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News about Functional Skills

Functional Skills Feedback Reports

We are pleased to announce a new system for issuing Functional Skills feedback to centres. Our new feedback reports are produced by our Functional Skills team and are based on your candidate's responses to the assessment. Each report looks at where the candidate dropped marks, showing how they can improve and also offering a greater insight into the way our marks are awarded.

As it requires the direct involvement of our Functional Skills team, each feedback report is charged at £20 per candidate, per assessment.

For more information on using this service please get in touch.

Feb 02, 2015 10:04 AM

Level 2 Functional Skills – English Reading Changes

In response to the Ofqual Thematic Review of Functional Skills, our Level 2 English Reading paper has recently undergone some changes.

The number of multiple-choice questions has been reduced and the number of short answer questions has been increased. As a consequence the paper duration has increased by 15 minutes to 1 hour.

All three reading texts will now follow a similar theme, allowing for more in-depth questioning of the content, format and style.

Learners will not be penalised for spelling and grammar in the Reading Assessment, however, please note that the guidance ‘you do not need to write in full sentences’ has been removed from the assessments as we believe that at this level, learners should be responding in the most appropriate format/style.

Please make sure that learners have tried a sample assessment to see these changes before they take the live assessment.

Dec 24, 2014 10:16 AM

Functional Skills Annual Survey Results

Thank you to all of you who took the time to let us know what you thought of our Functional Skills in the recent survey. We are delighted to have had such a positive response and look forward to continuing to develop our provision and range of support materials.

In response to the survey we have produced a short report on the areas that you wanted us to look at and how we are responding. You can access it here.

If there is anything else you want to share with us please contact the team at

Sep 01, 2014 11:14 AM

Minister Offers Clarification on Functional Skills

In a letter to Ofqual Chief Executive Glenys Stacey, Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock sets out his vision for the future of maths and English GCSEs and offers some much needed clarification on the future of Functional Skills.

The letter, and the subsequent reply from Ms Stacey, relate to the recent Government policy that all students aged 16-19 that do not achieve a good pass in maths and English GCSE should continue to study those qualifications (or other approved qualifications such as Functional Skills) as part of their further education.

The recent clarification concerns the following key points:

  • From this August, learners that did not attain a good pass at GCSE will have to study either Functional Skills or GCSEs as a condition of their funding.
  • From August 2015, these funding rules will be amended so that learners with a grade 'D' at GCSE will continue to study those qualifications, whilst learners with lower grades will be enrolled on stepping stone qualifications, such as Functional Skills.
  • Apprentices and Trainees will continue to study Functional Skills until at least 2020.


Commenting on the news, IQ Chief Executive Raymond Clarke said, "We are delighted by this clarification from Matthew Hancock. Considerable effort has been expended by the sector in the development and implementation of Functional Skills and the empirical evidence is that they are having a beneficial impact.

In an environment where vocational education seems to be in a state of continual revolution and change, the need for which is rarely evidence based and the resulting policy often fundamentally flawed, a commitment to at least 2020 is to be welcomed".

A more in depth look at Functional Skills is expected later this year when Ofqual publish the results of their formal review into the qualifications.

You can access a copy of both the original letter and Ms. Stacey's reply by visiting the Ofqual website. (

Jul 28, 2014 04:46 PM

Functional Skills PE Reports Now Available

A series of reports from the principal examiners for IQ Functional Skills are now available.

The PE reports provide guidance on the IQ qualifications from the principal examiner's point of view, detailing where candidates have been most successful and any areas that are causing them to drop marks.

Tutors can use these reports to provide additional support to their candidates that has been tailored directly to the IQ qualifications.

There are currently three reports available, one each for English, maths and ICT and we will be producing updated versions as time goes on.

You can access them here (please note, you will need to be logged in to the IQ website):

Apr 25, 2014 02:50 PM

Functional Skills Update - Funding Rates & Value vs. GCSE

With maths & English skills provision remaining firmly in the educational spotlight the debate continues over which qualifications are best suited to meet the needs of the next generation of learners.

