English and maths Functional Skills or GCSEs - which one do you need? - Northern College
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English and maths Functional Skills or GCSEs – which one do you need?

September 22, 2022

So, you need English and maths qualifications for your next step, but you don’t know if you need Functional Skills or GCSEs. 

Don’t worry, we’re here to help you decide which is right for you by explaining what each means and the benefits. You may also be able to study for free. 

These courses are free to anyone who doesn’t already have either a GCSE grade 4 (C grade), or a Level 2 in the specific subject. 

Functional Skills 

English and maths Functional Skills focus on skills that you need in everyday life and the ability to problem solve. For example, on the English course you will learn reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. On the Maths course you will learn about the number system, use of common measures, shape and space, and handling information. 

Benefits include:

  • intense courses – usually two days per week over four weeks  
  • build skills from entry level up to Level 2 
  • Functional Skills is becoming more recognised by universities for entry to degree courses. 


GCSEs are considered the gold standard by Higher Education and some industries. They also provide a more in-depth and academic approach to learning English and maths over a full academic year of study. 

Benefits include:

  • one-year course for if you are looking for more in-depth knowledge 
  • accepted by all university courses and preferred by certain industries. 

We know that your decision will also depend on your circumstances. So, if it isn’t clear to you which qualification would be the best, you can contact us on the e-mail address below and one of our Student Support team will be in touch to discuss your options. 

Study for free

Functional skills and GCSE qualifications in English and Maths are free to anyone who doesn’t already have either a grade 4, or a Level 2, in the specific subject. This means, if you’re aged 19 or over, the government will fund your English and Maths studies until you achieve either of these grades whether you are in work or not. 

Contact advice@northern.ac.uk now or telephone 01226 776000

View our English and maths courses and you can also apply online.

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