14 to 19

14 to 19 education in the UK

The value and rigour of Functional Skills

Posted on | March 18, 2014 | Comments Off

The value and rigour of Functional Skills

The 2013 Functional Skills Annual Survey was completed by more than 400 respondents in the sector.  The results reveal very substantial (and growing) support for Functional Skills.  In the light of the GCSE vs FS discussion above, we thought it would be worthwhile repeating the results of the survey.





Not very


Not at all


Functional Skills is a rigorous qualification





Functional Skills is a valuable qualification





I’m fully prepared and trained to deliver FS





Learners enjoy taking Functional Skills





Tutors enjoy teaching Functional Skills





The overwhelming evidence is that Functional Skills is rigorous (90% agree), valuable (87%) enjoyable (68%) with 88% of respondents feeling fully prepared and trained in delivery.

Guroo now support GCSE maths and English

Posted on | March 18, 2014 | Comments Off

Guroo announce full support for GCSE

Whilst there is some uncertainty about Government Policy, there is no uncertainty about the support you can expect from the UK’s best provider of solutions for maths and English.

Guroo has already developed and launched KISS Assess for GCSE - a full assessment for GCSE Maths (Number) that automatically produces a diagnostic based on GCSE skills that highlights areas of strength and weakness with links to video based skills tutorials and resources.

This is the first of a series of developments from Guroo that will result in full GCSE support being available to all customers at no additional cost offering tutors and learners the choice of following GCSE or Functional Skills or a mix of both.

And the best provider for Functional Skills is ……

Posted on | January 6, 2014 | Comments Off

Guroo  …..  The survey asked respondents to nominate the best provider across seven key areas of provision, choosing from BKSB, ForSkills, Guroo and Tribal.  The results of the survey from all seven categories are:

  • Best for ease of use - 1st BKSB, 2nd Guroo
  • Best for engaging learners - 1st Guroo, 2nd ForSkills
  • Best for initial assessment - 1st BKSB, 2nd Guroo
  • Best for support - 1st Guroo, 2nd Tribal
  • Best for teaching and learning resources - 1st Guroo, 2nd Tribal
  • Best for experience - 1st BKSB, 2nd Guroo
  • Best for pricing - 1st Guroo, 2nd BKSB

So with four “firsts” and three “seconds”, Guroo came out on top by a considerable margin, and amongst work based training providers, the results were stronger with five “firsts” and two “seconds”.

Has the Government blundered?

Posted on | December 10, 2013 | Comments Off

GCSE - has the Government blundered?

The largest discussion ever within the linked-in group Apprenticeships 4 England has centred on an issue raised in the last newsletter about GCSE vs Functional Skills in Apprenticeships.

With just short of 100 comments from 20 contributors with Roger Francis (CL Partners) and Marius Frank (SCiP5) leading the way, it makes interesting reading and it shows how much the sector believes in Functional Skills as the best way forward in vocational education.

It just shows what a big issue this one is, and with the ball still very much in play, if you have a view then take a few minutes and record it.

Functional Skills newsletter

Posted on | November 26, 2013 | Comments Off

In this issue we come back to the issue of English and maths and how policy is developing.  Whilst the short term is secure (GCSE or Functional Skills) there may be lots of changes planned for 2017 when the requirement for continuing study in English and maths will be “stepped up”.

We’ve also got news of an important new product from Guroo - KISS Assessment for Functional Skills is a simple and straightforward assessment that produces a full diagnostic for Functional Skills - and nothing else and is designed for those who just “want the diagnostic”.  Finally, we have news of recorded and live webinars.

As always, we aim to send this newsletter out every two weeks, your comments and thoughts are always appreciated - let us know what you’d like us to cover in the newsletter by emailing the editor - jwells@guroo.co.uk

GCSE, Bite Size or Functional Skills in 2017?

In the words of the late Clive Dunn “don’t panic”, as it will be four years before any changes are likely to come into place.  Nevertheless, policy is being formed as we speak so it’s a timely chance to look at the options for English and maths, and indeed for vocational education as a whole.

