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Ofqual details plan to improve functional skills qualifications

Exams regulator Ofqual has set out a plan to improve the quality of functional skills qualifications to make them “more valid and reliable”.

In a report published today, Ofqual details improvements being made to functional skills qualifications by awarding organisations following its recent review. It warns that further action will be taken if they do not meet its requirements.  

Functional skills qualifications allow students to demonstrate they have achieved practical skills in literacy, numeracy and IT. More than a million were awarded in England last year.

Ofqual says changes being introduced by awarding bodies will make sure the qualifications are high quality and that standards are consistent.

“We want functional skills qualifications to better reflect the achievements of students and more effectively meet employers’ needs,” it says.

Awarding organisations are already starting to make a number of changes, including improving the quality of assessment to provide more real life context and allow students to demonstrate a wider variety of skills.

They are also improving monitoring to make sure standards are met and working more closely with employers to make sure the qualifications meet their needs.

Ofqual says it will review their progress in the autumn, but will be setting out guidance to make sure consistent standards are set in the meantime. It warns that if there is evidence that its requirements are not being met, it will consider “formal regulatory action”.

Jeremy Benson, executive director for vocational qualifications, said: “We take the quality of functional skills qualifications very seriously and have high expectations of the awarding organisations that offer them.

“The changes awarding organisations are making should result in real and visible improvements to functional skills assessments, making them more relevant and more reliable.

“We will follow up on these changes and if we find that qualifications don’t meet our requirements, we will take further action.”

David Hughes, chief executive of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, said practical English and maths skills were “vital” to help young people and adults get on in life and work.

“We know from our work that functional skills qualifications, when delivered well, can make a real difference to learners by making learning relevant to them," he said. “We welcome the work Ofqual is doing to improve the quality of these important qualifications.

“It is vital that they are understood and valued by learners and employers, the quality of the qualification itself and the way it is taught are both important parts of that.”

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Ofqual: vocational qualifications to come under greater scrutiny – October 2014

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