#FunctionalSkills versus GCSE’s in #Apprenticeships

Current Debate

I took part in a recent survey to find out what support is needed for training providers to help prepare them for running GCSE’s in English and Maths for Apprentices from September 2015.   Naturally, out came my soap box and my fingers positively flew across the keyboard, entering as much detail as possible to get ITEC’s viewpoint across.

And, I have to say, my words were heard!   I had a call from a consultant to discuss my viewpoint and, again, a couple of days later, another consultant called to clarify some of my points! Excellent!


Most of the survey was about how the Government could provide funding to support us and upskill our staff through this transition period but I have been pointing out, quite vocally, that they cannot resolve this issue by throwing money at it.

ITEC’s viewpoints #ITECLT #bestofbasildon #Basildon #Essex

  • The specialist teachers for Maths and English are in the schools
  • My staff are industry trainers and specialise in IT not English and Maths
  • Apprentices have spent 11 years in full-time education with specialist teachers, surely if they were on the right path to get a Grade A-C in their GCSE English and Maths, this would have been it!
  • What teaching do they expect my trainers to deliver that will give the Apprentices a higher grade in their GCSE’s in just 12 months?
  • Why are we putting up a barrier for some apprentices?   Most #apprentices really shine at work because they are ready to be out there in the working world. Not all young people – regardless of academic ability – are cut out for full time classroom learning and exams. #Apprenticeships are therefore the perfect solution as the majority of the learning takes place at work and is assessed on the ability to do the job and not to be able to pass an exam. Just because somebody isn’t brilliant at maths or English doesn’t mean that they are not capable of becoming a valued and skilled member of the workforce.
  • We have had Basic Skills in Literacy and Numeracy. These were changed to Key Skills in Communication and Application of Number, which in turn were changed to Functional Skills in English and Maths.   Why are we once again ‘throwing out the baby with the bath water’?   Employers have gotten used to the term ‘Functional Skills’ – let’s keep it!

Another important point to consider

MCSA-LogoWhy are apprentices (and training providers) penalised if they don’t achieve a C Grade in Maths and English?   Surely it is about distance travelled and they should not be refused a full Apprenticeship Certificate for not making the C Grade CompTIA logowhen they have worked so hard to achieve their vocational Diplomas!   It seems to get forgotten that these apprentices are holding down full-time jobs as well as studying for #Microsoft and #CompTIA qualifications and Diplomas!

A final point for consideration

There is one area the consultants can help us with; the awarding bodies! The hoops we need to jump through to register as an examination centre to run GCSE’s is staggering!   We need to have a safe bolted to the floor, the walls need to be of a specified thickness, etc. I kid you not!   We are housed in an old infant school, which we love, but it was hardly built with GCSE’s in mind!!

So, our stand on the #Functionalskills v. #GCSE debate? – let’s keep Functional Skills in #Apprenticeships  Functional Skills

They help to improve work-based maths and English and they just work!  Enough said!

Now, what do you think?

Wendy Vickers, CEO

ITEC Learning Technologies, Burnt Mills Road, Basildon, SS13 1DQ 01268 286929


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