The start of a new year always seems like the best time to make resolutions and plans.

For NCFE, 2020 sees us approach one year since launching our #FullyFunctional campaign, as part of our ongoing commitment to promote and advance learning for all.

Originally launched in April 2019, #FullyFunctional is our ask to the government to change the current GCSE funding legislation to help create a level playing field for English and maths qualifications.

At present, funding rules dictate that any young person who achieves a grade 3 (grade D in the old system) in their GCSE English or maths exam has to resit the same exam until they pass. Research has shown however that of those who resit, only one in every four will achieve a higher grade. For young people looking to progress in their lives and careers, this leads to a repetitive cycle of failure which is damaging to their confidence and in some cases, mental health, at what is a critical time in their professional and personal development.

Learners who achieve a grade 1 or 2 at GCSE by comparison are offered alternative routes to achieve these qualifications through programmes such as Functional Skills, offering a more skills-led, practical approach to learning which might better suit a learner’s individual learning style, as well as the needs of future employers.

NCFE has always been a firm believer that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to education, which is why we believe that opening up these alternative options to all learners and creating a greater parity of esteem between academic and vocational learning will help more young people to achieve their full potential on their chosen career paths.

As part of the campaign launch, we conducted a survey which asked the opinion of more than 2,000 members of the general public for their views on the current legislation. Nearly 70% agreed that young people should be given alternative options other than GCSEs with 71% also agreeing that students should be allowed to learn in a style that suits them. Additionally, over half of respondents (53%) who were studying for their GCSEs at the time the survey was conducted said that this was the most stressful time of their teenage years.

This sentiment has been echoed across the sector, with a number of school teachers, FE colleges, employers and MPs voicing their support for the campaign, which is why, in line with the recent general election with a new cabinet in place, as well as it being one year on since the initial campaign launch, we feel like this is the perfect time for us to re-centre our focus in order to take #FullyFunctional to the next level.

So, how do we plan to do this? We’re looking for as many people as possible, from learners and teachers, to educational institutions and employers, to get behind the campaign and make as much noise as possible about this critical issue so we can encourage the necessary changes in resit policy which will impact so many young people for years to come.

To make this easier to do, we have created a digital pledge for people to sign, hosted on the NCFE website, which will be curated into a petition document for us to send to government on behalf of the entire sector.

Functional Skills qualifications cover the essential elements of English and maths to provide and reinforce the relevant and usable skills that learners need in areas such as communication, problem solving, listening, time management and team working in order to enable them to engage successfully as citizens and progress to further learning or employment.

At NCFE, we believe that by working together collaboratively to address the educational needs of young people from all walks of life, we can equip the workforce of the future with the right skills to progress and achieve. People are the most important resource we have and by levelling the playing field between ‘alternative’ qualifications and GCSEs, we can successfully unlock potential and help to make a positive difference to people’s lives and the success of our economy.

For more information and to join the #FullyFunctional movement, visit

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