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Embedding functional skills

Overall indicative timing

Total: 3 hours
Stage 1 - 45 minutes
Stage 2 - 60 minutes
Stage 3 - 45 minutes
Stage 4 - 30 minutes

Stage 1 of this CPD activity incorporates a series of short clips from the Skills for Life resource Films of effective practice. The clips can be downloaded separately or viewed on the video wall below. Hover over the images to see an excerpt of the clip and view a summary of the contents.

If you wish to see the clip in full, simply click on the image and the clip will be played. Each clip has associated reflective prompts which support the learning objectives in the CPD activity.

Individual video clips can be downloaded along with their accompanying transcripts from the section below the video wall. Click on the heading 'Download video clips and transcripts' to open the section and select the required files from the table.

Please note that as the videos were originally filmed as part of the Skills for Life programme, references and terminology may reflect this rather than functional skills, but the reflective prompts associated with the clips relate to the planning and delivery of functional skills.

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Download video clips and transcripts   

Video 1 WMV (7,270 KB) MOV (5,087 KB) MP4 (565 KB) 3GP (565 KB) Transcript 1
Video 2 WMV (7,763 KB) MOV (5,313 KB) MP4 (595 KB) 3GP (595 KB) Transcript 2
Video 3 WMV (6,261 KB) MOV (4,301 KB) MP4 (473 KB) 3GP (473 KB) Transcript 3
Video 4 WMV (4,038 KB) MOV (2,801 KB) MP4 (322 KB) 3GP (322 KB) Transcript 4
Video 5 WMV (3,749 KB) MOV (2,560 KB) MP4 (302 KB) 3GP (302 KB) Transcript 5
Video 6 WMV (7,583 KB) MOV (5,188 KB) MP4 (570 KB) 3GP (570 KB) Transcript 6
Video 7 WMV (5,564 KB) MOV (3,817 KB) MP4 (400 KB) 3GP (400 KB) Transcript 7
Video 8 WMV (14,430 KB) MOV (9,991 KB) MP4 (1,070 KB) 3GP (1,070 KB) Transcript 8
Video 9 WMV (9,219 KB) MOV (6,243 KB) MP4 (712 KB) 3GP (712 KB) Transcript 9

Brief activity outline   

Whether you are a functional skills or a vocational teacher or a curriculum manager, this activity provides opportunities for you to work with other functional skills and vocational teachers to explore how English, mathematics and ICT might be embedded into main programmes of learning to support learner progression.

Purpose of activity and rationale   

In this activity the functional skills progression cards and the video wall prompt you to participate in a learning conversation with colleagues to gain a shared understanding of what is meant by embedding functional skills and how this will benefit learners. Using a modelling approach, you and your colleagues will explore and adapt 'How to' sheets and assignments to support embedded functional skills in a range of vocational areas. Exemplar session plans and the functional skills self-assessment cards will help you plan how to embed functional skills into your learners' vocational sessions. There is also an opportunity to use the functional skills progression cards to identify the next steps to embedding functional skills within your organisation.

Learning objectives   

Participants should be able to:

  • recognise the benefits for teachers and learners of embedding functional skills delivery into main programmes of learning;
  • adapt key skills and Skills for Life materials and activities to enhance applied learning and support problem-solving approaches; and
  • work collaboratively with colleagues to make initial plans for embedding functional skills into a vocational session.

Some facilitators and participants may find it useful to discuss the meaning of embedding functional skills and establish an agreed definition for the purposes of this CPD activity. It may be useful to use the functional skills glossary supplied for reference, or as a starting point to develop a definition that applies to those participating in the activity.

Resources required   

The downloadable documents to support this activity can be found on the right of the page.

All stages:

Stage 1:

Stage 2:

Adapted materials from the Embedded Learning Portal:

Stage 3:

'How to' sheets

If available, the facilitator or participants should provide a selection of existing vocational or subject-based session plans which have functional skills opportunities mapped to them. The exemplars listed above are provided if existing session plans are not available.

Participants may wish to have access to the internet to view online materials during session(s).

Starting points   

This activity is best introduced as a group activity, which includes vocational teachers, functional skills teachers and curriculum managers.

It is expected that functional skills tutors will have a basic knowledge and understanding of the functional skills standards, which they can share with colleagues from other learning programmes who may have little or no knowledge of functional skills.

