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Functional Skills Exams and COVID-19

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On this page, you will find a summary of communications from Skillsfirst regarding legacy and reformed Functional skills. All of this information has come directly from Skillsfirst themselves and is republished here. It has not originated from VTCT.

For all queries relating to these updates, please contact customerservices@skillsfirst.co.uk

or visit the Skillsfirst website

 

 

Extension to Legacy Functional Skills - 22nd October 2020

As you may be aware, The Secretary of State for Education has agreed to further extend the certification end dates for legacy Functional Skills qualifications in Maths and English to 31st July 2021.

To support customers and learners, Skillsfirst Awards will be extending their qualifications in line with this date. Hopefully, this will allow sufficient time for learners to complete outstanding assessments given the ongoing disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

For information, the final onscreen testing date for learners completing their legacy Functional Skills exams will be Friday 28th May 2021. Skillsfirst does not plan to offer any paper-based assessment opportunities for these qualifications but will continue to accept reasonable adjustment requests on a case-by-case basis.

Please note, as previously communicated, learners have two attempts to pass their legacy exams onscreen in each subject between 3rd August 2020 – 31st May 2021, this does not include any failed attempts prior to these dates.

The final registration and certification dates for ICT Functional Skills remain unchanged (more information can be found here).

If you have any queries relating to this update please email Skillsfirst Customer Services.

Functional Skills Update 11th September

New Exam Platform for Legacy Functional Skills English, Maths and ICT Levels 1 and 2

Skillsfirst are no longer using the SecureAssess or SecureClient platforms for the scheduling or taking of Functional Skills exams.

All Functional Skills exams (legacy and reformed) should now be scheduled and taken within the XAMS platform.

For those centres already using XAMS for Reformed Functional Skills exams, your current logins allow you to schedule legacy Functional Skills and ICT automatically.

Those centres who have not yet used XAMS will need to submit user requests for centre staff. Please complete and return this form to the email address on the form.

Once your account has been created, you will receive an email confirming your login details. This email will also include a link to our website where you will find our XAMS user guide, as well as all of the information you will require to download and install the exam platform.

Withdrawal of Legacy Functional Skills English and Maths Levels 1 and 2
(FSE01, FSE02, FSM01, FSM02)

As you are aware the final certification date for legacy Functional Skills Maths and English qualifications at Level 1 and Level 2 is 31st December 2020.

On-screen assessments (exams) for the legacy Functional Skills English and Maths Levels 1 and 2 qualifications are available to learners until 31st October 2020. Please ensure when planning learners’ assessments, that you allow time for learners to take a re-sit by 31st October 2020 if required. No further paper-based assessments are available.

Learners have a maximum of two opportunities to take on-screen assessments during the period of 3rd August – 31st October 2020. If learners fail the assessment after the second attempt, the centre will be required to register the learner on the relevant Reformed Functional Skills qualification.

In addition, all Speaking, Listening and Communication (SLC) assessments for legacy Functional Skills English Level 1 and 2 qualifications, must have been completed and pass results submitted to Skillsfirst no later than 31st October 2020.

Failure to meet these timescales will result in learners having to be registered on the relevant Reformed Functional Skills qualification.

Functional Skills ICT Levels 1 and 2 Invigilation Guidance

Please find attached the new Functional Skills ICT invigilation guidance. This is in addition to Skillsfirst’s Instructions for Conducting Controlled Assessments.

Please ensure this is shared with all Functional Skills Level 1 and 2 ICT invigilators. To avoid learners being disadvantaged during their assessment, it is imperative that all invigilators are aware of the changes prior to invigilating these exams.

Withdrawal of Learners

It is important that learner data is accurate and up-to-date within Skillsfirst’s registration system (REG) for Functional Skills ICT and legacy Functional Skills English and Maths Levels 1 and 2. Please inform Skillsfirst as a matter of urgency of all learners who are no longer on programme and therefore need to be withdrawn.

If you have any other queries relating to this update please email exams@skillsfirst.co.uk

Changes effective from Monday 3rd August 2020

This update includes important information relating to all Skillsfirst Awards Functional Skills qualifications, with changes effective from Monday 3rd August 2020. 

Functional Skills assessments go-live following the CAG process

We are pleased to confirm that you will be able to schedule Functional Skills exams from Monday 3rd August 2020.

As a centre, it is your responsibility to ensure staff and learners comply with social distancing measures in the examination room.

