Advanced Software (return to the homepage)
What are functional skills?
Thought Leadership //03-03-2023

What are functional skills?

by OneAdvanced PR, Author

What are Functional Skills?

Functional Skills are the fundamental ENGLISH, MATHS and ICT/ digital skills that people need to help them achieve their best in their working and personal lives. People can study for the qualifications in practical ways and apply core skills to real-life situations. Successive governments have championed these flexible courses to equip people with the essential skills with words and numbers they need to succeed.

English and maths are essential subjects that are included in most training and education programmes. They are a required component of Diplomas, Foundation Learning Programmes and Apprenticeships, because proficiency in these subjects is crucial for all of the reading, writing and numerical requirements encountered in the workplace. They have an important role in daily life too, helping them with regular tasks including communication, paying bills and doing their shopping.

Digital skills are increasingly required in the workplace and at home now. Many jobs that were once fully manual now often use tablets and other digital devices for things like recording information, check-ins with managers, and for accessing crucial data during the working day. More and more roles also involve remote working for some or part of the week, requiring competency with skills such as managing and joining online meetings, as well as using email with attachments, and other computer software.

Functional Skills can be studied as stand-alone qualifications or as a stepping stone to GCSEs which may be required by some employers.

bksb’s Focus Functional Skills provides learners with effective tools to help them master crucial skills in English, maths and IT for life.

“Functional skills are practical skills in English, mathematics and information and communication technology (ICT) that allow individuals to operate confidently, effectively and independently in life and work.” Department for Education and Skills

Functional Skills Levels

Functional Skills qualifications are available at Entry 1, Entry 2, Entry 3, Level 1 and Level 2. As an approximate comparison, Entry Level 1 – 3 is below GCSE level, Level 1 is comparable to GCSE grades 1 – 3, and Level 2 is comparable to GCSE grade 4.

How are Functional Skills assessed?

Functional Skills assessments are graded as either a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’. There are no proxies and no portfolio elements for these qualifications. All Entry Level examinations are paper-based. They are assessed internally and are moderated by the centre.

Both Level 1 and Level 2 can be taken online or as a paper exam. Online exams can be taken on demand, but paper assessments must be taken during weeks set by the awarding body. Level 1 and Level 2 are externally assessed and carried out in exam conditions at the assessment centre.

Functional Skills in Apprenticeships

If an apprentice has not previously achieved grade 9 – 4, (pre-2017: A*-C) in GCSE English and maths, they must work towards either their Level 2 Functional Skills or GCSEs. For some apprenticeships, they may only need to achieve Level 1. Functional Skills form a key part of apprenticeships, providing individuals with the skills in literacy and numeracy they need to complete their qualification.

I am a student. Why do I need Functional Skills?

Some students may wonder why they need to do English, maths and ICT when they are taking a more vocational, practical course or career path. These subjects are, in fact, vitally important in almost any path you have chosen. For example, an employer may require you to read and understand written instructions, or to communicate clearly to others with a clearly-written message. Sometimes misspelling a similar word, or mis-use of punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence completely. There may be a requirement to measure lengths and distances, or to calculate the volume of liquids or space. Even with a calculator built into most phones these days, it is of little use without understanding the required mathematical process.

Focus Functional Skills – your eLearning solution

Focus Functional Skills is your own online resource, built to help learners improve the skills needed for their qualifications and setting them on the road for success in work and daily life. Our package of assessment and development identifies a suitable start point and pathway, then supports the teaching of vital skills. It’s designed to help prepare learners for the exams through a series of guided learning support and revision resources. 

Our Initial Assessment provides a tool for tutors to identify a learner’s working level. The Diagnostic Assessment then provides an analysis of a learner’s strengths and weaknesses. This data gives tutors the key information needed to begin to track a learner’s journey.

Our resources, progress checks and exam practice help learners to improve their English and maths skills. They can be used in a class situation or via distance learning. Tutors can track a learner’s progress through their individual programme. All products are accessed from our award-winning bksbLIVE 2 platform.

The products can be used to prepare for qualifications from all awarding organisations.

How can bksb help?

bksb created the original process for the assessment and development of basic and key skills back in the 1990s. As they have evolved into what we now recognise as Functional Skills, we have been at the forefront of understanding exactly what is required to ensure learners are prepared to pass their qualifications. We also invest a great deal of time in helping tutors, managers, and organisations to maximise the provision that they offer to their learners. Please never hesitate to get in touch if we can help in any way.

bksb is a global leader in the creation of EdTech products which improve English, maths and digital skills.

Thought Leadership Training Providers Blog Education
OneAdvanced PR

OneAdvanced PR



Our press team, delivering thought leadership and insightful market analysis.

Read published articles