It may help facilitators to have access to either a paper or electronic version of the functional skills glossary during the session so that definitions of key terms can be checked or new definitions added.

If the facilitator is a Subject Learning Coach (SLC) or an Advanced Learning Coach (ALC), the activity can become a coaching or co-coaching session in which colleagues can develop a mutually supportive approach and share and learn from each other’s experiences.

This activity is structured in four stages, which should be adapted, split or ordered to meet the interests, needs and experience of participants and the time available for the CPD session.

Here are three examples of how the structure might be changed.

  • Curriculum managers might carry out only Stage 1 of the activity but combine it with Stage 1 of CPD activities 2 and 3 to gain an understanding of key concepts supporting functional skills implementation and delivery.
  • The stages might be split and run over more than one session. If this is preferred, facilitators should ensure that a plenary is held at the end of each stage and a recap of previous stages at the start of each subsequent session.
  • If participants are unable to access the video clips on embedded delivery during the session, they might be sent the link to the video wall on the Excellence Gateway. They could then explore the video wall as a post-session activity to help them record their reflections of embedded delivery as part of their CPD.
  • The facilitator may wish to distribute details of the activity, or particular stage they plan to focus on, to participants in advance of the session in order to prepare them for the activity.

The activity supports progression by encouraging teachers to develop an embedded approach to functional skills which is learner centred and focuses on the individual learners' needs and aspirations.

Some of the extension activities may be appropriate for teachers working independently and these can contribute to the Institute for Learning (IfL) 30 hour (or pro rata) CPD requirement.

Suggested approach(es)   

This activity focuses on a learning conversations approach in Stage 1 and a modelling approach in Stages 2 and 3. You and your colleagues might wish to use these approaches in learner sessions.

Teachers using a learning conversations approach provide a mutually supportive and safe environment in which they can share expertise and learn from each other. They use the skills of active listening and coaching. In this activity the features you are encouraged to model include:

  • using discussion to challenge and motivate;
  • working with your own needs and priorities as well as those of learners and keeping these at the centre of a conversation; and
  • using dialogue to reflect on how your skills in teaching functional skills can be transferred into a vocational area, or alternatively, how vocational skills can be used to develop functional skills.

A modelling approach exposes the learner to both subject content and underpinning thinking whilst working under the guidance of an expert. The expert can break down a process by creating 'bite-size pieces' that match the complexity of the task and the existing skill level of the learner. Teachers are also involved in modelling behaviours that they want learners to adopt, through their own use of language and their ways of working and relating to others. In this activity you are encouraged to explore the following features of a modelling approach:

  • using processes and practices used by experts in vocational areas as a basis for writing vocational assignments that embed functional skills;
  • diagnosing learners' current skills level and breaking a problem-solving task down into intermediate tasks to show where functional skills are needed.

For more on these and other active learning approaches, see the Talking teaching, training and learning cards.

New overarching professional standards   

The Standards and Qualifications team at LLUK works closely with employers and stakeholders across the UK to develop and raise awareness of standards and qualifications in the lifelong learning sector. LLUK is also responsible for developing units of assessment, which make up the new Skills for Life and generic teaching qualifications, as well as new professional standards for teacher/ tutor/ trainer education in the lifelong learning sector. For more information, go to the LLUK website.

Teachers in the learning and skills sector are committed to lifelong learning and professional development and strive for continuous improvement through reflective practice.

The key role of the teacher is to create effective and stimulating learning opportunities through high-quality teaching that enables all learners to develop and progress.

Teachers in this sector understand:

  • what motivates learners;
  • how learning promotes the emotional, intellectual, social and economic well-being of individuals;
  • the power of relevant differentiated and appropriate learning opportunities to change lives; and
  • how to enable learners to make a positive contribution to society and influence their own development.

They also critically evaluate their own practice and are open to new approaches and ideas that help them to improve the learning opportunities of their learners. These resources are designed to support this critical reflection and continuing professional development.