New exam platform for legacy Functional Skills English, Maths and ICT Levels 1 and 2

Skillsfirst will no longer be using the SecureAssess or SecureClient platforms for the scheduling or taking of legacy Functional Skills exams.

Effective from Monday 3rd August 2020, all Functional Skills exams will be scheduled and taken within the XAMS platform. This now includes legacy Functional Skills English and Maths as well as ICT Levels 1 and 2.

For those centres already using XAMS for Reformed Functional Skills exams, your current logins will allow you to schedule legacy Functional Skills and ICT automatically. 

Those centres who have not yet used XAMS will need to submit user requests for centre staff. Please complete and return the attached form to the email address on the form.

Once your account has been created, you will receive an email confirming your login details. This email will also include a link to our website where you will find our XAMS user guide, as well as all the information you will require to set up the exam platform.

Legacy Functional Skills English and Maths Levels 1 and 2 (FSE01, FSE02, FSM01, FSM02) withdrawal plan

You will be aware the certification end dates for the above qualifications have been extended until 31st December 2020.

On-screen assessments (exams) for the legacy Functional Skills English and Maths Levels 1 and 2 qualifications will be available to learners from 3rd August – 31st October 2020.

Learners will have a maximum of two opportunities to take on-screen assessments during this period. If learners fail the assessment after the second attempt, the centre will be required to transfer the learner to the relevant Reformed Functional Skills qualification.

In addition, all Speaking, Listening and Communication (SLC) assessments for legacy Functional Skills English Level 1 and 2 qualifications must have been completed and submitted to Skillsfirst no later than 31st October 2020.

Failure to meet these timescales will result in learners having to be registered on the relevant Reformed Functional Skills qualification.

Accessing learners’ results in SecureAssess

Centres will have access to review all legacy Functional Skills English, Maths and ICT Levels 1 and 2 results up to Friday 28th August 2020, after which time this system will no longer be available. Please ensure you have checked all results by this deadline.

Functional Skills ICT Levels 1 and 2

For those centres offering Functional Skills ICT Levels 1 and 2, further information will be sent to you shortly regarding the specific changes relating to these exams.

Remote invigilation

Skillsfirst plans to offer the opportunity for centres to carry out remote invigilation of Functional Skills exams very soon.

To ensure the system is robust and the security of exams are not at risk, they are currently carrying out testing of the proctoring and XAMS systems and will be providing further information relating to this, including any related costs, very soon.

If you have any queries relating to this update please email Skillsfirst Customer Services.

Skillsfirst update 23rd June

We wanted to take this opportunity to remind you that the window for centre assessment grades (CAG) submissions closes on Monday 29th June 2020.

To ensure your learners who were due to take Functional Skills assessments between 20 March and 31 July 2020 are given the opportunity to achieve the functional skills grade they need to progress to further education or employment, please read the guidance provided on the Skillfirst website here. In addition to the guidance, you can also find the template submission forms and FAQs.

Some customers have asked whether they can choose not to participate in the centre assessment grades process for Functional Skills and therefore ‘opt-out’. Allowing assessments to happen as normal may be attractive and convenient to some centres, however, Government policy is clear that the overriding aim is to issue valid and reliable results using the centre assessment grade process, to as many learners as possible, so that they can progress. It is recognised that many learners will have missed out on a significant period of teaching and learning due to Covid-19, which will have impacted their readiness to take an assessment. Divergence from centre assessment grades may create greater unfairness.

Please note, if a centre believes they are not able to participate for whatever reason, please contact Skillsfirst as a matter of urgency to discuss this. Where a centre is uncooperative and does not engage with Skillsfirst, this is an Adverse Effect, as learners are being disadvantaged and Skillsfirst is required to inform Ofqual.

There have also been a number of enquiries asking for clarification regarding CAGs and furloughed staff and who can confirm evidence in their absence. It has generally been envisaged that CAGs can only be determined by a learner’s teacher. It is recognised, however, that in some cases a particular teacher may not be available (e.g. due to illness, furlough, leaving the centre etc). Under those circumstances, we would expect you to take a pragmatic approach. If the Head of Centre can confirm that there is sufficient evidence available for another member of staff to use to inform their professional judgement, in these circumstances, that would be acceptable. The Head of Centre must make this clear when completing the Head of Centre declaration form.

Ofqual’s guidance to centres (published 22nd May) notes: “Judgements must be objective and fair. They should be a holistic professional judgement, balancing the different sources of evidence, using knowledge of the assessment aims and criteria and reviewed by qualification teachers/tutors and relevant heads of department”.