We’ve seen over the last few weeks a definite shift in moving Apprenticeships “upmarket”. Research from EDGE and C&G suggests that employers agree with this view, the BBC report on the same subject was equally supportive.

Common to all these themes is the need to put more emphasis on English and maths.  Last month, The Government indicated GCSE was their preferred “long term aim”, AELP rejected this saying GCSE wasn’t fit for purpose with limited assessment windows and supported Functional Skills.  This week, we see support for “Stepping Stone or Progression” qualifications as being another route towards GCSE, not unreasonable as these “bite sized” qualifications are often described as “little bits of Functional Skills”.

So the outcome? None yet, but if you have a view, let us know and we’ll try to draw views together.

Simple, straightforward self-registered initial assessment and diagnostic from Guroo - now available from 95p

In direct response to customer demand, the Guroo guys have developed a brand new, simple, straightforward, easy to use, “does what it says on the tin” initial assessment for Functional Skills that produces a detailed diagnostic mapped to all Functional Skills criteria automatically and instantly.

We’ve called it KISS Assess for Functional Skills.  Why KISS?  It’s a bit of an in-house secret but if you call us, we’ll tell you!

KISS Assess for Functional Skills uses self -registration, so it’s absolutely perfect for pre-recruitment or interview where you’d like potential learners to arrive with a completed Functional Skills level and diagnostic.

A typical learner will complete each subject assessment in around 40 minutes, and with no tutor marking needed, plus Guroo’s famous rigour and expert knowledge of Functional Skills comes as standard.

Want to know more - call us and we’ll show you in a webinar, or join us on Wednesday at 4.00pm for KISS Functional Skills webinar.

OCR Blog - Initial and Diagnostic Assessment - an engaging tool?

A nice little piece looking at some of the wider advantages of a rigorous initial assessment and diagnostic tool written by Garry Haynes of OCR.

It also brings attention back to the need for rigour in initial assessment, and with the Ofsted focus on “stretch”, using an initial assessment and diagnostic tool that is rigorous is very important.  After all, a learner with a marginal level 1 assessment will be expected to move straight to level 2, a challenge for many learners in that category.

If you’d like to receive a copy of the White Paper - Initial Assessment in Functional Skills, simply email us and we’ll send you a pdf copy by return.

Wednesday Webinar at 4.00pm

“KISS Assess for Functional Skills” is Wednesday’s webinar with Jonathan Wells, on Wednesday 27th November at 4pm.

A guided tour of the simple and straightforward assessment tool that produces a full Functional Skills diagnostic and nothing else!  We record every session as we know that many more people enjoy coming back for the recording afterwards, so if you want to join or just want to watch the recording, just drop an email to info@guroo.co.uk

Join us on Wednesday 27th November at 4pm.

All previous webinars are recorded and available anytime for playback - login as a guest and the password is password.  Simply click on the links below and don’t forget, if you’d like to have your own 1:1 webinar looking at how Guroo can help you support Functional Skills, just call us on 0191 305 5045 or email info@guroo.co.uk and we’ll take it from there.

The Guroo Learner Journey

Guroo Exam Practice

Guroo Free Trial System

Introduction to Guroo then Reporting and Tracking from 45 minutes onwards

Introduction to Guroo then Initial Assessment and Diagnostics from 45 minutes onwards

Ofsted and Functional Skills

Guroo 3.0 in 20 minutes - a brief guide

Guroo reports and admin updates

Teaching Functional Maths

Functional Skills Policy Update

Getting the best from your Guroo free trial

The differences between Key Skills/SfL and Functional Skills

What you really have to know about Functional Skills for Senior Managers

Functional Skills in the Revised Common Inspection Framework

Guroo group and user admin

Guroo Open Training for Functional Skills

Posted on | October 21, 2013 | Comments Off

Guroo Open Training Sessions

Guroo Open Training is a three hour training session (including break) on how to use Guroo to support the teaching of Functional Skills.

A new innovative method of delivering high quality but low cost face to face training, the first session will be in Milton Keynes on 26th November.  If this proves popular and sells out, don’t worry, simply let Cathy (who’s organising them) know and we’ll add some more dates and locations.

