May 2023 – December 2023
Chihiro Kobayashi, Paul Warner, Malcolm Williamson (Association of Employment and Learning Providers), Peter Dickinson (University of Warwick, IER)
Functional skills (maths and English) are vital skills in working and everyday life. Despite functional skills being a stated Government priority for a number of years an estimated 9 million working-age adults in England have low basic skills in literacy or numeracy, of which 5 million have low skills in both. Despite the scale of the problem and the benefits of functional skills, its funding (overall, relative and unit funding) has declined over the past ten years, yet there has been little research into the costs of delivering functional skills, and how this relates to how it is funded.
The research examines claims that the content and delivery requirements underpinning Functional Skills have over time been converging with that of GCSEs in English and mathematics, undermining their perceived value in the labour market and elsewhere, and reducing the options for those with less academic learning styles to still achieve the minimum levels of literacy and numeracy skills required in the modern workplace.
The research looks at the place of functional skills within technical education and aims to answer the following questions:
Are there significant challenges related to functional skills in the sector, and if so, what are they?
To what extent does the current content of functional skills align with industry expectations?
How the functional skills reform in 2019 has changed the content of the tests and how it has impacted learners?
This research is commissioned by the Edge Foundation and Gatsby Foundation.