Functional Skills are an integral part of delivering apprenticeships in the UK. If you’re an employer employing an Apprentice or a Training Provider training an Apprentice, you will have seen them listed as requirements on the apprenticeship standards.

No matter which apprenticeship you are delivering, your Apprentice will need to provide evidence that they have achieved Functional Skills qualifications or an equivalent as part of the Gateway requirements.

What are Functional Skills?

Functional Skills are the basic skills that all people need to be able to operate confidently and successfully in work and life. They provide learning tools that enable apprentices to:

  • Apply their knowledge and understanding to everyday life;
  • Engage competently and confidently with others;
  • Solve problems in both familiar and unfamiliar problems; and
  • Develop personally and professionally.

Why are they important for Apprenticeships?

It’s important to know that Functional Skills are a key component in all the apprenticeship standards and that evidence of completion (or in some cases ‘attempting’ completion) is presented at the Gateway meeting prior to an apprentice undertaking End-Point Assessment.

Achieving a Functional Skills qualification demonstrates that an apprentice has all the skills they need in English, maths or IT to be able to engage with their programme. They help apprentices to develop and secure the broader range of aptitudes, attitudes and behaviours.

For all apprenticeships that TQUK offers End-Point Assessment for, either Level 1 or Level 2 Functional Skills qualifications are required. In some circumstances, achieving Level 1 qualifications and attempting a Level 2 is sufficient.

We’ve put together some handy guides which can show you which Functional Skills qualifications are required depending on the level of the apprenticeship your Apprentice is undertaking.

What does TQUK need as evidence of completion/attainment?

End-Point Assessment Organisations (EPAOs) are required to see evidence of an Apprentice completing the relevant Functional Skills qualification assessment where necessary in order to verify Gateway requirements have been met and allow progression to the End-Point Assessment stage.

TQUK will need to see evidence of completion from the Awarding Organisation with whom the Apprentice undertook their Functional Skills qualifications with in BOTH English and maths in order to confirm that they have completed and achieved the qualifications.

In this instance, TQUK will accept:

  • Certificate confirmation from the Awarding Organisation
  • Email confirmation from the Awarding Organisation
  • Letter confirmation from the Awarding Organisation
  • Screenshot confirmation from the Awarding Organisation

What does TQUK need as evidence of an attempt to pass Functional Skills?

When an Apprentice is required to have ‘attempted’ completion of the Level 2 Functional Skills in English and maths, they do not have to pass and complete in order to progress. However, they do need to undertake a formal assessment.

TQUK will need to see that a reasonable attempt has been made to complete at least ONE component from BOTH the English and maths Level 2 Functional Skills.

Evidence from the Awarding Organisation can include:

  • Email confirming results and confirmation that at least ONE component has been attempted for BOTH English and maths
  • Letter confirming results and confirmation that at least ONE component has been attempted for BOTH English and maths
  • Screenshot confirming results and confirmation that at least ONE component has been attempted for BOTH English and maths

For more details, please view our Level 2 Apprenticeship Guidance on Functional Skills document.

Further questions

With Apprenticeship Standards now in full flow, we’ve come across some recurring questions about what exactly can be used as evidence of Functional Skills. If you have an Apprentice who may not fit the mould in terms of their Functional Skills qualifications, the following questions may help!

My apprentice does not have Functional Skills qualifications for a Level 2 or above apprenticeship. Are there any other qualifications that can act as an equivalent?

Yes, there are!

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has provided a list of acceptable current or prior equivalent qualifications for Functional Skills. Look out for the document titled:

‘Apprenticeship standards: list of acceptable current and prior qualifications for English and maths requirements in apprenticeship standards at level 2 and above’

The information included here will inform you which equivalent qualifications are acceptable, whether the qualification satisfies the English and/or maths requirements; and the minimum acceptable grade required for each qualification.

My Apprentice has completed a diagnostic assessment. The outcome of this assessment shows that they can work at a level in English and maths that is at, or above, the required level. Does this count as sufficient evidence to satisfy the standard requirements?

No. Unfortunately, diagnostic assessments are not sufficient evidence to meet the requirements of any Apprenticeship Standard. To be ‘assessed at a particular level’ refers to particular qualifications related to the apprenticeship (Functional Skills or GCSE) rather than another type of assessment.

My Apprentice sat an exam some time ago that proves their ability to work at a particular level in English and maths. They do not have a copy of the certificate, but they have achieved a higher vocational or professional qualification, like a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Will this be accepted as evidence to fulfil the Functional Skills requirements?

No. As the End-Point Assessment Organisation, Training Qualifications UK must ensure that the apprentice has achieved the required qualification.  You must produce evidence to that effect. Evidence of this achievement is most commonly a copy of the qualification certificate. Where overseas qualifications are being used, confirmation from NARIC is required.

If this evidence cannot be provided, your apprentice will not be able to proceed past the Gateway stage of the apprenticeship.

Are there exceptions to the rules for Apprentices who have highlighted special educational needs, learning difficulties or disabilities?

We would encourage you to read the ‘Apprenticeship funding rules for main providers; August 2019 to July 2020 – Version 1’ document. Here you will find a breakdown of the exceptions and rules in place, but in short, each individual Apprentice should be considered on a case-by-case basis but they will need to have completed entry level 3 Functional Skills in the adjusted subjects before the end of their apprenticeship as a minimum.

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The TQUK team is more than happy to help with any questions or concerns you may have. You can send questions to epa@tquk.org or you can call 03333 583 344.

To keep up to date with the latest apprenticeships and end-point assessment news, return to TQUK EPA’s blog or follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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