The sessions will be led by Sally Bryant, an experienced Functional Skills practitioner, author and examiner, the session will take you through the Functional Skills Learner Journey and the tutor experience using all aspects of the Guroo system.  During the session we’ll cover:

  • Initial assessment and diagnostic
  • Using teaching and learning resources
  • Preparing for external assessments
  • Group and user admin
  • Reports and tracking

Open training is for anyone who uses Guroo as part of their tutor/assessor role.  The course size is typically 8 up to a maximum of 20 delegates from several establishments.  You must bring your own wifi enabled laptop to get the best from the session - wifi is provided.  If you do try to book and it’s full, please let us know straight away and we’ll add more events and locations to meet demand.

Pretty Awful

Posted on | October 9, 2013 | Comments Off

England almost at the bottom of the international league table.

Perhaps it’s time we stopped focussing on managing borderline line passes in GCSE and started actually problem solving, doing the basics right and mastering the simple techniques - all things that Functional Skills does really well.  Yet the take up of Functional Skills in schools to support GCSE is really poor - even though England leads the world in learning resources and technology from companies like Guroo Functional Skills.


Anxious, austerity-minded, but worldly: the young Britons of Generation A

Posted on | July 30, 2013 | 738 Comments

Today’s teenagers, faced with economic uncertainty, will confront huge challenges. The good news? They seem singularly well-equipped for the task, according to a major new survey

Four young people from across the country tell how they feel about their future prospects in work and education

Across Europe, more than five million twentysomethings have seen their aspirations buried under a mountain of debt, and had their epitaph written: “The Lost Generation”. Britain is no exception. It has 20% youth unemployment, and thousands more not in education or training. At an emergency meeting in Berlin last week, 20 European heads of government agreed a £5bn crisis package to offer apprenticeships, training and job creation. But it will take miracles to make a significant dent in current levels of joblessness – for instance, nearly 60% in Greece and more than 56% in Spain.

This is Generation Y, born between the 1980s and the millennium, hammered by the recession and austerity. Generation Y faces more years of financial slowdown, but what is to become of the cohort following in its footsteps, arguably moving through an even bleaker terrain? What of the generation now in its teens, growing up against a backdrop of accelerating job insecurity, deep cuts to the public sector, flatlining salaries, rising housing costs and fierce competition, exacerbated by globalisation, that has turned the domestic job market into a zone that covers five continents? This is the generation that, for the first time, will see some members slipping down the ladder of mobility and dying younger and possibly poorer than their parents.

The lucrative commercial hunt is on to find a label for this group – once its characteristics can be defined – to allow the Klondike of branding and marketing to begin. The cohort begins with births in the late 1990s, overlapping with Generation Y.

Cohorts traditionally last 20 years but psychologist Jean M Twenge, chronicler of the Y Generation, says that such is the pace of cultural change that the time span is now shrinking to a decade. Given the degree of adversity it faces, it would be unsurprising if this latest cohort finds itself labelled Generation P for pessimism, yet the picture is far more complex.

A survey by BritainThinks into the attitudes of UK teenagers is, of course, no more than a brief glimpse of a cross-section of young people, aged 14 to 18, and parents based in Leeds, London and Coventry. However, there are clues that values and aspirations may significantly differ from those of Generation Y. That earlier cohort has been variously described as narcissistic, materialistic, individualistic, celebrity-obsessed and not inclined to be civic-minded. Digitally fluent, Generation Y abandoned its parents’ lifelong loyalty to a single employer and has changed careers often. So what are the clues to how its successor cohort compares?

In the BritainThinks survey, employment is, predictably, a universal goal (70%), but with qualifications (35%) and home ownership (29%) far behind. Is this the downsizing of ambition? No skivers here. The majority say they would work even if rich and even if paid less than on benefits. Surprisingly perhaps, fame, wealth and designer labels hold little attraction. “I see celebrity as a zoo,” one 14-year-old said. “Why would I want to be in a zoo?”

However, an exodus from Britain does have appeal; where to go is less clear given the parlous state of the rest of Europe. Two-thirds worry about opportunities in the UK. None expects to be unemployed, even though it’s likely to affect one in five young people.

