Functional Skills, Initial Diagnostics and The Relevance to The Apprenticeship

Important Learning Skills

What are Functional Skills?

Functional Skills are the fundamental skills that everyone needs to be able to operate confidently, effectively, successfully and independently in their working and personal lives. Students can study for Functional Skills in practical ways and apply core skills to real-life situations. They are flexible qualifications with multiple assessment opportunities, which means they can be delivered in a way that meets the needs of individual learners and their employers.

Functional Skills provide the learning tools to enable students to:

  • Apply knowledge and understanding to everyday life
  • Engage competently and confidently with others
  • Solve problems in both familiar and unfamiliar problems
  • Develop personally and professionally

Why are Functional Skills Important to Apprenticeships?

Functional Skills form part of The Education and Skills Funding Agencies ambition for a world-class technical education system. This is based on recommendations from independent experts that progression towards and attainment of, approved level 2 English and maths qualifications is an important part of the apprenticeship programme and essential in supporting longer-term career prospects.

Functional Skills are an integral part of delivering apprenticeships in the UK and are a mandatory component in all apprenticeship standards.

An apprentice needs to provide evidence that they have achieved Functional Skills qualifications or an equivalent, before the Gateway stage of their apprenticeship. The Government provides a list of acceptable current or prior equivalent qualifications for English and Maths.

SRSCC ensure all of our procurement apprenticeship programmes teach the importance of functional skills, from level 3 to 7 standards.

Take a look at one of the most popular standards taught at SRSCC, the procurement assistant qualification.

Why are Functional Skills Important to Employers?

Functional skills are now well accepted by employers as important components of apprenticeships and as valuable standalone qualifications. In a consultation held by Ofqual in 2014, 70% of employers said that Functional Skill qualifications assessed the skills employers need in the workplace.

All employers are required to allow apprentices time out of the workplace to complete their Functional Skills; this is a contractual requirement of all apprenticeships.

Functional Skills Reforms September 2019

The Department for Education (DfE), which is responsible for the Functional Skills subject content, has introduced much more specific common content, in September 2019.

For English, there is now a focus on spelling, punctuation and grammar, without the aid of dictionaries or spell checks. For maths, the content draws upon the underpinning knowledge and skills needed to solve mathematical problems, both with and without a calculator.

BKSB Initial and Diagnostic Assessments

As per Ofsted recommended best practice, and to aid all Apprentices’ development they are required to undertake English and maths Initial and Diagnostic Assessments regardless of any acceptable current or prior equivalent qualifications; once prior to induction and then again as they reach the End Point Assessment Gateway.

BKSB are the UK’s leading eLearning provider for Functional Skills in English and maths and the organisation chosen by SR Supply Chain Consultants to facilitate English and maths Initial and Diagnostic Assessments. Their interactive learning content has proven to significantly raise English and maths standards in a host of education and employment settings.

The BKSB Initial and Diagnostic Assessments for English and maths meets the reformed functional skills standards for 2019. These tools are fully interactive, self-marking, dynamic.

The Initial Assessment Tool adjusts the level according to the answers given, allowing apprentices to see what level of English and maths they are currently working at.

The Diagnostic Tool provides each apprentice with an accurate level for reading, spelling, punctuation and grammar and writing for English and Number, Measure, Shape and Space and Statistics and Data for maths. It also shows the distance each apprentice is from progressing to the next level and what they need to practice improving their English and maths. Which can additionally help to improve an apprentices’ essential skills, knowledge and understanding of English and maths required to sit any English and/or maths Functional Skills examinations.

Any questions? Get in touch.

Want to know about CIPS? SRSCC have a dedicated page explaining exactly what is CIPS.


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Functional Skills, Initial Diagnostics and The Relevance to The Apprenticeship
Staff Member

Jen Shepherd

Admin and Customer Service Manager

Jenn completed her Apprenticeship in Business and Administration in 2008 and has since built upon a foundation of knowledge and skills in the administration and customer support areas.

Jenn has a degree, as well as a master’s degree, in English which have helped support her commitment to compliance and attention to detail.

Since returning to work from maternity leave in 2020, Jenn has worked in education settings and has an in-depth knowledge on Safeguarding and Child Protection, which she believes is a key part of all employees’ role when working with learners.

