Magazine article English Drama Media

A Functional Farce: Antics, Semantics and Functional Skills: Ofqual to the Rescue? Keith Davidson Examines the Implications of the De-Coupling of Functional Skills Tests and GCSE English

Magazine article English Drama Media

A Functional Farce: Antics, Semantics and Functional Skills: Ofqual to the Rescue? Keith Davidson Examines the Implications of the De-Coupling of Functional Skills Tests and GCSE English

Article excerpt

Ofqual intervenes

Ofqual would support an approach that allowed candidates to be awarded appropriately both for their achievements in their GCSEs and for their evidence of functional skills. That cannot be accomplished when GCSE grades are dependant [sic] on the outcome of a quite separate assessment. Ofqual cannot support an option which denies candidates the recognition of the level of attainment they have reached in a given qualification.

Kathleen Tattersall (Chair) in a letter to Jim Knight (Minister of State for Schools and Learning) October 2008

The Minister concedes

Now that the GCSE criteria are agreed, it is clear that the changes will mean that the new GCSEs will test functional skills extensively ... I understand that we can also expect to see significant changes to the style of questions, which will further support the changes in teaching and learning suggested by the new curriculum.

So, for now, we accept that we should not make a link between the functional skills assessments and the GCSE ... However, I want to continue work with Ofqual and others on ways to further improve the assessment of functional skills in the GCSE so that we can, in future, have a reliable, more integrated approach ... This will include looking at whether some manner of 'hurdle can in practice fit within the GCSE route. As part of this work, we will carry out an evaluation among young taking the new GCSEs in 2012 to test whether successful candidates at grade A*-C do also attain level 2 functional skills in the standalone test.

Jim Knight in his reply to Kathleen Tattersall, 2 April 2009

Now the cheerings have died down we have a classic case of unforeseen consequences in the theatre of the absurd. That is to say, Level 2 in Functional English as a hurdle for grades A*-C in the new GCSE subjects, and so as yet another additional target for the league tables, has been removed--for the time being.

Functional/Dysfunctional?

A silly enough concept in any case, functional skills--as opposed to what, for instance: dysfunctional skills, non-functional skills...? If it's not functional how can it conceivably be a skill in the first place?. And functional English likewise. If an utterance serves no conceivable socio/psycho-linguistic function of some sort then it's simply not linguistic, not actually language at all. So the premise: all skills in whatever uses of English are precisely in those terms functional. …

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