The biggest question remaining in this debate is whether GCSEs or Functional Skills should be used to deliver maths & English training within Apprenticeships. As things currently stand, a recent GCSE at grades A*-C serves to exempt a learner from further study as part of their apprenticeship. If further study is required, however, then Functional Skills are the preferred option for many providers, as their focus on practical application often appeals to learners in a way that the academic qualifications fail to manage.

The decision to require GCSEs for the new level 3 Early Years Educator courses (EYE) and to not accept Functional Skills as an alternative was greeted with dismay by many in the sector, with some commenters fearing that this served as a prelude to the removal of Functional Skills from Apprenticeship frameworks. A recent discussion held by The Guardian supported the suggestion that this type of change could have a significant negative impact on Apprenticeships.

IQ is currently keeping a close eye on all developments relating to Functional Skills and will be working with the regulator and other interested parties to ensure that the qualifications to remain an integral part of future maths & English provision.

New funding rates

The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) has recently published its list of simplified funding rates for the 2014/15 academic year and the full list can be accessed here:

The funding rates for popular Functional Skills and GCSE qualifications are listed below.

  • £941 for Entry Level Functional Skills qualifications in maths.
  • £724 for Entry Level Functional Skills qualifications in English.
  • £724 for Level 1&2 Functional Skills qualifications in maths.
  • £724 for Level 1&2 Functional Skills qualifications in English.
  • £724 for GCSE qualifications in maths.
  • £724 for GCSE qualifications in English.
  • £336 for Functional Skills qualifications in ICT at all levels.
  • £300 for free standing maths qualifications at Level 2.

Apr 15, 2014 03:20 PM

Functional Skills Updating Events

In partnership with EM Skills and some of our awarding organisation partners, IQ is delighted to bring you the Functional Skills Updating Events!

Running in the first half of May, these events are not to be missed as we're going to be bringing you a packed programme of lively discussion and practical workshops to four locations across the country, completely free of charge!

Highlights include the launch of new learning resources from Hodder Education (see below), an update on recent Government policy and the wider educational landscape as well as advice from leading Functional Skills expert Maureen Emmett on how to put the 'fun' back into Functional Skills delivery.

The events will take place on the following dates:


If you're interested in attending you can book your free place at but please be aware, spaces are limited and tickets are being distributed on a first come first served basis.

The programme will run as follows:

12.00 -  Registration and lunch

12.45 - Welcome from the host OCN

1.15 - Update on the landscape for functional skills.
Maureen Emmett - EM Skills

1.30 -   New resources - Hodder

2.00 - Toolkit challenge: Putting the ‘fun’ into functional skills. Part 1
Maureen Emmett - EM Skills

2.30 - Refreshments: networking

2.45 - New assessment approach - Industry Qualifications

3.00 - Toolkit challenge: Putting the ‘fun’ into functional skills. Part 2
Maureen Emmett - EM Skills

3.45 - Plenary
Host OCN

4.00 - Close


For more information please get in touch.


Hodder Functional Skills Solution


Guide your learners from initial assessment to exam success with this comprehensive new online
service from Hodder Education, one of the largest providers of FE resources in the UK.


Developed with support from Functional Skills expert Maureen Emmett, and delivered via the
award-winning Dynamic Learning platform, this service


  • Generates individual learning plans via an accurate diagnostic tool developed especially for Functional Skills
  • Structures learning and tracks progress through computer-marked assessments
  • Ensures learners have mastered underpinning knowledge with online tutorials
  • Supports non-specialist tutors with tutor guidance notes
  • Helps learners prepare for the assessments with numerous real past papers, complete with examiners’ mark schemes and model answers


It’s the perfect solution for delivering Functional Skills to apprentices, work-based learners and
independent learners in college.


For sample resources, more information or to sign up for a free 30-day trial, please visit

Apr 10, 2014 12:01 PM

GSCE required for Early Years Education. Why?

Following the Government's announcement of the entry requirements for the new Early Years Education qualifications, Maureen Emmett, Director of EM Skills, questions the impact these changes will have.