Activity stages, with indicative timings

Stage 1 (45 minutes)   

  • Share the first learning objective (recognise the benefits for teachers and learners of embedding functional skills delivery into main programmes of learning) with participants.
  • Tell participants that this stage of the activity enables the functional skills teachers to share their knowledge and understanding of functional skills with vocational teachers whilst exploring the features of embedded delivery. Participants may have experiences of embedding other programmes, such as key skills or Skills for Life, which could be explored. This may include fully or partially embedded models.
  • Share with participants the features of learning conversations they might model during this stage, such as being challenged and motivated, being at the centre of a conversation and working with their own needs and priorities, and using dialogue to consider how they might use and develop their own teaching and learning skills.
  • Ask participants to work in pairs or small groups. To encourage the sharing of expertise, it would be beneficial to arrange each pair so that a functional skills teacher is working with either a vocational teacher or a curriculum manager (if they are present).
  • Hand out to each pair or small group the Strategic issue 2 Lead questions 2.1 and 2.2 cards only, from the functional skills progression cards. Ask participants to reflect on the two lead questions and discuss their initial thoughts with their partner before turning the cards over. Ask them to use the discussion prompts as a basis for dialogue.
  • Tell participants they should be prepared to feed back to the whole group:
    • any experience they have of partial or fully embedded delivery;
    • which features of an embedded model were most important for them and their learners;
    • how embedding functional skills might be motivational for teachers and enhance their professional development;
    • how embedding functional skills might challenge them; and
    • what skills or further knowledge they might need to develop to embed functional skills.
  • Ask participants to view the video wall and use the reflective prompts to discuss:
    • the importance of effective functional skills to support applied learning;
    • the benefits of embedding functional skills in a specific vocational area;
    • the need for a whole organisation approach; and
    • the similarities and differences between the practice seen on the video wall and the situation in their own organisation.
  • Ask the pairs to feed back key points to the whole group.

Stage 2 (60 minutes)   

  • Share the second learning objective (adapt key skills and Skills for Life materials and activities to enhance applied learning and support problem-solving approaches) with participants.
  • Share with participants the features of a modelling approach they might explore during this and the next stage. These include using processes and practices used by experts, diagnosing learners’ current skills levels and breaking tasks down into smaller steps.
  • Hand out Sheet 2.1a 'Cooking with children' and Sheets 2.1b 'Helping children to cook'. Ask participants to work in their pairs to compare the two assignments. Sheet 2.1a is the original KSSP assignment and Sheet 2.1b is a version of the assignment that has been revised for functional skills. It will benefit participants to have access to Level 2 of the functional skills standards for this task.
  • Ask the pairs to feed back to the whole group. You might prompt them to consider:
    • how the inclusion of a brief makes the assignment more functional;
    • why there are less directive instructions for learners;
    • what opportunities the assignment offers for learners to demonstrate functional skills (other than those listed in the table);
    • how they might simplify the activity or alter the language to make the assignment more appropriate for Entry level and Level 1 learners; and
    • how readability levels must be appropriate if learners are to complete the tasks independently and confidently.
  • Remind participants that assignments can be used for a number of purposes including:
    • the formative assessment of skills;
    • for practice in problem-solving;
    • to provide opportunities for learners to transfer skills to new contents;
    • to prepare for summative assessments.
  • Ask participants to select another assignment which has not been revised to support functional skills delivery from Sheets 2.2a, 2.3a, 2.4a, 2.5a or 2.6a. Ask participants to work in their pairs to list the changes they would make to their chosen assignment to make it suitable for learners developing functional skills at Level 2. Remind them that the new assignment should take a problem-solving approach and provide learners with the opportunities to select the functional skills they will need.
  • Ask participants to share their list of changes to their assignment with the rest of the group.
  • Hand out the revised versions of the assignments (Sheets 2.2b, 2.3b, 2.4b, 2.5b and 2.6b) so that participants can compare their suggested changes with the revised assignment.
  • Ask the group to discuss:
    • what tips they might give to less experienced colleagues to support them in adapting these or their current vocational assignments to use with learners developing their functional skills;
    • how these assignments might be adapted for different contexts;
    • how the assignments could be reduced to provide short activities which could be completed in class to give learners experience of problem-solving; and
    • how the assignment supports an embedded approach.
  • Remind participants that a complete bank of these KSSP assignments can be found in the resource library for them to adapt. Ask them to reflect on:
    • the level of functional skills or vocational expertise the teacher delivering and assessing these and similar assignments might need;
    • the type of training that functional skills and vocational teachers might need to support them in understanding each others’ areas; and
    • how the curriculum manager can organise staff timetables to promote collaborative working between vocational and functional skills teachers.

