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Functional Skills, GCSE's and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)

Functional Skills, GCSEs and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)


Enrolment for Functional Skills, GCSEs and ESOL is open.

Are your English, maths, and/or ICT skills a little rusty? Take the opportunity to improve your skills and achieve a recognised Entry Level, Level 1 or Level 2 (equivalent to a GCSE) Functional Skills qualification. For entry requirements and to join a course, please visit our initial assessment section.

Or perhaps you would you like to gain a full GCSE maths and/or English qualification? We can help.

Alternatively are you, or do you know, someone for whom English is not their first language and would like to study the English language from the very beginning? Our English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses are perfect to help you/them begin to learn the English language.

Due to the announcement of a third national lockdown, all of our Functional Skills and ESOL courses are now delivered online through Google Classroom.

However, we will continue to offer face-to-face classroom sessions when able to do so, adhering to social distancing guidelines. You will be notified if you are joining a physical classroom or an online class when you enrol.

Although the majority of our courses are delivered virtually, a requirement of Functional Skills and ESOL courses are to sit exam/s to achieve your qualification. Your exam/s will take place at our base venue (The Coleridge Centre) in Darlington*, adhering to strict social-distancing measures, on a pre-arranged date and time. Under no circumstances can you sit your exam online, at home or at an alternative venue.

*Due to the national lockdown, we are currently awaiting guidance from Ofqual and the Department for Education in regards to exams for Functional Skills maths, English, ICT and ESOL. We will update our website and social media pages as soon as we know any more information. Apologies for any inconvenience. 


Functional Skills Initial Assessments


Before attending Functional Skills courses, you need to complete an initial and diagnostic assessment to check your current working level. Initial and diagnostic assessments are free of charge. You will receive course joining instructions at this stage.

All functional skills classes are free of charge providing you meet the following criteria:

  • Are aged 19 years or above;
  • Have been a UK, EU or EEA resident continuously for the previous three years;
  • Have the right to live and work in the UK, EU or EEA

If you do not meet any one of the three criteria listed, each level you study will be charged at £135.

The level at which you join Functional Skills is dependent on your results of the initial assessment and any previous qualifications you may hold. You will start you course after you have completed your assessment. You may incur a waiting period in between completing your assessment/s and starting lessons.

To book an initial assessment please call 01325 405601, call or text 07932 869325, email l&[email protected] or message us through Facebook [external link], Twitter [external link] or Instagram [external link].

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Functional Skills and ESOL Exams


A requirement of Functional Skills and ESOL courses are to sit mandatory exams to achieve your qualification. Your exams will take place at our base venue (The Coleridge Centre) in Darlington*, adhering to strict social-distancing measures, on a pre-arranged date and time. Under no circumstances can you sit your exam online, at home or at an alternative venue.

*Due to the national lockdown, we are currently awaiting guidance from Ofqual and the Department for Education in regards to exams for Functional Skills maths, English, ICT and ESOL. We will update our website and social media pages as soon as we know any more information. Apologies for any inconvenience.

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Functional Skills Courses


We currently offer Functional Skills English, maths and ICT courses between Entry Level 1 and full Level 2.

Functional Skills qualifications are nationally recognised and can help you to upskill and gain employment. You will learn in a friendly, supportive online environment and at a pace to suit your needs. You can join a Functional Skills course at any time during the academic year starting in September, however, last enrolments will usually be taken in April.

To join a Functional Skills course you are required to sit an initial and diagnostic assessment to check you current working level. The level at which you join Functional Skills is dependent on the result of your assessment and any previous qualifications you may hold.

Course lengths vary on an individual basis. There is no set start or end date for the course, you will start soon after your assessment. Please note that you may incur a waiting period in between completing your assessment/s and starting lessons. Your course will end when you and your tutor believe you are ready to sit the mandatory exam for your current level. 

Scroll down for specific course information.

Functional Skills English


Are your English skills a little rusty? Take the opportunity to improve your skills and achieve an Entry Level, Level 1 or Level 2 (equivalent to a GCSE) English qualification. These qualifications are nationally recognised and can help you to upskill and gain employment. You will learn in a friendly, supportive online environment and at a pace to suit your needs.

Before attending an English course you need to complete an initial and diagnostic assessment to check your current working level.

Scroll down for course specific information. 

Functional Skills English – Entry Level


Who is this course for?