The announcement by the Department of Education (DfE) that in order to access the new Level Three  Early Years Education qualifications (EYE) learners need to have GCSE grade ‘C’ or above in maths and English, on entry, has caused an uproar in the sector, on two counts.

Firstly that Functional Skills will not be accepted as equivalent to GCSEs and secondly that the requirement will need to be completed before the training commences.

Stewart Segal, the chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning providers (AELP), made his feelings on the announcement very clear. He said, “Our view is that is completely wrong.  It will exclude many people that have been failed by the system and we should set qualification requirements at the end (of training) not the beginning”.

Rob Wye, chief executive of CACHE added his disapproval. “While we recognise the importance of maths and English as a key part of developing a professional workforce for early years, we are concerned that making it a pre-requisite to starting training, rather than to starting employment at the end of the course, will dissuade very many excellent vocational learners among young people and adults from coming forward for the EYE”.

Clearly the DfE have missed the point. Their response that “These reforms will raise the overall quality of literacy and numeracy skills of those entering the workforce” demonstrates a lack of understanding of how useful Functional Skills qualifications are for those embarking on a vocational career. The Functional Skills standards are robust and reflect the content of a GCSE. But they assess learners in a different way. Writing a letter, composing a formal email, being about to understand budgets don’t feature in the GCSE examinations, but they do in functional skills. Moreover they are available on demand, on paper and onscreen so that learners can access them when ready, rather than waiting a whole year to take an examination.

How can undertaking Functional Skills qualifications fail to raise the overall quality of literacy and numeracy skills of those entering the workforce?


Maureen Emmett

Director EM Skills

Apr 15, 2014 03:18 PM

Maths & English Study Becomes Mandatory for Students Without a ‘C’ in GCSEs

The government has today revealed details of its (previously announced) plans to make students who fail to attain a ‘C’ grade or above at GCSE continue to study English and maths.

Those lacking the necessary grades will either have to re-sit the examinations or can take an alternative qualification, such as Functional Skills. The change comes into effect today alongside the decision to raise the participation age, ensuring that all young people must remain in some form of education or training until their 17th birthday (or 18th from 2015).

The move, which is estimated to impact around 250,000 students, is designed to help realise the Government’s ambition of raising standards in core maths & English skills, which follows on from Professor Alison Wolf’s review on improving vocational education (2011). She concluded that too many young people who were entering the workplace lacked basic skills and that this was seriously jeopardising their future employment prospects.

Welcoming the announcement, Professor Wolf described maths & English as “just utterly critical” and said that “recognising [their] central place… in society is long overdue”. Skills Minister Matthew Hancock stated that those who fail to leave school with a good GCSE grade suffer “a huge impairment to their future life” and that continuing a student’s learning experience beyond GCSE would help to address this.

Whilst the desired outcome of this scheme is for more students to attain a ‘C’ grade at GCSE, the choice on whether to retake the exam will remain with the student themselves and for many, a less abstract and more work-based qualification such as Functional Skills might prove more desirable.

Today’s announcement comes as many young people start returning to school or college after a summer holidays which saw the number of top grades achieved at GCSE fall for the second year in a row. There was also a drop in the overall pass rate for the first time in the exam’s 25 year history.

Sep 02, 2013 10:58 AM

Functional Skills - New Introductory Offer

With Functional Skills in English and Maths due to be available for centres to offer this month, IQ are launching a special introductory offer.

We are delighted to confirm that IQ has now been accredited to offer all of the Maths and English Functional Skills qualifications, with development of ICT not far behind! The first registrations should be well underway by the end of this month.

Functional Skills are vitally important for IQ and our customers, given that they are a compulsory component of apprenticeships and will play a key role in raising general Maths and English skills in the workforce. We now join an elite group of just 17 awarding organisations that are accredited to offer these qualifications.

To give you some background, Functional Skills were developed to replace Key Skills and Skills for Life qualifications in 2010, after concerns were raised that learners were still lacking the basic knowledge they needed to function in the workplace.