Creative industries top the list of preferred careers (manufacturing, engineering and retail are very unpopular). There is concern about a lack of “real” apprenticeships, vocational opportunities and useful careers advice. Luke Murphy, for instance, is 18 and lives in Leeds. He has just completed a Btec level 3 in games design, a course that includes 3D modelling, web design and animation. He hopes to gain a triple merit and aims to study animation at university.

“I’ve always brought characters to life so I had a good idea of what I want to do,” he says. “The school made suggestions, but for the most part it was me doing the looking.”

Across the group, even 14- and 15-year-olds have a grounded eye on their futures. Lucy Baillie, 35, in Leeds, is the parent of Harry, 15, and five-year-old Poppy. “Harry wants to be a footballer, but otherwise he’s set on being a mechanic or an electrician. He’s a good boy. He’ll be OK,” she says.

“My daughter, Megan, is 14 and very level-headed,” says Andrew Smith, 46, deputy head of a primary school in Surrey, who took a 50% cut in salary to switch from his career as a Middle East analyst seven years ago. Megan is in private school. “I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do, even in my 20s. Megan knows exactly her route. She sees herself as working in publishing first, then as an author and possibly teaching later. Life has changed a lot in the last five years. Two or three careers seems a good option. “

The BritainThinks survey hints at a move away from Generation Y’s individualism. In the nine focus groups, there was a strong desire for “giving back”. On the negative side, a quarter of the sample (drawn across the classes) expressed concerns about mental ill health and the price that might be exacted. “You can’t afford to be fragile,” one 15-year-old said.

The young people’s near-total lack of connection to Westminster politics ought to be a major challenge to the political establishment. In Scotland, 16-year-olds will vote on independence next year, while in this survey, only 55% of young people expressed an obligation to vote. That is a critical democratic deficit.

“There is a mysterious cycle in human events,” said Franklin D Roosevelt back in 1936. “To some generations, much is given. Of other generations, much is expected.”

Forging economic survival, community regeneration and personal happiness out of the debris of a decade and more of corporate avarice, a reduced welfare state and financial meltdown, is the task ahead for today’s teenagers. Success may elude some, but it could also be the making of a new and robust social contract. Are we seeing a less individualistic, less hedonistic, more community-minded Generation A – anxious, austerity-minded, anti-materialistic but also highly aware of the importance of a connection to others?

Yvonne Roberts

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Parent files police complaint after teacher reads Ender’s Game to pupils

Posted on | July 30, 2013 | 888 Comments

A teacher in South Carolina is on adminstrative leave after the parent of a 14-year-old complained that Orson Scott Card’s classic novel was ‘pornographic’

Violent teenagers struggling to survive in dystopian futures might be all the rage thanks to the popularity of Suzanne Collins’s smash hit The Hunger Games, but in Aiken, South Carolina, at least, Orson Scott Card’s classic science fiction novel Ender’s Game has proved rather unpalatable.

The parent of a 14-year-old at Schofield Middle School complained to school officials and the police after a teacher at the school reportedly read to his class from the novel. The parent described Ender’s Game as “pornographic”, local press reported, and complained about its subject matter. Like The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game sees teenagers pitting their battle skills against each other. In Card’s Hugo and Nebula award-winning story, though, the hero Ender has been recruited for the Battle School, where Earth’s most talented children train for future conflict against human’s alien enemies, known as the buggers. Despite the violence it describes, Ender’s Game is included on the American Library Association’s list of the best 100 books for young adults.

The Aiken Standard reported that the teacher had been placed on administrative leave last week while police and school investigations looked into whether he breached school policy – or the law – when reading to his class from Ender’s Game and two other novels: Agatha Christie’s Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case and The Devil’s Paintbox by Victoria McKernan, the story of two orphans journeying through the frontier west.

A statement from the school said its investigation centred around the report “that the books in question being utilised by the teacher had curse words and terms that might not be age appropriate”. The school said that while it was in the process of its own review, it was “notified by law enforcement that the parent had filed a complaint with them as well”.

The police investigation has now closed after officials found the teacher “did not do anything criminal”, the Aiken Standard reported, but, after determining that two of the three books contained swear words and terminology “inappropriate for the middle school age”, the school investigation is ongoing and the teacher remains on leave.