This course is suitable for those whose English is currently below GCSE level and for those who want to further improve their skills. The emphasis is on building up the basics in order to progress to higher levels or GCSE. Improved communication, reading and writing skills will assist in seeking or improving your employability.

What entry requirements do I need to start the course?

There are no entry requirements for this course, except learners must be aged 19 years on enrolment, and bring the enthusiasm to learn about and develop skills in English in a relaxed, friendly environment.

What is the curriculum intent of this course?

The design and delivery of the curriculum in this course will enable learners to up-skill and develop confidence in using English which will support them to enter employment, return to work or progress to further learning. The course will also help learners to develop the necessary tools to support their children at school, if applicable.

What will the course cover?

Each week, we will focus on different skills, and the course leads to achieving an accredited qualification through an internally set and marked exam. The Entry levels are from Entry Level 1 up to Entry Level 3. The course covers:

  • Punctuation and grammar
  • Communicating by email and letter
  • Writing a CV and presenting information in sequence
  • Sentence construction
  • Understanding texts
  • Writing and reading skills
  • Speaking and listening skills

What could I do when I have finished this course?

After this course has finished you may like to progress to the next level which might be a higher Entry level or a Level 1 (equivalent to a GCSE grades 1 – 3, previous grades GCSE D - G).

Where and when will I learn?

This course runs on various different times and venues.

What should I bring with me?

Please bring a pen and notepad. Please also bring your National Insurance number to the first session.

How much will the course cost?

The course is free but learners are expected to work towards an accredited qualification, through an exam.

What shall I do next?

Book a place onto an initial assessment.

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Functional Skills English – Levels 1 and 2


Who is this course for?

This course is suitable for those whose English is currently below GCSE level or at Level 1 and for those who want to further improve their skills. The emphasis is on building up the basics in order to progress to a Level 2 or GCSE. Improved communication, reading and writing skills will assist in seeking or improving your employability.

What entry requirements do I need to start the course?

There are no entry requirements for this course, except learners must be aged 19 years on enrolment, and bring the enthusiasm to learn about and develop skills in English in a relaxed, friendly environment.

What is the curriculum intent of this course?

The design and delivery of the curriculum in this course will enable learners to up-skill and develop confidence in using English which will support them to enter employment, return to work or progress to further learning. The course will also help learners to develop the necessary tools to support their children at school.

What will the course cover?

Each week, we will focus on different skills, and the course leads to achieving an accredited qualification through an externally set and marked exam from the OCR awarding body. The course covers:

  • Punctuation and grammar
  • Understanding the purpose of texts
  • Writing for purpose using correct language, layout, style and conventions
  • Homophones for improved spelling
  • Persuasive, informative, descriptive and instructional texts
  • Sentence construction - get your message across clearly and logically
  • Root words, prefixes, suffixes for spelling and meaning of words
  • Verbs, tenses - improve your writing
  • Fact, opinion, bias - reading between the lines
  • Writing and reading skills - write reports, articles, leaflets, formal letters
  • Speaking and listening skills - create and present a presentation and take part in group discussions

What could I do when I have finished this course?

After this course has finished you may like to progress to the next level which might be a Level 2 if you are studying Level 1 or to a GCSE (a Level 2 is equivalent to a GCSE grade 4 – 9, previously GCSE grades A* - C).

Where and when will I learn?

This course runs on various different times and venues.

What should I bring with me?

Please bring a pen and notepad. Please also bring your National Insurance number to the first session.

How much will the course cost?

The course is free but learners are expected to work towards an accredited qualification, through an exam.

What shall I do next?

Book a place onto an initial assessment.

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Functional Skills Maths


Are your maths skills a little rusty? Take the opportunity to improve your skills and achieve an Entry Level, Level 1 or Level 2 (equivalent to a GCSE) maths qualification. These qualifications are nationally recognised and can help you to upskill and gain employment. You will learn in a friendly, supportive online environment and at a pace to suit your needs.

Before attending a maths course you need to complete an initial and diagnostic assessment to check your current working level.

Scroll down for course specific information.

Functional Skills Maths – Entry Level


Who is this course for?

This course is suitable for those whose maths is currently below GCSE level and for those who want to further improve their skills. The emphasis is on building up the basics to continue on to higher levels. Improved numeracy skills will assist in maintaining your personal finances, shopping, household bills and in seeking or improving your employability.

What entry requirements do I need to start the course?

There are no entry requirements for this course, except learners must be aged 19 years on enrolment, and bring the enthusiasm to learn about and develop skills in maths in a relaxed, friendly environment.

