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National Curriculum

Functional skills in English



Functional skills help young people to take a more active and responsible role in their communities, to be more alert and responsive to changes in technology, to communicate effectively and be literate in the broadest sense. The functional skills standards require learners to be able to make sense of their world and to develop their own perspectives. The key concepts of 'competence' and 'critical understanding' underpin these aims.


Functional skills in the English programme of study

The English programme of study for key stage 3 embeds the level 1 functional skills standards.

In addition, the key processes and range and content sections of the programme of study reflect the functional English standards at level 1, in order to ensure a smooth transition between key stages 3 and 4 (this is summarised in Links with functional skills). The curriculum opportunities section of the programme of study requires that pupils speak, listen and write for contexts beyond the classroom, which ensures that there are relevant contexts in which to test the functional element.

Links with functional skills

Level 1 functional skill standard: take full part in formal and informal discussions/exchanges

  • Make relevant contributions to discussions, responding appropriately to others

  • Prepare for and contribute to formal discussion of ideas and opinions

  • Be flexible in discussion, making different kinds of contributions

  • Present information and points of view clearly and appropriately in different contexts… including the more formal (key processes).

Links to English key stage 3 programme of study as follows:

  • Make...relevant contributions in groups, responding appropriately to others (key processes)

  • The range of speaking and listening activities should include: prepared formal presentations and debates (range and content) The range of purposes for speaking and listening should include[:]...expressing ideas...and opinions (range and content)

  • ... adapting talk for a range of purposes and audiences (key processes) Make different kinds of...contributions (key processes)

  • Present information/points of view clearly and in appropriate language in formal and informal exchanges and discussions.

Level 1 functional skill standard: read and understand a range of texts

  • Identify the main points and ideas and how they are organised in different texts

  • Understand texts in detail

  • Read and understand texts and take appropriate action

  • In a range of texts including reports, instructional, explanatory and persuasive texts, on paper and on screen.

Links to English key stage 3 programme of study as follows:

  • Extract and interpret...main points and ideas from texts (key processes)

  • Extract and interpret information, events, main points and ideas from texts, Infer and deduce meaning, Assess the usefulness of texts, sift the relevant from the irrelevant and distinguish between fact and opinion (key processes)

  • Covered implicitly

  • Reading and understanding a range of texts (key concepts), The range of non-fiction and non-literary texts studied should include: forms such as journalism, travel writing, essays, reportage, literary non-fiction and multi-modal texts including film; purposes such as to instruct, inform, explain, describe, analyse, review, discuss and persuade (range and content)

Level 1 functional skill standard: write documents to communicate information, ideas and opinions using formats and styles suitable for their purpose and audience

  • Write clearly and coherently including an appropriate level of detail

  • Present information in a logical sequence

  • Use language, format and structure suitable for purpose and audience

  • Use correct grammar including subject verb agreement and correct and consistent use of tense

  • Proofread and revise writing for accuracy of grammar, punctuation and spelling, and to ensure that meaning is clear

  • In a range of documents on paper and on screen.

Links to English key stage 3 programme of study as follows:

  • Write clearly and coherently, including an appropriate level of detail (key processes)

  • Structure their writing to support the purpose for the task and organise meaning (key processes)

  • Adapt style and language appropriately for a range of forms, purposes and readers (key processes)

  • Use grammar accurately in a variety of sentence types, including subject-verb agreement and correct and consistent use of tense (key processes)

  • Use planning, drafting, editing, proofreading and self-evaluation to shape and craft their writing for maximum effect (key processes)

  • The forms for such writing should be drawn from different kinds of stories, poems, play-scripts, autobiographies, screenplays, diaries, minutes, accounts, information leaflets, plans, summaries, brochures, advertisements, editorials, articles and letters conveying opinions, campaign literature, polemics, reviews, commentaries, articles, essays and reports (range and content)

Planning for functional skills

The key concept of competence in English emphasises the need for pupils to be adaptable and apply their understanding in a widening range of contexts within the classroom and beyond. This is also at the heart of functional skills. In this way, functional skills are much more than a set of technical competencies in English. They involve pupils being able to select, apply and evaluate a range of skills to tackle tasks and problems.

When planning opportunities for pupils to develop and understand functional skills you should consider whether you have:

  • provided opportunities for the different skills you are focusing on in reading, writing and speaking and listening to be developed in combination

  • ensured pupils understand they are learning skills that they will use and apply in a variety of contexts

  • given pupils the chance to select the skills they need for a particular task

  • provided opportunities for pupils to apply these skills for real purposes and contexts beyond the classroom.

For example, a sequence of activities for year 9 pupils requiring them to work in small groups to produce materials offering advice for year 6 pupils intending to come to the school would offer rich opportunities to develop a range of transferable skills in meaningful contexts.

  • By researching literature for primary school pupils and parents and identifying gaps, pupils could demonstrate the ability to read and understand texts and take appropriate action.

  • By working collaboratively to develop the materials and conducting interviews with year 6 pupils to identify what they should include, pupils would need to demonstrate the ability to make relevant contributions to discussions, responding appropriately to others.

  • By producing materials for an external audience, pupils would need to demonstrate the ability to write clearly and coherently including an appropriate level of detail, use language, format and structure suitable for purpose and audience and ensure written work includes accurate grammar, punctuation and spelling and that meaning is clear.

While these outcomes could be achieved by simulations, the activity becomes truly functional if the end product is applied for a real purpose and context by testing and using it with its intended audience.

A series of tasks like this also has the potential to be developed in conjunction with ICT colleagues to provide evidence of functional skills in ICT and develop links with other subjects.

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