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What is Functional Skills?

Functional Skills qualifications are becoming more popular in schools and college across the country. What are they and why do we need them?

Functional skills qualifications are part of the "stepping stone" qualifications. This means they can be used as a half-way point to achieving GCSEs or as qualifications in their own right. You can study Functionals Skills in maths, English or ICT if your school or college provide them.

These qualifications are usually seen as more practical courses, teaching you the fundamental maths, English and ICT skills you will need throughout your life. They narrow down the GCSE curriculums to the most essential and useful parts, and teach you to apply these skills in a whole variety of contexts. They offer more flexible forms of assessment as many exam boards now offer online and on-demand exam sessions. This means that you can take the exam as soon as you are ready without having to wait until the end of the academic year, like you would with a GCSE course.

There are several levels of Functional Skills qualifications available. Which you take will depend on your starting ability and your school/college's availability. The levels available are:

  1. Entry Levels (seen as below GCSE level)

  2. Level 1 (seen as equivalent to GCSE grades 1-3)

  3. Level 2 (seen as equivalent to GCSE grade 4).

These qualifications are increasingly common amongst adults returning to education, often with the support of their employer. Many big employers, such as hospitals and the army, now recognise these qualifications and encourage their employees to undertake them.

These courses are free to anyone over the age of 19 providing they do not already hold a GCSE grade 4 or equivalent and they meet the government funding criteria.

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