What is the curriculum intent of this course?

The curriculum intent of Entry Level Functional Skills maths is for learners to gain knowledge, skills and confidence across the three main areas of maths–number, measures and data. The curriculum structure and delivery of the courses will help and support learners to progress to further maths learning at a higher level.

What will the course cover?

Each week, we will focus on different skills, and the course leads to achieving an accredited qualification through an externally set and marked exam from the OCR awarding body. The course covers:

  • Basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division
  • The use of numeracy in money
  • Rounding and estimation
  • Fractions and decimals
  • Interpretation of graphs and charts
  • Measurement - time, temperature, length, distance, weight and capacity
  • 2D and 3D shapes
  • The use of perimeter of simple shapes

What could I do when I have finished this course?

After this course has finished you may like to progress to the next level which might be a higher Entry level or a Level 1 (equivalent to a GCSE grades 1 – 3, previous grades GCSE D - G).

Where and when will I learn?

This course runs on various different times and venues.

What should I bring with me?

Please bring a pen and notepad. Please also bring your National Insurance number to the first session.

How much will the course cost?

The course is free but learners are expected to work towards an accredited qualification, through an exam.

What shall I do next?

Book a place onto an initial assessment.

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Functional Skills Maths – Levels 1 and 2


Who is this course for?

This course is suitable for those whose Maths is currently below GCSE level or at Level 1 and for those want to further improve their skills. The emphasis is on building up the basics to progress to a Level 2 or GCSE. Improved numeracy skills will assist in maintaining your personal finances, shopping, household bills and in seeking or improving your employability.

What entry requirements do I need to start the course?

There are no entry requirements for this course, except learners must be aged 19 years on enrolment, and bring the enthusiasm to learn about and develop skills in maths in a relaxed, friendly environment.

What is the curriculum intent of this course?

The curriculum intent of Functional Skills maths is for learners to gain knowledge, skills and confidence across the three main areas of maths – number, measures and data. This will lead to an increase in ability to solve mathematical problems. Each level of Functional Skills maths builds on the previous level up to the completion of a Level 2 qualification. Level 2 is regarded as a GCSE equivalent by many employers and for entry on to higher level courses. Many learners who study Functional Skills maths also find it becomes a valuable tool in helping their children with their education.

What will the course cover?

Each week, we will focus on different skills, and the course leads to achieving an accredited qualification through an externally set and marked exam from the OCR awarding body. The course covers:

  • Basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division
  • Ratio, proportion and scale
  • Fractions, decimals and percentages
  • Money and exchange rates
  • Interpretation of graphs and charts
  • The use of averages and probability
  • Measurement - length, distance, weight and capacity
  • The use of perimeter, area and volume of simple and complex shapes, including using formulae

What could I do when I have finished this course?

After this course has finished you may like to progress to the next level which might be a Level 2 if you are studying Level 1 or to a GCSE (a Level 2 is equivalent to a GCSE grade 5)

Where and when will I learn?

This course runs on various different times and venues.

What should I bring with me?

Please bring a pen and notepad. Please also bring your National Insurance number to the first session.

How much will the course cost?

The course is free but learners are expected to work towards an accredited qualification, through an exam.

What shall I do next?

Book a place onto an initial assessment.

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Functional Skills ICT


Are your ICT skills a little rusty? Take the opportunity to improve your skills and achieve an Entry Level, Level 1 or Level 2 (equivalent to a GCSE) ICT qualification. These qualifications are nationally recognised and can help you to upskill and gain employment. You will learn in a friendly, supportive online environment and at a pace to suit your needs.

Before attending an ICT course you need to complete an initial and diagnostic assessment to check your current working level.

Scroll down for course specific information.

Functional Skills ICT - Entry Level


Who is this course for?

This course is suitable for those whose ICT skills are below GCSE level or non-existent and for those who want to further improve their skills. The emphasis is on building up the very basics to continue on to higher levels. Improved ICT skills will assist in maintaining your digital presence and in seeking or improving your employability.

What entry requirements do I need to start the course?

There are no entry requirements for this course, only the enthusiasm to learn about and develop skills in using a computer and the Internet.

What is the curriculum intent of this course?

The design and delivery of the curriculum in this course will enable learners to up-skill and develop confidence in using ICT which will support them to enter employment, return to work or progress to further learning.

What will the course cover?