A film version of Ender’s Game, featuring Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley, is out next year.

Alison Flood

theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Academy schools attain fewer good GCSEs, study shows

Posted on | July 30, 2013 | 778 Comments

Local authority schools with a similar pupil intake performed better, according to new analysis of government figures

Academies are under-performing compared with other state schools, raising doubts over the reform programme being pursued by the education secretary, according to a new analysis of government figures.

Ministers are encouraging schools to remove themselves from local authority control to become academies, while failing schools are having that status imposed upon them. Michael Gove, who is pushing through the programme, has accused critics of being “happy with failure”. However, a new analysis of Department for Education figures shows that, while 60% of pupils in non-academy schools attained five A* to C grade GCSEs last year, only 47% did so in the 249 sponsored academies.

The progress that pupils achieve over time is also lower in academies than in non-academy schools, with 65% of those in academies making expected progress in English in the year leading to the 2011 GCSE examinations, compared with 74% in the community, foundation and voluntary-aided schools that make up the rest of the state sector.

Defenders of the academy programme have argued that the comparatively poor progress should be expected in academies populated by under-achieving pupils in disadvantaged areas. However, a further breakdown of the figures by Henry Stewart, an educationalist from the anti-academies campaign group Local Schools Network, shows that the gap is similar when like-for-like academies and schools are compared. His figures show that there is still a significant gap in attainment between academies and schools that both have 40% of pupils receiving free school meals.

In the 40 academies with such an intake, 38% of pupils achieved five A* to C grade GCSEs in 2011, including English and maths, while similar schools in the rest of the state sector achieved 44%.

Stewart said that, even with academies that have been independent from local-authority control for more than three years, the results are not as good as schools still under council control.

When comparing the performance of academies and standard schools that had fewer than 35% of their intake achieving A* to C grades in 2008, it was the schools that had not become independent that achieved the best results in 2011.

While the academies improved strongly in that period, going from 23.6% to 42.2% in terms of the numbers achieving five GCSEs from A* to C including English and maths, the same happened for those schools that were not converted, despite receiving less funding. Their results went from 24.3% to 43.4%.

The results appear to contradict Gove’s claims for the benefits of academy status. The education secretary says that the change in status cuts bureaucracy, frees head teachers and will improve standards. At a recent education select committee hearing, Gove said that he expected most secondary schools in England to become academies during this parliament. The government has, in particular, championed Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, east London, that was previously run by Sir Michael Wilshaw, the new chief inspector of schools; and Burlington Danes Academy in Hammersmith, west London, for their improved results.

However, Stewart said that the government did not have the evidence to justify the changes. “This government claims that academies have such a strong proven track record that every school could convert to them. They quote schools like Mossbourne and Burlington Danes in support. However, this is policymaking by anecdote, not by evidence. Both those schools are outstanding, but they are clearly, from the data the DfE released, not the norm for academies. If government education policy was genuinely evidence-based, perhaps they should look at converting many of the academies to LA-supported non-academies, in the hope that this would raise their results.”

A DfE spokesman did not deny the accuracy of the statistics, but said that there was evidence that, given time, academies did improve results significantly. Final GCSE results for 2011 show that, of the 166 academies with results in both 2010 and 2011, the percentage of pupils achieving five or more good GCSEs including English and maths rose from 40.6% to 46.3%.

This means that academies’ GCSE results improved by nearly twice the level of state-funded schools, which increased by 3.1% to 58.2%. The spokesman said: “The longer the vast majority of sponsored academies are open, the better the results – far outstripping the under-performing schools they replaced, far faster than the national average and with a higher proportion rated outstanding by Ofsted. We know that the poorest pupils make faster progress in academies than in other state schools.”

Daniel Boffey

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Information, news and resources for everyone involved in 14-19 education in the UK.

Functional Skills

Guroo is the leading source for resources for Functional Skills in English, Maths and ICT. Click here for details.

Functional Skills Revision

MyGuroo helps learnes prepare for Functional Skills exams. Click here for details.

Functional Skills Diagnostics

Initial Assessment for Functional Skills - free!Click here for details.