Can we also remind you that during the CAG process Skillsfirst are unable to allow functional skills live assessments to take place, either in normal invigilation conditions or remotely. This has been stipulated by both the Secretary of State for Education and Ofqual. Skillsfirst plan to make live assessments available from 1st August 2020, further information will be published shortly.

If you have any queries relating to this update please email customerservices@skillsfirst.co.uk

Extraordinary Regulatory Framework Skillsfirst Vocational Qualifications 12 June 2020

As you will have seen, Skillsfirst recently published their guidance for Centre Assessed Grading (CAG) for Functional Skills qualifications. You can find further information here.

Following direction from Ofqual and the Secretary of State for Education, they will also be providing guidance very soon on their approach to adaption of assessments for their other vocational qualifications.

This will enable learners who had planned to take assessments between 20th March and 31st July 2020 to progress onto further education and employment without delay.

In summary, adaption is proposed for qualifications where:

• An estimated (or calculated) grade is not possible
• Learners are completing qualifications where the primary aim is to signal occupational competence
• The validity of the assessment will remain protected
• It does not conflict with identified health and safety or safeguarding issues

The overall aim is to provide as many learners with sufficiently valid and reliable results this summer as possible. In order to minimise the burden on centres and learners, delaying or re-scheduling assessments should be the option of last resort.

More comprehensive guidance on Skillsfirst’s approach to adaption will be issued by 16th June.

Centre assessed grades

Centre Assessment Grading (CAG) Guidance for Functional Skills 26 May 2020

As you are no doubt aware, the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have led to the cancellation of Functional Skills exams and prevented many assessments from being taken as planned.

Skillsfirst have worked closely with Ofqual and other Awarding Organisations to develop a robust, consistent process (Centre Assessment Grading (CAG) to enable centres to submit calculated grades for their learners.

We will be publishing the documents that outline the approach Skillsfirst is taking to CAG tomorrow (27th May 2020). The process has been developed to ensure, as far as is possible, that learners receive results that enable them to progress to the next stage of their lives or careers without further disruption.

Head of Centre Declaration Form

Functional Skills CAG Submission Form

Functional Skills CAG Submission – example

 

Webinar Support

Skillsfirst will be hosting a free webinar to support centres and share further information on the CAG process for Functional Skills qualifications. The webinar will expand on the guidance documents and will be hosted by our Head of Product Development, Ian Sugarman.

The first webinar will take place at 2 o’clock Thursday 28th May and will be repeated at 10am on Tuesday 2nd June. To login to the webinar please follow the following link:

Registration link to – Guide to Calculated Assessment Grading for Functional Skills

Please send any advance questions when your register for the webinar or via customerservices@skillsfirst.co.uk

Centre Assessment Grading for Functional Skills 18th May

Please find attached an important update relating to the Centre Assessment Grading (CAG) process for Functional Skills qualifications.

It is imperative that this is shared with all tutors involved with the Centre Assessment Grading (CAG) process, for both Legacy and Reformed Functional Skills qualifications.

Further guidance to support the Functional Skills centre assessment grading will follow later this week.

Certificate Dispatch Update 18 May 2020

We have had a number of queries relating to the dispatch of Skillsfirst certificates during the Covid-19 crisis.

Despite the gradual easing of lockdown, for the time being Skillsfirst employees will continue to work from home for their own safety. This means that we are still not printing hard copy certificates at the current time.

However, all certificates are still available to view through our secure VERifirst portal. This is available at no cost to providers, learners and employers and enables you to provide evidence of achievements for funding agencies.

If you need to set-up access to VERifirst please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please email customerservices@skillsfirst.co.uk with your request. As soon as we’re able to get back to the office we’ll aim to print your hard copy certificates as quickly as possible.

Functional Skills Latest Update - 1st May 2020

A reminder that Ofqual’s consultation on proposals for awarding vocational and technical qualifications this summer is open for responses until Friday 8th May 2020 and all providers and stakeholders are encouraged to respond.

Government policy states that learners due to take functional skills assessments between March 20th and July 31st 2020 should receive a calculated result, rather than an adapted or postponed assessment.

