ETF chief executive David Russell said: "We are delighted to have been asked by the minister to set out what a programme of reform to update English and maths functional skills qualifications would involve. We will use our unique sector-owned position in the skills system to consult with education and training professionals and their representatives, employers and other key stakeholders such as awarding organisations, alongside BIS, DfE and Ofqual.”

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