  • Switching on and closing down the computer
  • Using a mouse and keyboard
  • Word processing
  • Saving and organising your work
  • Using tools to create a poster / party invitations
  • Adding formatting to a document
  • Moving and modifying text
  • Using a printer
  • File management
  • Using flash drives
  • Using a search engine to source information effectively

What could I do when I have finished this course?

After this course has finished you may like to progress to the next level which might be a higher Entry level or a Level 1 (equivalent to a GCSE grades 1 – 3, previous grades GCSE D - G).

Where and when will I learn?

This course runs on various different times and venues.

What should I bring with me?

Please bring a pen and notepad. Please also bring your National Insurance number to the first session.

How much will the course cost?

The course is free but learners are expected to work towards an accredited qualification, through an exam.

What shall I do next?

Book a place onto an initial assessment.

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Functional Skills ICT - Levels 1 and 2


Who is this course for?

This course is suitable for learners of all levels and abilities up to Level 2. If you already have a certificate, achieved within the last five years, you will only be eligible for the level above. If you have no certificates then you will be assessed to establish your current level and enrolled on the appropriate level of course.

What entry requirements do I need to start the course?

There are no entry requirements for this course, only the enthusiasm to learn about and develop skills in using a computer and the Internet.

What is the curriculum intent of this course?

The course is designed to allow learners to develop the Functional ICT skills they need, in a supportive environment. As learners increase their skill level, they are encouraged to become increasingly independent when deciding on the best use of ICT. The vocational structure allows learners to practice these skills within a “real world” context and therefore increase their confidence within their current employment role or to prepare them to enter employment, return to work, or change career paths.

What will the course cover?

All topics in Entry Levels plus:

  • Powerpoint
  • Excel
  • Word
  • Creating presentations
  • Adding slides
  • Creating an email account
  • Sending and receiving emails
  • Attachments
  • Spreadsheets
  • Functions and formulae
  • Charts

What could I do when I have finished this course?

After this course has finished you may like to progress to the next level of Functional Skills ICT. Once you have completed Level 2 you can apply to progress to a Level 3 ICT course at a college.

Where and when will I learn?

This course runs on various different times and venues.

What should I bring with me?

Please bring a pen and notepad. Please also bring your National Insurance number to the first session.

How much will the course cost?

The course is free but learners are expected to work towards an accredited qualification, through an exam.

What shall I do next?

Book a place onto an initial assessment.

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GCSE Courses


We offer GGCSE English and GCSE maths qualifications to help you up-skill in your current role or to gain employment. GCSE courses start each September and last one academic year.

To qualify you must:

  • Be 19 years old or over from 31st August 2021
  • Want to achieve the qualification for employment or to up-skill in your current role
  • Not currently hold a GCSE in maths and English that is a grade 4 (old grade C) or higher and was awarded in the previous five years
  • By expressing an interest in these courses, you are also agreeing to sit a mandatory, online initial assessment to check your current working level in maths and/or English. As GCSEs are highly intensive courses, if your assessment results falls below Level 1 or Level 2 you may not be permitted to join the course/s.

Classes, per subject, will take place once per week over three hours and it is recommended that you also complete at least three hours home study per week.

Scroll down to vie our GCSE offer.

GCSE English


1. Who is the course for?

Anyone who would like the opportunity to explore a range of texts from a historical, social and cultural context including modern texts, 19th century texts and methods of communication. You will be encouraged to understand the methods writers use for different purposes and to be creative and write in different forms so that you can improve your command of spelling and grammar to enhance employability skills such as effective communication, writing professionally and expressing yourself creatively through nonfiction and fiction texts.

2. What entry requirements do I need to start the course?

You will need to complete an assessment in reading and writing to check your suitability for this course.

Most learners who have not achieved a grade C (4) in GCSE English Language will go into a GCSE class.

3. What is the curriculum intent of this course?

The specification will enable learners to develop the skills they need to read, understand and analyse a wide range of different texts covering the 19th, 20th and 21st century time periods as well as to write clearly, coherently and accurately using a range of vocabulary and sentence structures.  This support learners to enhance their career or in further learning.

4. What will the course cover?

The course will follow the latest AQA English Language 8700. The specification offers two equally-balanced papers, relating reading sources to the topic and theme of writing tasks. The reading sources act as stimulus for writing tasks, providing you with a clear route through each paper.

Each paper has a distinct identity: 

  • Paper 1, Explorations in Creative Reading and Writing, looks at how writers use narrative and descriptive techniques to engage the interest of readers.
  • Paper 2, Writers' Viewpoints and Perspectives, looks at how different writers present a similar topic over time.

