Functional Skills are recognised GCSE alternative qualifications, with a Level 2 being equivalent to a GCSE grade 4-9 (C-A*).
Introduced in 2007 to boost the UK’s literacy and numeracy, Functional Skills qualifications were developed to upskill the nation’s workforce.
Since then, these qualifications have offered thousands of people the key skills they need for life.
Available in the core subjects of English, maths and ICT, Functional Skills are available to all.
It's the perfect qualification for you if you didn’t achieve the GCSEs you wanted when you were younger, but now wish to develop essential life skills.
As a GCSE equivalent qualification, Functional Skills can benefit you professionally as well as personally.
They are respected by employers and can help boost your employability. They can even set the foundation for further study too.
However, Functional Skills are not identical to GCSEs.
So, if you’re looking to achieve your English, maths or IT qualification later in life, there are some key things you need to know before you choose your programme of study.
What’s the Difference?
Although they both get you to the same result – achieving a recognised qualification in English, maths or ICT – there are key differences between GCSEs and Functional Skills.
The time it takes to achieve your qualification is different. So are the learning outcomes.
What You’ll Learn
Functional Skills are skills-based qualifications. They therefore offer students the skills to use English, maths and ICT in everyday situations.
GCSEs, on the other hand, are academic qualifications and equip learners with a strong theoretical knowledgebase and skillset.
This affects the depth of the syllabus taught and the materials you will need to study.
For example, an English Functional Skills programme will focus on 3 key skill areas:
- Speaking, listening and communicating
Each unit will teach you how to apply these skills practically in real life.
You’ll learn how to write a compelling letter using correct spelling and grammar. You will also be taught how to talk with confidence over the phone and face-to-face.
These are all signs of good literacy and are important in the workplace and in your personal interactions.
GCSE English Language is also concerned with your reading and writing comprehension. However, the course provides greater academic material around these subjects.
You will explore the science behind the written and spoken word. This includes everything from analysing the syntax, morphology and phonology of the English language.
You will gain an insight into the themes and ideas discussed by writers, which will help you to become a better writer in turn.
Rather than developing skills for life, you will develop your understanding of the English language. You will build a solid foundation for further academic study of the subject.
In a nutshell, Functional Skills equip you with life skills whilst GCSEs equip you with knowledge upon which you can build in the future.
Achieving Your Qualification
Functional Skills are known online qualifications, whereas GCSEs are traditionally taught in a classroom environment. This means that you can only study at specific times during the week, at a certain location.
A teacher dictates what you learn and when you learn it. As such, GCSEs can take up to 2 years to achieve in a traditional education setting.
However, thanks to distance learning, you don’t need to go back to school to gain your qualification. It is now possible to study GCSEs 100% online too, thereby reducing the time it takes to qualify.
With online learning, there are no timetables or restrictions. You’ll have 24/7 access to your learning resources so you can study whenever and for however long you like.
You will have the freedom to set your pace and complete your qualification in your time. You can take 2 weeks or 2 years to do this.
Despite both being delivered online, it is quicker to gain your qualification via Functional Skills than it is via a GCSE course. This is largely down to the fact that there is less material to cover in a Functional Skills programme than in a GCSE one.
The average Functional Skills programme requires 55 guided hours of study, whilst an online GCSE course demands at least 100 hours’ worth of study.
If you dedicate just 2 hours to your studies every day, you could achieve your Functional Skills qualification in less than 4 weeks. This includes taking your exam online too.
Studying for your GCSEs online at the same pace could take you 2 months or more, not including exam time.
Both courses, when studied online, will award you with a qualification more quickly than if you study them at a traditional college.
However, Functional Skills are better for people who want to boost their skills quickly (perhaps in time for employment), whereas GCSEs are ideal for individuals that want to dedicate more time to their studies.
GCSEs or Functional Skills?
GCSEs and Functional Skills qualifications are ideal for anyone who wants to get to grips with the basics of English, maths and ICT.
However, one may be more suitable for you than the other.
It all comes down to why you’re studying the qualification and what you wish to gain from it.
If you want to evidence your literacy and numeracy skills to an employer or boost your confidence when working with words and numbers, Functional Skills offers the perfect solution.
This is similarly the case if you want to enhance your IT knowledge to help you become more efficient in the workplace. Or even know how to use ratios to bake a cake.
It’s not necessarily the qualification itself that is important in these cases. It’s having the skills and the know-how. To have the ability to demonstrate your understanding in real-world situations.
Alternatively, if you require a qualification as evidence of your academic abilities and skills, GCSEs are ideal.
This is especially the case if you want to further your education at college or university, although some universities now accept Functional Skills in lieu of GCSEs.
GCSEs are benchmark qualifications that pave the way to higher education and are essential for entry into a number of skilled career paths.
Functional Skills and GCSEs both have their merits. And neither is less valuable than the other. The value of any qualification is what you do with it.
Whether you build the foundations for your career as a professional or get to grips with calculating your finances without a calculator, Functional Skills and GCSEs both offer you the same thing: the chance to upskill and succeed, no matter what the future holds.
At learndirect, we offer a range of GCSE courses and Functional Skills packages to ensure that you find the right programme for you.
Our courses can all be studied online. You can balance your studies with your home life, without having to compromise on either.
With easy and instant enrolments, you can also start learning whenever you’re ready to. There are no term dates to hold you back or restrict your learning.
You can enjoy flexible education at the click of a button and qualify from the comfort of your own home.
Simply click below or call our enrolment team on 01202 006 464 today to get started!