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Learning and Teaching for Apprenticeships

Guidance for the design, delivery and review of learning, teaching and assessment for apprenticeships.

Functional Skills English and Maths

The development of English and Maths is a central element of apprenticeships at all levels. This may take the form of achievement of formal qualification at level 2 for some learners. It must include the ongoing development of both for all learners through curricular. 

The Functional Skills Level 2 Commitment

The University must support the achievement of Functional Skills Level 2 English and Maths for any learners who do not have the qualification on joining the apprenticeship programme. Importantly, if a learner is unable to provide their certificates as part of their admission, they must also take exams to gain the certificates. 


In exceptional circumstances, where a learner has special educational needs it is possible for them to study for an achieve Entry Level 3 in English and Maths instead. For this exception to be applied there are specific criteria which must be met. These include:

  • the achievement of all other aspects of the apprenticeship standard, and becoming occupationally competent before the end of the apprenticeship
  • the achievement of Entry Level 3 as required for English and Maths
  • the holding, by the apprentice learner, of a Education Health and Care Plan, a statement of special Educational Need or a Learning Difficulty Assessment
  • the completion of an evidenced judgement demonstrating that even with support, reasonable adjustments and stepping stone qualifications, the apprentice will not be able to achieve at Level 2 within the timeframe projected for them to complete all occupational elements. 

The meeting of these criteria must be fully evidenced in the learners evidence pack. 


Time for study 

the time needed to progress functional level of ability in English and Maths is on top of the 20% off the job training required by apprenticeship standards. Participation in learning activities is mandatory for all learners who need to take assessment and pass these exams prior to gateway and the completion of End Point Assessment (EPA).  

All apprentices complete an Initial Needs Assessment (INA) prior to the start of their apprentice programme. During the INA, candidates must provide evidence of having obtained Level 2 Functional Skills or GCSE grade A* to C / 9 to 4 in English and Maths. Where evidence can not be provided, all candidates must complete an initial assessment (IA) of their ability in English and Maths as part of the induction process. The IA is conducted through the BKSB learning platform

After the IA, all learners will complete a Diagnostic Assessment (DA). The IA and DA together determines the functional level of ability for the learner, and BKSB then creates an individual study plan for each learner, including resources to support learning gain. Further DAs are inducted through the period of study to monitor learning gain and progression in the functional level of ability. 

The learning and support offer

Academic Skills Advisors provide support learning through the following routes:

  • taught workshops - scheduled and published online as part of the annual student workshops schedule. 
  • one-to-one tutorials - bookable through the online tutorial system
  • additional online learning through our Apprenticeship Module (Brightspace). 

There is a dedicated support guide for apprentice learners on the Library and Learning Services website. 

The assessment of Functional Skills English examination includes three components; Reading, Writing and Speaking, Listening and Communicating. there is one exam for Maths. The University is a registered exam centre with the NCFE Awarding Organisation. The University also has Direct Award Status for the assessment of Speaking, Listening and Communicating. All exams must be conducted in line with the guidelines issued by the NCFE. Exams are arranged by the University's Exams team within the Directorate for Student Life and Registry. 


Mock assessment

Mock assessments are used to ensure that the learner is ready to take and pass the assessment. Past papers issued by the NCFE are used for these exams. In order to be eligible for a mock exam, the learner must have either:

  • completed 55 guided learning hours per subject,
  • reached a BKSB diagnostic assessment score at the level of Functional Skills Level 2. 


Submission for final exam

In order to be eligible for a final examination, the learner must achieve a pass percentage as published by the NCFE Awarding Organisation in their mock assessment. 

the marking of all assessment components is completed by the NCFE Awarding Organisation with the exception of the Speaking, Listening and Communicating component which is marked by the Academic Skills Advisors who have been trained and approved by the NCFE. 

Learner engagement data is collated by Library and Learning Services and published in the Qlik business data dashboard. The Academic Skills Advisors meet monthly to review progress. This information is taken to monthly School At Risk meetings. A Functional Skills Data and Standardisation Group is help three times per year. 

Ongoing development of English and Maths in curriculum

While some learners may need to complete formal examinations, all learners must be able to progress their functional level in both English and Maths through their programme of study. This progression must be explicit in course handbooks, and assessed through learning outcomes. 

It is good practice to highlight how the learners progress their English and Maths beyond Level 2, map this to how this would be seen naturally in the workplace and clearly identify the impact of benefit to the apprentice.