Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Functional skills tests 'no barrier'

The DCSF announced its decision at the beginning of April that functional skills tests will be available as stand-alone qualifications but they will not be a barrier for the achievement of a grade C in GCSE English, mathematics and ICT. Functional skills will continue to be a requirement for all diploma students but will be optional for GCSE students.

ASCL had campaigned strongly for this outcome and it is encouraging to see the DCSF listening to reason. As John Dunford said when the decision was made: "School and college leaders will need to feel confident that the tests will be valued by employers before they decide to enter all students."

Ofqual has now issued the new criteria for the GCSEs and awarding bodies will be making draft material available. The GCSE specifications will be in centres during the autumn term 2009 for first teaching in September 2010.

The three new GCSEs will include a functional element and schools and colleges can make their own decisions about whether to enter students for functional skills as well as GCSEs. The DCSF will encourage, but not oblige, schools and colleges to use them.

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