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Strong support for Functional Skills, report finds

This study showed that 47% of employers know about Functional Skills. 87% of these value them for their approach to applied skills, flexible assessment and problem solving.

This is the first major study of employer views of qualifications in maths and English, in which 1400 employers, learners and training organisations have taken part.

GCSE consistently emerged as a well-known qualification with an established brand. However, employers’ primary focus was the need for young people and adults with good practical maths and English skills, regardless of the specific qualification taken. 

Almost half of employers surveyed now recognise Functional Skills qualifications, but three quarters of employers consulted also believe action is needed to improve practical maths and English skills.

David Russell, chief executive officer at the Education and Training Foundation commented, “Everyone knows – or thinks they know – what a GCSE in maths or English stands for.  But other qualifications exist too, and are increasingly common post-16.  We set out to discover whether employers recognised them, and, if they did, whether they rated them.  We found, unsurprisingly, that it is something people really want to talk about. Employers care about the quality of maths and English skills people have, not just the qualification.  They told us about the type of knowledge and skills which hold real currency and support the success of their businesses.  Nearly half of the employers we surveyed told us they recognised Functional Skills, and most of those who did so valued them for their content and approach.”
Practical knowledge and skills are highly sought after– knowledge such as a firm grasp of units of measurement and skills such as mental arithmetic and approximation, listening, writing and speaking. There was a strong desire for provision which equips people with practical and applied skills–and employers are concerned that a lack of these skills could impact on business.

The Education and Training Foundation is recommending that work needs to be undertaken to aid and accelerate the growing awareness and understanding of Functional Skills. The qualification landscape is complex – with several hundred qualifications available and changes to terminology over the years. This prevents clearly understood routes becoming established.

Other recommendations in the report include ensuring that all learners have access to a curriculum of practical maths and English knowledge and skills a review of the standards on which Functional Skills are based and the creation of a mechanism to provide regular, reliable and representative feedback from employers and providers to inform continual improvement in curriculum and qualifications.


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