5. What could I do when I have finished this course?

In most cases, employers and universities will expect you to have GCSE English at grade C (4) or above. It is an essential requirement to be able to communicate ideas clearly in written and spoken English and understand information conveyed by others.

6. Where and when will I learn?

This course will begin in September 2021. You will have one, three class per week and it is recommended that you also complete three hours home study per week.

7. What do I need to bring to the first lesson?

Please bring along an A4 lined pad, a folder and a pen. An equipment and/or list of books will be provided at the start of the course.

8. How much will the course cost?

The course will cost £60, which will be fully refunded if the course is completed successfully. We will also recommend textbooks for you to purchase.

9. What shall I do next?

Contact the Learning & Skills team on 01325 405601, 07932 869325 or email l&[email protected] to register your interest.

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GCSE Maths


1. Who is the course for?

Anyone who would like the opportunity to increase their mathematical skills across the three main areas of number, shape and space and data and who has the time to commit to the demands of completing a GCSE course in a year.

2. What entry requirements do I need to start the course?

You will need to complete an assessment in maths to check your suitability for this course.

3. What is the curriculum intent of this course?

The specification will enable you to develop skills across number, algebra, geometry and statistics and to use these skills to solve mathematical problems both with and without a calculator.

4. What are the course details?

The course will follow the AQA Mathematics 8300 Foundation specification. The grades covered by this specification are 1-5 with grade 4 being a standard pass and grade 5 being a strong pass. There are three exam papers and each paper may ask questions based on any aspect of the course. Paper 1 is a non-calculator paper and Papers 2 and 3 are calculator papers.

5. What could I do when I have finished this course?

In many cases, employers and universities will expect you to have GCSE Maths at grade 4 or above. A GCSE in maths can open the door to many new opportunities for employment or study at a higher level.

6. Where and when will I learn?

This course will begin in September 2021. You will have one, three class per week and it is recommended that you also complete three hours home study per week.

7. What do I need to bring to the first lesson?

Please bring along an A4 lined pad, a folder and a pen. An equipment and/or list of books will be provided at the start of the course.

8. How much will the course cost?

The course will cost £60, which will be fully refunded if the course is completed successfully. We will also recommend textbooks for you to purchase.

9. What shall I do next?

Contact the Learning & Skills team on 01325 405601, 07932 869325 or email l&[email protected] to register your interest.

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English for Speaker of Other Languages (ESOL)


Learning & Skills offer free ESOL courses for those who speak very little to no English or English is not their first language. We currently offer Entry Level 1 - Level 1 ESOL courses. We have previous experience of using this course to help integrate Syrian Refugees into the UK. If you know someone who may benefit from this course, please contact us.

Entry onto the course depends on the individuals situation (for example if you/they are a refugee or asylum seeker) and this will be established during initial contact. However, at the moment the entry requirements are as follows:

Non-UK/EU/EEA Residents

  • Aged 19+
  • They have been in the UK for at least 6 months
  • They are currently applying for asylum, or have already obtained asylum

UK/EU/EEA Residents

  • Aged 19+
  • Has continuously been a UK/EU/EEA resident for the previous three years

Scroll down for specific course information. 

1. Who is this course for?

This course is for people whose first language is not English and would like to learn English.

2. What entry requirements do I need to start the course?

There are certain entry requirements, i.e. legal status and how long you have been in the UK. You will do an assessment test to find out what level your English is so we can put you on the right ESOL course.

3. What is the curriculum intent of this course?

This will help you with living, studying, communicating and working in the UK.

4. What will the course cover?

The course covers all elements of communication: reading, writing, speaking and listening.

5. What could I do when I have finished this course?

You can progress up the various ESOL levels before moving to a higher level Function Skills English course (Pre-Entry, Entry 1, Entry 2, Entry 3, Level 1 and Level 2). After completing Functional Skills English Level 2 you will be able to enter Further Education courses. Employers also often ask for a completed level 2.

6. Where and when will I learn?

This course runs on various different times and venues.

7. What should I bring with me?

It is always good to bring pen, paper and if you have one, a smart phone or other device with translation software.

8. How much will the course cost?

The course is free.

9. What shall I do next?

Contact the Learning & Skills team on 01325 405601, 07932 869325 or email l&[email protected] to register your interest or refer a client on to ESOL.

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