In developing these qualifications, we have tried to stay as close as possible to this original design purpose. As such, our Functional Skills assessment is fully grounded in the workplace. We provide realistic scenarios, use familiar office software and acknowledge modern office realities through the use of features such as a spelling check.

Functional Skills are recognised by the government as approved qualifications which support development in English and Maths and feature in Ofsted guidance. Besides being a key requirement for apprenticeship frameworks and traineeships and being taken by full-time learners engaged in further education, they are also useful for adults in work or preparing for work. This crucial role they play in up-skilling the nation is reflected in the funding they receive. Adult learners are entitled to £724 per subject for stand-alone Functional Skills (with even more for Entry Level Maths) and the payment for apprenticeships has recently been almost doubled!

If you aren’t currently offering Functional Skills but want to consider these qualifications as part of your offer, IQ can offer you support in up-skilling your staff. The IQ Level 3 Award in Mathematics for Numeracy Teaching and the IQ Level 3 Award in English for Literacy and Language Teaching are new qualifications, designed to support assessors to develop their own Maths and English skills so that they can support learners more effectively.

New Introductory Offer

To encourage you to try our innovative new approach with your learners, IQ will be offering the Level 1 and 2 Functional Skills registrations at half the usual price for the next 3 months.

This means that during the months of August, September and October, you can register learners on the  for just £6.75! Switching to IQ is easy with no product installation required and we offer you the choice of paper based or online / on-screen assessments (where applicable).

Our team are standing by to talk you through any questions you might have so if you need any more information or you would like guidance on how to be approved to offer functional skills with IQ, please give us a call!

Aug 01, 2013 04:36 PM

Development Spotlight: English Functional Skills

In this edition of development spotlight, we take a closer look at our upcoming suite of Functional Skills qualifications in English.

The English suite consists of five qualifications at Entry Level 1, Entry Level 2, Entry Level 3, Level 1 and Level 2 and forms a mandatory part of apprenticeship programmes for learners without a GCSE at grades A*- C. This range of levels will allow us to cater to all levels of learner ability, providing a Functional Skills solution for everyone.

Each qualification consists of a single unit which is divided into three constituent parts, which are separately assessed. These are:

  • Speaking, listening and communication (SLC)
  • Reading
  • Writing.

All of our questions are based on roleplaying real work and life scenarios and are given in the form of instructions to the candidate. In a writing question, for example, the learner might be asked to compose an email to their boss, whilst a reading paper might test their understanding of a set of company procedures.

At the entry levels, the reading and writing components are both externally set (by IQ) but are marked internally by centres. This gives centres the freedom to adapt or contextualise papers to a learner’s own unique circumstances and working / living environment. The SLC component is an internally set and marked assessment at all five levels and centres are free to use naturally occurring evidence so long as it’s not drawn from an existing portfolio.

For learners taking an English Functional Skill at level 1 or 2 the papers are externally set and marked by IQ, either by posting them to us or through our new online assessment system. Sample papers are currently being added to our website and should be available for download from the qualification pages shortly.

We anticipate that all Maths and English Functional Skills qualifications will be live and available to centres before the end of the month. To add them to your list of approved qualifications or to become a centre with IQ, please get in touch.

Aug 01, 2013 03:18 PM

Development Spotlight: Maths Functional Skills

This edition of development spotlight we are taking a look at two qualifications from our upcoming suite of Functional Skills.

The IQ Functional Skills Qualification in Mathematics at Entry Level 1 and the IQ Functional Skills Qualification in Mathematics at Entry Level 2 are the first of the Maths suite to be accredited and are aimed at learners of all ages looking to develop their skills in a work-related context.

Both qualifications will be assessed through a one and a half hour paper, which is taken under controlled assessment conditions and internally marked by centres. With a key focus on making maths work-related and relevant to the everyday tasks candidates face, we are also producing a range of papers, so that centres can match the most appropriate paper to their learners.

All of our functional maths questions revolve around everyday tasks, such as working out which train you need to catch to attend a meeting on time, buying lunch whilst on a budget or simply counting supplies / stock levels (something that can be contextualised to fit the candidate’s working environment). We anticipate that these entry level Maths qualifications will be available to centres from the 1st of July. A sample assessment and mark scheme will be available on our website shortly.