Outside of work, Jenn lives with her husband and two young daughters. She had her first book published in 2022 and advocates for the mental wellbeing of new parents.

michelle whalley

Michelle Whalley

Course Progress Mentor

Michelle graduated from Liverpool John Moore’s University in 2003 with a BA(HONs) in Physical Education, Sport, Dance and English, with Qualified Teacher Status. Michelle now holds 20 years’ experience of working in education. Her experience to date is hugely diverse, with a love for learning and striving for excellence across all areas of her life developed from when she was a young girl, representing her country at Athletics. It was from this platform Michelle developed a disciplined approach to every tasks set of her. During her time in teaching, she has taught a wide range of subjects, been a pastoral leader, and led ITT programmes.

Michelle prides herself on her ability to get the best possible outcomes out of people. This has been proven not only in the time she’s spent in education, but also in the set up and running of her own business.

Working in a fast-paced environment, especially becoming a Head of Year as well as teaching has consistently challenged her and ensured she’s flexible and adaptable

Lucy Eckersley

Lucy Eckersley

Administration Assistant

After recently graduating university and achieving a first-class degree in Drama, Lucy wanted to apply her production management experience to an administration role in business. Having worked part time jobs as a waitress and office receptionist during her education, Lucy has good customer service skills and enjoys helping customers and clients by addressing their queries. Lucy is excited to be working at SRSCC and is keen to use her process driven way of working to increase the effectiveness of SRSCC’s administrative processes. In her free time, Lucy enjoys watching musicals and running. She also enjoys spending time outdoors, and loves going hiking from her caravan in the Yorkshire Dales.
Tom Himsworth

Tom Himsworth

Administrative Assistant

Tom graduated from Edgehill University in 2015 with a degree in Creative Writing. After Tom’s journey through university, he worked extensively within the Healthcare sector in mostly administrative roles. It was here that he found his natural organized and observant manner was best suited as it allowed him to understand how each work environment operated, and where processes, customer service and communication could be improved for the benefit of everyone. Throughout his working life, Tom has gained experience with varying mental health conditions and is passionate about advocating the importance of mental health support and well-being. He is currently looking into various volunteer schemes to help champion mental health awareness. Along with this, Tom is an avid writer and is usually working on a story or two and is passionate about learning more about all forms of creative media.
Estelle Marsden

Estelle Marsden

Customer Support Coordinator

Estelle has completed apprenticeships in both Business Administration and Customer service. Her first Role after leaving school was a receptionist at a Podiatrist and that is where she found her passion for helping people and providing positive customer experiences. After 4 years she then moved into retail where her skills progressed further. Estelle has several years’ experience in a customer facing environment, which has led her to the role of Customer Support Coordinator here at SRSCC. Estelle is hoping to expand her expertise further and progress with SRSCC. Other than her passion for Customer Service. Estelle enjoys walking, Hiking, and exploring in her free time. She also enjoys going to the theatre and watching true crime. Estelle likes to spend most of her time with family and friends.

Emma Jackson

Course Progress Mentor

Emma joined SRSCC in 2019 on a freelance basis taking on a teaching and learning consultancy role. She has 20 years of experience in education as a qualified teacher, working in adult learning, secondary and primary school settings in the UK as well as abroad, namely Japan, Hungary, and France. 

More recently Emma has been teaching yoga, resilience, and mindfulness in primary schools to promote the physical and mental well-being of both pupils and staff.

Being multi-lingual and having a zeal for communication, cultural exchange and life-long learning Emma jumped at the opportunity to join the company as a Course Mentor. Building a good rapport with her learners, supporting them to overcome any challenges on their apprentice journey and facilitating them to fulfil their potential is her motivation.

Cumbrian born and bred in the Lake District, Emma enjoys the outdoors. When not relaxing in tree pose, she is most at home trail running in the hills with her husband and dog. Having clocked up 4 marathons to date, the application of her long-distance running mindset of perseverance, determination, discipline and patience is key to supporting her learners in their studies.

SRSCC Staff Images Ashlee Scribbins

Ashlee Scribbins

Office Administrator

Ashlee has joined the SRSCC team as an Office Administrator, and with a level 2 and 3 in Business Administration, she fits right in!

Ashlee has a wide range of experience from working as a Legal Secretary for the Royal Air Force to managing a team. Ashlee is eager to use her customer service and business administration skills for her new role at SRSCC.

SRSCC Staff Images Declan Hemingway

Declan Hemingway

Business Development Account Manager


Declan recently graduated University studying BSc Business and Management with Marketing achieving a 2:1 and was looking for a role in Business Development to put his knowledge and education to the test.

He has a strong desire to grow the SRSCC brand and customer base. Working alongside our Business Development and Relationship Manager; he looks to strengthen both our Commercial and Apprenticeship learner portfolio by liaising with potential and existing learners through building customer relationships and understanding their requirements.