In light of this, Skillsfirst believes it would be beneficial for you to consider the types of evidence that you could submit to support assessor/tutor grade calculation. This could include:

• Results of practice papers
• On-programme learning evidence
• Assessor records
• Evidence of GLH being met
• Evidence of additional teaching that has taken place after failed exams
• Mock SLC assessments and records
• Main aim evidence which could relate to Functional Skills
• Formative assessment, such as marked exercises and assignments which are carried out after a teaching session

Please note, this is not an exhaustive list. Skillsfirst are working with Ofqual and other awarding organisations to provide detailed guidance for our customers. This will be published following the completion of Ofqual’s consultation.

It is also worth highlighting that you will be expected to provide both pass and fail calculated grades for learners due to take assessments between the dates specified above.

If you have any queries relating to this update please email customerservices@skillsfirst.co.uk.

Functional Skills Latest Update - 27th April 2020

Skillsfirst wish to communicate a number of significant Functional Skills related updates, following the launch of the Ofqual consultation on Friday.

The consultation sets out proposals for awarding vocational and technical qualifications this summer, including functional skills. This consultation is open for responses until 11.45pm on 8 May 2020 and can be accessed here. All providers and stakeholders are encouraged to respond.

It is important to note that Government policy is that learners due to take a functional skills qualification before the end of the summer should receive a calculated result, rather than an adapted or postponed assessment.

Following the outcome of the consultation, Skillsfirst will provide further guidance on the evidence they require from centres to calculate grades.

In light of this, the DfE have also announced that ‘the rule requiring level 2 apprentices to study towards, and attempt, the functional skills assessments at level 2 is suspended temporarily’.

In addition, the regulation end date for legacy functional skills qualifications has been extended from 31 August 2020 to 31 December 2020. We will update on any potential implications associated with this extension in future updates.

Functional Skills Update - April 23rd

Following recent meetings with Ofqual and other Functional Skills Awarding Organisations, Skillsfirst have made the decision to make onscreen Functional Skills exams available for those centres who can deliver them safely to learners.

We understand, given the current lockdown situation, that this will not be possible in many circumstances, as social distancing must be applied from an invigilation perspective. However, we are keen to ensure that learners are able to achieve their qualifications where they can do so safely and within government guidelines.

It is likely this current arrangement will be in place until the conclusion of the Functional Skills estimated grades consultation, due to be published week commencing 27th April.

Please note that remote invigilation (via proctoring or other means) has not been agreed by the regulator as an adaptation to the invigilation of Functional Skills qualifications.
 
Skillsfirst Awards are committed to supporting their customers throughout this difficult period and are keen to ensure that no learners are disadvantaged. 

Message from the Operations Director of Skillsfirst regarding Functional Skills examinations

 

Dear customer

Following the recent COVID-19 (Coronavirus) guidance from the Government, we are conscious many of you have questions regarding the completion of Functional Skills exams and the Speaking, Listening and Communication assessments. It is difficult to identify and apply a single solution across the board and we are seeking guidance from the Regulator, in relation to this.

Initially the advice provided to awarding organisations from Ofqual is that where possible, assessments should be postponed and re-scheduled for a later date. This is something our testing platform enables you to do simply, and without cost.

We understand that this may prevent some learners from achieving qualifications and progressing to gateway/employment at this difficult time. Therefore, if you believe the postponement of assessments will have a detrimental impact on a learner, please contact us with an explanation as to why (providing as much evidence as possible). You should also include a proposal explaining how you plan to manage the risks involved in carrying out the assessment, which we will review on a case by case basis. Please email this to customerservices@skillsfirst.co.uk.

Whilst making any decisions regarding adapting invigilation methods, or conducting SLC assessments, Skillsfirst must ensure that the security of the assessment will not be breached and that a particular learner (or group of learners) are not being advantaged or disadvantaged.

In addition, we have received numerous enquiries about the legacy Functional Skills English and Maths end dates. Ofqual have confirmed they are in urgent talks with the DfE regarding this and we will keep you informed of any decisions that are made as quickly as we can.

In these difficult and unprecedented times, we remain committed to supporting our customers and learners to the best of our ability. Please be assured we are doing our very best to continue to provide our normal services wherever possible.

To ensure we are able to respond to queries as efficiently as possible, please use the following email addresses:

Awarding queries (quality assurance, registration and certification): customerservices@skillsfirst.co.uk

Functional Skills: exams@skillsfirst.co.uk

End-point Assessment: enquiries@skillsfirstassess.co.uk

We are endeavouring to respond to all queries and issues as quickly as we possibly can.

Kind regards

Cheryl Collett

Operations Director

Skillsfirst