Successfully embedding Functional Skills in sport

Posted by The SCL Education Group on 07.04.16

Successful delivery of Functional Skills in vocational training can prove challenging for many FE providers. However, SCL has managed to not only engage young learners who would not otherwise be interested in full-time learning, but have produced Functional Skills results which are excellent by anybody’s standards.

Delivering study programmes and apprenticeships in partnership with a number of lead providers across the South East, London and Midlands, SCL are funded by both the Education Funding Agency and the Skills Funding Agency, focusing on providing sports provision to the sector based on learners’ interests. Mindful of the complexities and difficulties involved with delivering theory, SCL has developed a model which develops the sporting prowess of their learners while simultaneously enhancing their employability, study and Functional Skills resulting in high retention and success rates as well as a workforce for the future with a significant array of transferable skills. Lisa MacCormac, head of collaborative partnerships at South Essex College, notes that:

‘SCL have significantly contributed to changing the perception of vocational sports programmes, particularly apprenticeships, which had previously had a very poor reputation with the funding bodies. They provide excellent success, retention and achievement rates, have cracked the very challenging task of providing excellent Functional Skills results and are a model sub-contractor. I can’t recommend them highly enough.’

A significant part of their success is due to the fact that programmes are delivered in real sports environments which expose learners to working life on a daily basis. Working closely with employers leaves them with a realistic view of how the industry works and the opportunities on offer. By simultaneously developing their subject knowledge and skills set, the learners leave with a profound understanding of the applied nature and utility of the skills they have developed.

However, it is the inventive delivery of Functional Skills that really makes SCL stand out. Having tried discrete delivery by specialist staff, yielding limited success in their first year, SCL experimented with fully embedding these skills into the curriculum by training up its own core staff. The curriculum was linked to the sporting activities contained within the main learning aim thereby taking advantage of the natural interest of learners in their chosen subject. Following this, Functional Skills results rose from 53% in 2012/13 to 87% in 2013/14. Their overall success rates for the past 12 months make for impressive reading with 95% achieving levels 1 and 2, 97% retention and 97% progression into employment, FE or HE.

The focus on staff pursuing better learning was key: all staff are trained to deliver Functional Skills through continuing professional development, working in partnership with providers with exemplary practice. Equally important was the fact that all staff are actively encouraged to gain their own Functional Skills qualifications.


This ability to embed skills and produce learners who are employment-ready is highly valued by SCL’s partners and lead organisations and is highly acclaimed by its awarding body. Adrian Armstrong, chief executive of Access to Music, an SCL partner, said:

‘SCL provides outstanding learner outcomes in terms of quality, success and learner satisfaction. I have personally witnessed the positive impact their
Sport & Education Academy programme has on the learners’ motivation.’

Originally published by The Learning Consortium, 2016 -  http://thelearningconsortium.ac.uk/pluginfile.php/1724/mod_resource/content/0/Excellence%20Report-digital%20%28sml%29.pdf 

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