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Functional skills - alternative to gcse?

Discussion in 'English' started by danielmstanley, Jul 23, 2015.

  1. danielmstanley

    danielmstanley New commenter

    I am inheriting a small year 10 class who are very weak (reading ages vary from 8 - 12). The new strengthened GCSE for English is well out of their reach. I think they'd struggle with igcse even. Would anybody recommend a Functional Skills qualification, or should I be setting my sights higher?
  2. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    Functional Skills is meant to be the same standard as GCSE (at Level 1 or Level 2 as appropriate). In reality, they are quite a bit easier. You're going to struggle to fill two years with that qualification, though.

    Entry Level courses (Entry Level Certificate English or AQA's new Step Up to English) are the traditional choice for those working below GCSE level (the top grade, Entry 3, is broadly equivalent to a National Curriculum Level 3)..

    Perhaps they could do a combination of the two?

    (I'm assuming league tables are not a concern, as none of these qualifications count.)
  3. danielmstanley

    danielmstanley New commenter

    Thanks for that. I've been looking at OCR's level 1, which looks appropriate. As you say, it would be difficult to fill 2 years. However, they spend half their lesson time on Accelerated Reader. I'm wondering whether we could do a combo, as you say, of different courses.
  4. never_expect_anything

    never_expect_anything Occasional commenter

    Assuming, when you say inheriting a Y10 class, that you mean they will be Y10 in September and have not yet started a GCSE course. What does your school normally do with the weaker / low-ability groups like this?

    One level of Functional Skills won't fill two years but you could build up through the levels, if appropriate. i.e. do Entry level 3 / Level 1 next summer (or sooner, as most exam boards have more than one exam series for FS) to build confidence, then start working towards Level 1 / Level 2 next year.

    Also, be aware that (at least for AQA - not sure about other exam boards) Summer 2017 is the final entry for the Entry Level FS qualifications as they are not renewing these following the review, so don't go thinking you'll be able to do the same for other similar groups next year. (ELC last entry, with AQA at least, is Summer 2016, I believe.)

    What about just English Language GCSE without the Literature? Perhaps look into Step Up to English (new ELC equivalent), as CandysDog suggests.
  5. danielmstanley

    danielmstanley New commenter

    Thanks again. My school has run brad streams of mixed ability for years and the weakest kids, such as these would be divided among them. The school decided to create two sets of the very weakest - controversially perhaps. So, this is new terrain. They won't necessarily repeat the experiment next year.

    I like the idea of working up through the levels. I didn't realise entry level FS would be discontinued after 2017, so that's useful info.

    On the basis of these discussions I've decided to do "level up" as you suggest, but also to begin a slow approach to coursework for Cambridge igcse (which we do with our middle ability classes) spread over the two years. I'm going to explore OCR's on-screen testing for FS, too.

    Thanks again for your input.
  6. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    Something that you might find handy is that with OCR (I don't know if other bodies offer the same) you can do Functional Skills papers "on demand"- i.e. you can enter candidates at will - whenever you think you have some that are ready for a certain level.

    Examiners enter the marks within eight working days, and often it's much less time, and so you get the results very promptly.
  7. cammothy

    cammothy New commenter

    I teach Functional Skills at a College. Some of my learners are 14-19 but some are adults who want a L2 qualification but not the demands of GCSE. Some employers and Universities recognise the qualification as a L2 equivalent, some do not. Nonetheless, as some of the other contributors mentioned, it is not as difficult. It is as described-very useful in everyday life.
  8. k1tsun3

    k1tsun3 New commenter

    I heard something about schools being required to enter all students for GCSEs. Of course, as mentioned above, there is no foundation option. That leaves me in a tight spot as I have students (year 10 and 11) who are currently struggling with aspects of functional skills.

    I'm currently working at a small PRU with some students who have missed a year of school. They are currently year 10 and are very weak; they will not be able to cope with the new GCSE. Even if they complete the Level 2 English qualification this year, there is no way they would be able to be ready for the GCSE in one year, especially not both Lit and Lang.

    I guess my questions are:
    1. Can 14-16 year olds be entered for functional skills English and Maths in place of GCSEs?
    2. If they did complete the FS Level 2 qualification at the end of year 11, can they be entered for GCSE Eng Lang only?
    We are currently doing Edexcel FS, and I believe this Pearsons has every intention of continuing to offer it, unlike AQA.

    Thanks in advance!
  9. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    Yes, it is English the subject that is compulsory, rather than any particular qualification (at least at KS4).

    It is expected that students take the GCSEs, though, so you may have to justify yourself to Ofsted. A more normal route would be an Entry Level qualification instead of a GCSE (justified as students are working below GCSE level), but if you put up a good case it should be permitted.

