What are Functional Skills?

Functional skills are the skills that were previously called Skills for Life. They are the skills we all need in our lives. Unions have been active for over 20 years in helping members and others to improve these skills, and will continue to do this, using Functional Skills.

With functional skills time needs to be devoted to developing the learner's ability to transfer skills to solving problems in real-life contexts; a learner centred approach involving build – practice – apply.

FAQ for ULRs

What about qualifications?

In the final qualification assessment a wide range of skills is tested. Learners are assessed on their skills, and also on the way in which they apply these skills to a variety of test problems.

What is functional skills qualification reform?

From September 2019 onwards functional skills qualifications change so that there’s new content and new assessments. Unionlearn has gathered the main points of the reform in a briefing document.

Find out more in our Q&A about the temporary flexibilities that apply for English and maths assessments for the summer 2020.

What should learners expect?

Key messages for learners include:

  • Initial assessments find out your individual strengths and learning needs. They help to make sure that any learning is at the right level, and tackles the right skill areas.
  • Learning centres and tutors will focus on helping you to develop the skills you will need in real life contexts and problem solving. So many of your workplace or home English and maths needs will be used to help you understand and improve your skills.
  • Final assessments can be either on paper or using a computer. They will be about showing how you can apply your skills and problem solve in realistic situations.

What about apprenticeships?

Apprentices who have not already achieved GCSE grades 9-4 (A*-C) in English and maths will have to be offered learning towards either Level 2 functional skills or GCSEs. So, if your workplace has an apprenticeship programme, you need to make sure that functional skills are included, and are being properly assessed and taught by the employer and by providers. You will have a key role as a union rep in supporting the learners and ensuring that the quality of provision is good.

Where do I start as a union learning rep?