Unlike the three Entry Level qualifications, however, the Level 1 and 2 are externally assessed, using our innovative online assessment platform, which we are currently finalising. To participate in the open pilot programme, click here.


With the launch of Functional Skills, IQ will be able to provide complete apprenticeship packages to our centres, greatly easing the administrative burden they face.

As a compulsory element of apprenticeships (for candidates without the appropriate GCSEs at grade C or above), Functional Skills play a vital role in helping to raise the employability prospects of those that take them. Indeed, the importance of Functional Skills was recently recognised by Government, with the doubling of funding rates in order to encourage quality provision; the fully funded rate will be £724 from August 2013.

To compliment IQ’s development of the Functional Skills suite, we have also developed two teaching qualifications at level 3, The IQ Level 3 Award in Mathematics for Numeracy Teaching and the IQ Level 3 Award in English for Literacy and Language Teaching. These awards are available now and are designed to help up-skill teachers and assessors.

All Things Functional

Finally, we would urge anyone interested in Functional Skills to attend the ‘All Things Functional Conference’ on 14th June for a host of workshops and presentations by sector experts. More information can be found here.

May 31, 2013 02:59 PM

New Awards for Teachers of English and Maths

Industry Qualifications has further developed its range of qualifications in the teaching and education sector with the announcement of two new awards designed specifically for teachers of English and Maths.

The IQ Level 3 Award in Mathematics for Numeracy Teaching and the IQ Level 3 Award in English for Literacy and Language Teaching will provide those involved in these fields with a solid foundation, allowing them to work as teaching assistants or as practitioners of Functional Skills. These awards will also serve as evidence for those wishing to progress to further levels such as the Level 5 Subsidiary Diploma in Teaching English (Literacy) in the Lifelong Sector.

To achieve the Numeracy qualification, learners must complete 2 of the 3 available units. These centre on using Maths in a variety of different settings, whether academic, professional and vocational or public and personal. This element of choice allows the award to be tailored to the needs of individual learners. Those taking the qualification in English will complete four units, which are divided around the key skills of reading, speaking and writing, alongside an assignment based unit on analysing language.

The development of these qualifications complements IQ’s continued work on Functional Skills, for which we were recently approved by Ofqual, (see here). With the growing significance of Functional Skills in the vocational and educational sectors, these qualifications will give practitioners a thorough grounding in the skills they need.

Commenting on the development of these awards, Maureen Emmett, director of EM Skills and Head of IQ Functional Skills, said “With so many learners now taking Functional Skills we are going to need to up-skill a lot of non-subject specialists to help with the delivery. These qualifications are just what practitioners need to ensure that they have both the underpinning knowledge and the practical application in English and Mathematics to deliver Functional Skills effectively.”

We anticipate that the awards will go live before the end of February. Finally, we are considering developing a similar qualification for ICT practitioners and are currently looking to gauge sector demand. If you would be interested in this award or are looking to offer the English and Maths qualifications then please get in touch.

Jan 29, 2013 12:17 PM

IQ Approved for Functional Skills

IQ’s accreditation has been extended to offer assessments and qualifications in Functional Skills by the qualifications regulator Ofqual from the 7th December. Functional Skills qualifications are a fundamental part of all apprenticeship frameworks and few awarding organisations have gained approval to date.

“We are delighted by the news,” said Raymond Clarke Chief Executive of IQ. “The extension of our accreditation comes after significant work by the IQ team. We had the foresight to engage EM Skills, which is led by the former lead on functional skills at the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Authority (QCDA), Maureen Emmett, to lead the IQ Functional Skills development. As an integral and ongoing member of the IQ management team, her profile and experience combined with the dedication and professionalism of the IQ and EM Skills teams has been a major contributor to our progress. As always, our focus has been on quality and I believe that this shone through in the submission to Ofqual.”

Maureen Emmett said, “We are already talking to a wide range of training companies, and indeed a range of awarding bodies seeking to work collectively with IQ Functional Skills. We expect to make significant announcements about the quality and uniqueness of the IQ offer at the EM Skills ‘All Things Functional’ conference in Birmingham on the 25th January, which is being sponsored by IQ.”