Stage 3 (45 minutes)   

  • Share the third learning objective (work collaboratively with colleagues to make initial plans for embedding functional skills into a vocational session) with participants. Remind participants that embedding involves both delivering skills and providing formative assessment.
  • Show participants the 'How to' sheets.
    Tell participants that they can find a bank of other 'How to' sheets in the resource library.
  • Ask participants to scan the sheets and feed back to the group:
    • which of these sheets might support their learners; and
    • how these sheets might help a vocational teacher to support learners in applying a functional skill in a vocational area.
  • Show participants the printed functional skills self-assessment cards and instructions and explain how they can be used with learners to help them self-assess their functional skills. Give participants 10 minutes to explore the cards. Tell them that there are also downloadable sets of functional skills self-assessment cards for English, mathematics and ICT. It is important that they realise they can select a few cards from these sorts during an initial assessment or review rather than try to use all the cards.
  • Remind vocational teachers that the complete range of functional skills requires significant expertise and time to deliver. The delivery and assessment of functional skills is not the sole responsibility of one member of staff; rather it should be shared by all who are delivering the programme. Embedding functional skills does not mean asking a vocational teacher to fit in twice as much work during a vocational session or to ensure that there are both full and partial models of embedding. There should always be a consistent, complementary and collaborative approach to the delivery of functional skills.

    It is worth noting that if this is an issue that needs further attention, CPD activity 3 looks at a whole organisation approach to support the planning and delivery of functional skills.
  • Tell participants they will be working again in their pairs. Ask each pair to select a session plan. This might be one they have brought with them which has functional skills opportunities already mapped or either Sheet 2.13 Music for Real (competition supporting music, business and enterprise), Sheet 2.14 The Risk Factor (supporting Health, safety and well-being in Creative and media) or Sheet 2.15 The Risk Factor (supporting Health, safety and well-being in Engineering).
  • Ask participants to identify:
    • how they might adapt the session plan to include the explicit teaching of one aspect of functional skills (for example, punctuate accurately using commas, apostrophes and inverted commas; carry out calculations with numbers of any size in practical contexts; select and use a communication service to access the internet.);
    • at what point they might include formative assessment to either make an initial assessment of learners' functional skills or to review their progress (possibly using a few cards selected from the self-assessment card sort); and
    • how they will share the information gathered from the formative assessment with the rest of the teaching team, and what support the vocational teacher might need from the functional skills teacher.

Self-assessment is a powerful skill for learners to develop and an effective means of implementing assessment for learning, encouraging functionality and developing learner independence. It is important for learners to recognise that not all assessment for learning has to be done by or with the teacher.

For more on working with learners to enable them to self-assess their functional skills, CPD activity 1 looks at how assessment for learning can support the planning and delivery of functional skills.

Stage 4 (30 minutes)   

  • Ask participants to work again in pairs or small groups, preferably with a functional skills teacher and either a vocational teacher or a curriculum manager.
  • Hand out to each pair or small group the Strategic issue 2 Lead questions 2.3 card from the functional skills progression cards. Ask participants to reflect on the lead question and discuss their initial thoughts with their partner before turning the card over. Ask them to use the discussion prompts as a basis for dialogue.
  • Ask the pairs or small groups to feed back two key points from their discussion to the whole group and their next steps in implementing or developing collaboration between vocational and functional skills teachers.
  • Ask participants to reflect on what they have learned and how they have learned it. In particular, ask them to reflect on how embedding functional skills can:
    • support their learners' progression;
    • change learners' attitudes; and
    • provide opportunities for them to develop new skills.

Remind participants that it would be useful for them to record their thoughts, any agreed next steps and their impact in their reflection log.

Ideas for extension tasks or for adapting and developing the activity   

This activity could be extended or adapted either:

  • within the session; or
  • in subsequent sessions with either learners or with colleagues for CPD.

This could involve:

  • collaborative working between functional skills and vocational teachers to adapt other materials and activities from the resource;
  • collaborative working between functional skills and vocational teachers to create a series of sessions plans that include the delivery and assessment of functional skills;
  • collaborative working between functional skills and vocational teachers to track opportunities for functional skills development within vocational sessions to identify coverage and gaps;
  • producing a series of tips to support vocational teachers in developing assignments that support applied learning and functional skills;
  • creating a bank of industry briefs and scenarios to support the development of problem-solving skills;
  • considering how an integrated approach to delivering English, mathematics and ICT might benefit learners;
  • inviting visiting industry speakers to talk to learners about the range of functional skills they possess and how effective functional skills are needed in their industry;
  • using the functional skills self-assessment cards on a regular basis in vocational sessions with learners as part of assessment for learning of English, mathematics and ICT;
  • exploring CPD activity 1 (Assessment for learning) and CPD activity 3 (Whole organisation approach).

