COVID-19 – Functional Skills Arrangements for Apprenticeships

A Summary of the Current Guidance and Temporary Flexibilities

Information correct at the time of last update – 14/05/2020

Do apprentices still need English and maths to complete their apprenticeship during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Yes.  The requirement to achieve approved maths and English qualifications remains unchanged:

  • Level 2 apprenticeships require achievement of approved Level 1 Functional Skills qualifications or their recognised equivalents.
  • Level 3 apprenticeships require achievement of approved Level 2 Functional Skills qualifications or their recognised equivalents.
  • Higher apprenticeships started since the 1st of August 2019 also require achievement of approved Level 2 Functional Skills qualifications or their recognised equivalents.

Are there any flexibilities to the English and maths apprenticeship requirements at the moment?

Yes.  The current situation means that flexibilities have been approved to support apprentices to complete their programme:

  • Ordinarily, level 2 apprentices that do not hold approved level 2 maths and English qualifications have to learn towards, and attempt, Functional Skills tests at Level 2. Further to a review in July 2020, this rule is now suspended until the 31st of December 2020.
  • If a level 2 apprentice enters end-point assessment without attempting level 2 English and maths, there is no requirement for them to go back to sit them once the flexibilities cease.
  • Level 2 apprentices that have already commenced Level 2 Functional Skills and are due to enter gateway up to 31 December 2020 do not need to continue the Functional Skills aims they have started.
  • Should the Level 2 apprentice wish to continue towards the Level 2 Functional Skills aims that they have already started learning towards, they may do so.

What are the funding implications of the flexibilities?

Funding of Functional Skills remains within the scope of, and subject to, the same ESFA Funding Rules:

  • If an apprentice wishes to continue towards the Level 2 Functional Skills aims they have already started, they will continue to be funded.
  • If an apprentice chooses to cease learning on Level 2 Functional Skills, they will be funded up to the last date of evidenced learning delivery towards the aim(s). Training providers should record the withdrawal in the apprentice’s evidence pack and the ILR.
  • If an apprentice does not hold approved Level 1 qualifications and is assessed to be working below Level 1 in English / maths, Level 1 qualifications remain in the scope of ESFA Funding.
  • If an apprentice does not hold approved Level 1 qualifications and is assessed to be working at Level 1 in English / maths, Level 1 qualifications will not be funded.

How will Calculated Grades be AwardedFunctional Skills be assessed?

Ofqual has confirmed that Functional Skills will be awarded on the basis of calculated grade or adapted assessment. These arrangements will apply during Spring and Summer 2020 and until Ofqual publish an end date.

How will calculated grades be awarded?

Awarding organisations may ask you to provide one or more of the following:

• a Centre Assessment Grade (CAG) – this is derived from evidence held within the centre and is the judgement about the grade that each learner is most likely to have achieved had they been able to complete their assessments in summer 2020.
• a rank order of learners, for them to use as part of the quality assurance
• internal assessment grades for completed work that has not yet been externally moderated or verified

To generate calculated results, and as part of their quality assurance, awarding organisations may also draw on evidence they already hold, including:

• banked marks or grades for completed unit assessments – including external assessments as well as internal assessments where the marks/grades have already been through the normal moderation or verification process
• data about how their qualifications function, for example, whether performance on one component is predictive of performance on another component
• data and information about each centre, for example, their historical performance qualification outcomes, risk profiles, centre visit information and records of any investigations
• prior attainment data, where this is appropriate

You should not provide a Centre Assessment Grade where there is no evidence to support one.

In cases where there is little or no banked unit data, or where CAGs are not possible and/or there is little opportunity or evidence to support the generation of CAGs, or to support the quality assurance process, an awarding organisation may determine that this is below the minimum evidential threshold.

In these cases, it may not be possible to calculate a result and the affected learner(s) may be offered an adapted assessment where possible, or will have to wait until assessments can be rescheduled.

What does ‘adapted assessment’ involve for Functional Skills?

Training Providers will need to confirm with their specific awarding organisation(s) whether and how Functional Skills assessment can be adapted. This may involve:

  • Changing the way assessments are delivered, for example, replacing a paper-based test with an online version.
  • Changing invigilation requirements.
  • Changing quality assurance methods.

What about ‘old-style’ Functional Skills?  Delays might mean apprentices miss the deadline for certification.

Ofqual has confirmed that the deadline for legacy Functional Skills has been extended to the 31st of December 2020, allowing those presently learning towards such qualifications the opportunity to complete them. Awarding organisations will liaise with training providers to confirm their specific arrangements.

Can apprentices undertake end-point assessment if the Functional Skills certificates haven’t been received?

Training providers may be experiencing delays in receiving certificates from awarding organisations. As a Covid-19 response measure, apprentices may pass through to end-point assessment on the basis of an email / letter / screenshot from an awarding organisation confirming that the apprentice has successfully achieved the mandatory levels of Functional Skills required for the apprenticeship. PAL understands that apprenticeship certificates can be applied for using this evidence although, in most cases, we anticipate that the official Functional Skills certificate will have been received by that point.