    If you are a maintained PRU (does any other sort exist?), then you still need to ensure that students have covered the National Curriculum (even if they have not been examined on it).

    Also note that non-GCSE qualifications do not count in any performance measures.


    The lack of both GCSEs does mean that the English Language qualification would only be single-weighted in Progress/Attainment 8, though.

    The same rule about covering the National Curriculum (GCSE English Language doesn't cover it on its own) applies.
  10. never_expect_anything

    never_expect_anything Occasional commenter

    k1tsun3 - I feel like I know you; your situation sounds like mine! ;) (Don't panic - I don't think I do know you, as we don't use Edexcel.)

    Just to clarify before I respond, my school is non-maintained, 'independent SEBD', but PRU might be the closest equivalent for most forum readers to understand.

    We have previously used FS English & Maths instead of GCSE for some students, but do follow NC, and are now under pressure to do GCSEs for all. This is a circular dialogue I've been having with my line manager since the new GCSE came in in Sept. Essentially, line manager says 'all students are expected to do GCSE English (including both Lit & Lang)'. I argue, we have sufficient evidence that some students will not cope with this, especially those that come to us with less than 2 years to do the qualification(s), so we can justify this to Ofsted; furthermore, as CandysDog says, covering new NC which says they have to study Lit is not the same as having to take the GCSE in it, so if we have to enter all students for GCSE rather than FS, we should just do Lang unless students are able to cope with Lit too. Line manager disagrees. Bottom line, I am preparing students for qualifications I know they will not pass (GSCE Lang & Lit for students who can't even pass E3 FS yet!) o_O Makes no sense to me. Am hoping line manager will come round and allow entries for FS further down the line...

    So, essentially, k1tsun3
    Yes, and Yes, but it will all depend on your school and the management's viewpoint!
    Good luck! :)
  11. CagedBird

    CagedBird New commenter

    We are currently doing Edexcel FS, and I believe this Pearsons has every intention of continuing to offer it, unlike AQA.

    It's the Entry Level FS qualifications which AQA are withdrawing. The Level 1 and Level 2 FS are continuing with AQA and they can be taken onscreen. They are available 4 times per year
  12. k1tsun3

    k1tsun3 New commenter

    Thanks for the replies. To tell you the truth I don't know the exact qualification of the school. I'm on supply at the moment, but I'm trying to set them up for at least the next term as they continue to hunt for a perm English teacher. I took this position as a stop gap as I waited for my vetting to come through. I start at a YOI next month.

    I believe this place was once a maintained PRU, but it's now more an independent SEBA school (or something similar) with students being referred. It's a mix of KS4 and KS5, and those referred from a local school will follow the syllabus from that school because those students will be reflected on their league tables, as this school isn't an exam centre.

    At KS5, those who need FS will complete that as there isn't a real issue there, but some of our KS4 students need to work through it. I'm just really worried for them as I do think they'll struggle to complete the new GCSE next year. After looking over the exams again, I can understand why they really need the Lit along with the Lang. It's the Lang paper that will be the killer as it's totally unseen. There are two questions that will require to students to analyse a fiction extract, so you'll have to at least cover some fiction. You could use the text from the Lit paper but focus more on the analysis requirements for the Lang paper and hope for the best on the Lit.

    Thanks again. I just want to help provide some organisation and structure for these students before I go, which advising the curriculum manager on who should prepare for what qualification is very much needed here. I'm simply hoping to have that sorted and a term SoW for each by the end of the week. They'll have a non-English teacher (or possibly a supply teacher) teaching them English until they can finally find a perm Eng teacher. The school is due for an Ofsted inspection within the year as well.
  13. cdepablo

    cdepablo New commenter

    Has anybody tried the NCFE vcerts?
  14. jacqablett

    jacqablett New commenter

    I teach Edexcel FS and its really good. Seperate strands for Communication, reading and writing. Not got my head around Entry level yet but 1 and 2 straight forward. Get in touch if you want more details.
  15. jacqablett

    jacqablett New commenter

    Maybe you could do FS level 1 or 2 in Year 10? With Edexcel you get the full mark breakdown so high scorers could do GCSE step up in year 11 or FS level 2? This is what im thinking of but my kids come and go rather quickly.
  16. CaptGrimesRetd

    CaptGrimesRetd Occasional commenter

    A Functional Skills Test has some big advantages.

    It's marked very quickly, sometimes on the same day as it's taken.

    It can be taken at any time - it's not based on the bizarre notion that all children born between September and the following August should sit down and take the exam at the same time on the same day in May, presumably so they can help gather in the harvest when they've finished.

    It's a simple pass / fail - it's not based on the utterly bizarre notion that any exam can hope to differentiate between 9 levels of ability with any degree of reliability. This sort of test is bound to be inaccurate.

    In English it doesn't test bizarre skills like "Descriptive Writing".

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