Teachers might ask the Subject Learning Coach (SLC) in their organisation to support them in developing their skills in using active learning approaches and their understanding of learner progression through exploring resources on the Excellence Gateway. Suggested sections of the Excellence Gateway appear in the 'Further resources to explore section' below.

Personal and group action points: reflection, sense-making and planning   

The activity will offer reflective prompts focusing on the benefits of embedding functional skills. It will emphasise that by embedding functional skills in applied learning:

  • the relevance of English, mathematics and ICT for learners is enhanced;
  • learner retention and progression can be improved; and
  • opportunities are provided for learners to practise their functional skills.

Prompts to support this activity and the learning approaches used include the following.

  • Consider the learning approaches used within this activity and reflect on how the activity has supported you in your understanding of the pedagogies underpinning these resources.
  • Consider how you might use or further develop these approaches in your teaching.
  • Consider how other learning approaches not identified in this activity could be used to support you and your colleagues in developing greater awareness and understanding of assessment for learning and how it can support effective practice in functional skills.
  • Consider how you might ask colleagues, including SLCs or ALCs, to support you within your lessons to help you make changes in your practice through either team teaching or observation.

Participants should record and reflect on what they have learned after completing the CPD activity, the results of which can be kept in their professional development portfolio.

  • What activities have you undertaken?
  • Have you reflected on the learning you have gained from these activities?
  • Have the activities and the reflection made a difference to how you teach or train?
  • Can you show evidence of this difference and the impact it has made to learners, colleagues or the organisation in which you work?

You will find more information on the Institute for Learning (IfL) 30 hour (or pro rata) CPD requirement at

Further resources to explore   

The library of resources contains a range of materials for you to explore with accompanying documents to support the use and adaptation of resources. Other sources of information and resources are provided below.

Related Excellence Gateway sections and resources:

Developing the expert learner: the learner journey:

Supporting learner progression:

The 10 active learning approaches:


Functional Skills Support Programme:

E-learning toolkit:

Useful websites:


Functional Skills Support Programme:

Institute for Learning:

LLUK standards:


Gold dust (Embedding):


Being functional CPD activity 2 - Embedding functional skills (1,499 KB)

Functional skills glossary (1,131 KB)

Functional skills progression cards (236 KB)

Functional skills self-assessment cards (250 KB)

Functional skills self-assessment cards (179 KB)

Functional skills self-assessment cards (1,902 KB)

CPD activity record and reflection pro forma (926 KB)

Self-assessment record sheet (243 KB)

Self-assessment record sheet (guidance notes) (1,349 KB)

Sheet2.1a (Original) Cooking with children (910 KB)

Sheet2.1b (Amended assignment) Helping children to cook (996 KB)

Sheet2.2a (Original) whatpricesafety (1,141 KB)

Sheet2.2b (Amended assignment) Safety at work (985 KB)

Sheet2.3a (Original) Large event (1,144 KB)

Sheet2.3b (Amended assignment) Planning an event (980 KB)

Sheet2.4a (Original) Preparing job quote (1,138 KB)

Sheet2.4b (Amended assignment) Preparing a job quotation (939 KB)

Sheet2.5a (Original) Suppliers (164 KB)

Sheet2.5b (Amended assignment) Researching suppliers (959 KB)

Sheet2.6a (Original) Two tractors (1,141 KB)

Sheet2.6b (Amended assignment) Which tractor (1,009 KB)

Sheet2.7 How to avoid sentence errors (919 KB)

Sheet2.8 How to estimate (922 KB)

Sheet2.9 How to skim read (180 KB)

Sheet2.9 How to skim read (3,253 KB)

Sheet2.10 How to understand percentages (924 KB)

Sheet2.11 How to understand ratio (80 KB)

Sheet2.11 How to understand ratio (1,170 KB)

Sheet2.12 How to use graphic organisers (913 KB)

Sheet2.13 Exemplar session plan (Music) (1,350 KB)

Sheet2.14 Exemplar session plan (HSW Creative and media) (3,783 KB)

Sheet2.15 Exemplar session plan (HSW Engineering) (3,757 KB)