IQ expect to launch its Functional Skills qualifications in March 2013, once qualifications and assessments have been approved by Ofqual.

For further details, please contact IQ on 01952457452. Bookings for the Functional Skills Event can be made by at :

Dec 12, 2012 12:37 PM

IQ confirm agreement with EM Skills

Industry Qualifications has today finalised an agreement with Maureen Emmett and EM Skills, to work together on the development and application of functional skills qualifications and support materials.

Maureen Emmett is well known within the education sector having held significant roles within awarding organisations and educational providers. More recently, she has functioned as the national lead for functional skills within the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Authority (QCDA) and will be leaving QCDA on its closure at the end of March to establish EM Skills Ltd. Maureen has been working with IQ since November 2011 on an occasional basis and the new agreement establishes a framework for long term co-operation and partnership.

Under the agreement, EM Skills will provide functional skills products and expertise to IQ, trading as IQ Functional Skills (IQFS). Whilst EM Skills will be free to provide consultancy services to other awarding organisations, it will function as an integrated but autonomous department within IQ in what will remain a unique relationship for EM Skills

“We are delighted that Maureen and her team have committed in this way to IQ”, said Raymond Clarke, Chief Executive of IQ. “Our ability to attract a person of Maureen’s calibre and reputation is not only a huge vote of confidence in the potential of IQ, it is a ringing endorsement of our approach. In coming to agreements of this type, we are demonstrating the potential of aligning ambitions and the interests of organisations within a mutual framework. This agreement between IQ and EM Skills promotes growth for both parties, encourages support operations for other awarding organisations, and does not restrict EM Skills in relation to its wider development. It is a partnership of equals within shared space”.

Maureen Emmett for EM Skills said “We have been encouraged by the openness and professionalism of the IQ team, and indeed how the IQ model is being received by end users. On our part, EM Skills are seeking to develop a range of functional skills qualifications that are relevant on a sectoral basis, combined with a highly responsive service. In order to insure the IQ approach to functional skills assessment is the most appropriate for use in the workplace, we are inviting providers to take part in a pilot over this spring and summer.”

For further details of the IQ Functional Skills pilot please email

Mar 19, 2012 08:41 PM

IQ to offer Functional Skills for employability

Working with expert partners, IQ is in the process of developing Functional Skills qualifications in English, mathematics and ICT at level 1 and level 2 which reflect the needs of employers and their staff. Assessment will reflect the language and processes of the workplace to enhance employees’ skills and support your bottom line.

IQ is pleased to announce that they are to further enhance their current offer with employer focused Functional Skills qualifications.

Working with expert partners, IQ is in the process of developing Functional Skills qualifications in English, mathematics and ICT at level 1 and level 2 which reflect the needs of employers and their staff.  Assessment will reflect the language and processes of the workplace to enhance employees’ skills and support your bottom line.

The assessment method is expected to provide a solution to the issues that have hampered the introduction of functional skills into the workplace. Key aspects of the offer will be:

  • Assessments can be booked and taken on the same day.
  • Assessments can be taken both on or offline, in the workplace or in a provider location.
  • Assessments will reflect the language of the work place and include transferable elements such as customer services, employability and health and safety.
  • Assessment will include computer marked elements, with some instant results, decreasing marking time to less than five days.

This all makes for the most employer-led Functional Skills qualifications in the market today.

With the recent announcement from John Hayes confirming his support for Functional Skills in Apprenticeships, IQ expects to have Functional Skills qualifications available early next summer (2012). With the end date of Key Skills being September 2012 this development could not have been timelier.

IQ is a mutual organisation and welcomes members to work with them on their development to ensure that the needs of the provider, the employer and the learner are at the heart of the offer. If you would like to work with IQ to help develop their Functional Skills qualifications, or just to be kept up to date with the progress, please email Maureen Emmett with your contact details.

We look forward to working with you.

Dec 20, 2011 11:20 AM