Jonathan Wells on Functional Skills

The Guroo website has an article about Functional Skills, I’ve summarised a few points below:

Functional Skills is all about learning the right process or method to solve realistic and relevant problems, getting to an accurate solution and then being able to interpret and communicate the solution to others.

How do FSs differ from KS3, GCSE and Key Skills?

  • Functional Skills assessment is NOT half way between KS3 and GCSE
  • The teaching of Functional Skills cannot be easily fitted into existing courses

WHY?

The way they will be finally assessed by different exam boards is still “fluid” but early indications are:

  • Exam papers will be themed around real life contexts.  A 60 minute paper may have three themes each with 10-15 questions counting for 1 or 2 marks each.
  • There will be much more reading than GCSE, albeit at a lower reading age level.  This is so the theme can be explained and examples and processes described.
  • The pass mark is expected to be much higher – possibly around 70%.  This suggests that students need to know much more about fewer learning areas.
  • Accuracy is vitally important, indeed it’s the main consideration put forward by employers along with ensuring the right notation/units.
  • Where needed, students will also need to be able to interpret the results and communicate the analysis.
  • The comparison with Key Skills is much easier to make, it’s relatively straightforward to map the curriculum of Key Skills to the Functional Skills standards.  The biggest difference is likely to be that Key Skills is examined on-line by multi-choice questions with students taking the test when they are ready, Functional Skills will be different.
  • For a start, it will be a paper based test – at least for a few years – probably with two test dates per year.  Sample papers from the big exam boards suggest that themes will play a very big part in the tests with 10-20 minutes of questions based around a single theme.
  • Pass rates in pilot schools is VERY low.

Grading will be a simple pass or fail.  A student achieving a marginal fail at level 2 will not be automatically awarded a level 1 pass as each level is completely separate.

The suggestion that themes play a big part is important because it means that pupils must have a good understanding of the underlying learning and have the ability to apply this, accurately, to new situations – clearly they have to practice this, it will not be that case of “do it once and move on”.

Guroo: Jonathan Wells on Functional Skills

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