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English Courses

Our English courses can help you be who you want to be

If you want to improve your English skills for work, further study, to support your children with their homework, or to simply make everyday life a bit easier, then you’ve come to the right place.


What will I learn?

Our tutors will work with you to create a personal learning plan, but all English courses will help you:

  • Brush up your reading and writing skills
  • Improve your spelling
  • Develop confident communication skills
  • Gain a nationally recognised qualification
  • Increase job prospects

Where and when are courses held?

Our relaxed and informal courses are held five days a week at venues across Poole, Bournemouth and Dorset. We offer daytime and evening sessions, so you are bound to find something that fits around your lifestyle. Most courses are 3 hours long and run once a week, although there are intensive options available with courses twice a week for those under time pressure to achieve a qualification.

What will I gain?

At Skills & Learning, we offer a range of qualifications to suit all abilities, including portfolio-based units, Functional Skills and GCSE. We will discuss your options and advise you on the best pathway for you, depending on what you hope to achieve. 

How much will it cost?

If you do not yet have an English GCSE grade C (Level 4) or above, then your study will be fully funded by the Government. It is important that you make the commitment to attend your course every week.

How do I get started?

The first step is to book onto one of our Admission Sessions where our friendly team will work with you to choose the right course for your current level of knowledge. Courses start in September although there are other opportunities to join at set points throughout the year.



Want to enrol?

To book your place on one of our English Admission Sessions please call 01202 262300 | 01305 819059 or pop into one of our Learning Centres. You will need to bring proof of ID with you to your Admissions Session.

Functional Skills

Functional Skills are qualifications in English and maths that equip learners with practical skills required in everyday life. It is not just about developing knowledge; it is also about knowing when and how to use the knowledge in real life situations. You can get ahead in work, education and daily life by gaining a Functional Skills qualification.

Our courses are held at venues in Bournemouth, Poole and across Dorset, at different times of the day and evening. Most courses start in September, but there are more opportunities to enrol later in the year. Learners who enrol on our English and maths Functional Skills courses are funded by the Government. 

We offer a range of long, intensive and fast track courses to suit different abilities and lifestyles. Recognised qualifications are available from Entry Level right up to more advanced qualifications at Level 2. Fast track and intensive courses are particularly suitable if you can commit to studying and revising in your own time and have access to a computer.

Want to enrol?

For Functional Skills you will need to attend an Admission Session. You can sign up by giving us a call on 01202 262300 | 01305 819059


A GCSE is a more intensive academic course, completed within 9 months. It requires your full commitment to achieve success and you will need to allocate a significant amount of time to studying independently. 

You need to be working to at least Level 1 to join a GCSE course. Depending on the results of your assessment, you may be enrolled first on a Functional Skills qualification course to help you develop the foundation skills required before progressing to a GCSE. Similarly, if English is your second language, you may be advised to join one of our ESOL courses first. 

English and maths GCSE may be fully funded (i.e. you pay no fee) if you do already have a grade C, or grade 4 or above in the subject. If this has already been achieved, you will be required to pay the full cost of £811.00.

Want to enrol?

For GCSE courses you will need to attend an Admission Session.You can sign up by giving us a call on 01202 262300 | 01305 819059

Frequently Asked Questions 

Below are answers to the questions we get asked the most about when applying for our English courses.


What is the difference between Functionals Skills and GCSEs?

Functional Skills are designed to equip learners with the knowledge and skills that will enable them to operate confidently, effectively and independently in life, education and work. They teach practical skills in English, maths and ICT that are often taken by learners studying vocational qualifications. Functional Skills form part of many apprenticeship frameworks in England and are also widely accepted as an alternative to GCSE qualifications by employers and educational institutes. 

GCSEs are widely recognised qualifications that are most commonly sat during secondary school and are seen as more academic qualifications than Functional Skills. GCSEs are available post-18 as a one year course, normally with a start date in September and exam in May the following year. The technical skills required by GCSE are far wider and more complex than those needed for functional skills. Study towards Functional Skills can be started at any time and the exam taken when you are ready.

For learners without a GCSE grade 4-9 (C to A*) Functional Skills can provide an appropriate alternative. They can be studied in the classroom or online, enable you to access University or employment opportunities and can be completed in a relatively short amount of time. The training is centred on applied skills that help to use English and maths in real-life scenarios.

What are Functional Skills?

Studying Functional Skills develops vital skills for learners in maths, English and ICT and are regulated by the government. They have been an essential part of all apprenticeships since October 2012.

Functional Skills qualifications are designed to enable students to develop confidence and fluency in maths and English. They equip students with the practical skills to get the most out of education, work and everyday life and to help them function more confidently, effectively and independently. They are useful for college courses and relate to many work areas and sectors, such as accounting, business, childcare, education and hair and beauty.

What levels are there?

There are Entry Levels 1-3, and Levels 1 and 2. Level 1 Functional Skills are equivalent to a GCSE Grade 2-3 (D-E), and Level 2 Functional Skills are equivalent to GCSE Grade  4-9 (C-A*). Entry levels give learners the basics in maths and English that you would use in everyday life. Entry levels might also work as a good refresher course if you find maths or English difficult.

Who should take Functional Skills?

Functional Skills qualifications are ideal for people who did not get a minimum grade 4 (or a C) at GCSE and who want to gain a nationally recognised qualification. 

Are there any age limits on learners taking Functional Skills?

There are no set age limits for taking Functional Skills tests.

Why do employers like Functional Skills?

Employers like Functional Skills because they help you to solve problems that arise in business. Whether you are a hairdresser, a beauty therapist, a construction worker or support in a school, an up to date Functional Skills qualification demonstrates that you have effective maths and English skills for the workplace.

Why are they so popular?

Over three million students have chosen to study for Functional Skills since they began in 2014 and their popularity is rising. It is easy to see why they are Ofqual’s most popular qualification after GCSEs. They offer applied skills that employers look for in employees, as well as building your own confidence in everyday life and work. Functional skills offer a flexible delivery model and exams can be taken throughout the year, when you are ready.

How are Functional Skills taught?

Functional skills can be taught in small groups in a classroom, online or a mixture of both. You will be taught the skills you need then take practice assessments to ensure you are ready for your exam. If you have additional support needs or need special considerations for your exam you can be supported with these.

Will Functional Skills be accepted by the university I want to go to?

Most universities will accept Functional Skills, but you should check first with each university.

How long will it take for me to do Functional Skills?

Each level contains approximately 45 hours of learning. If you are learning online at your own pace, the length of time it takes depends on how many levels you need to study and how many hours per day or week you spend on it. If you are working to a particular goal e.g. application to university, your tutor will be able to advise how long you may need to study by taking certain factors into account, such as your initial starting point. 

How are Functional Skills assessed?

English has two exams (reading and writing) and a speaking and listening assessment. Maths has one exam. These take place a number of times throughout the year.

Where do I take the Functional Skills exam?

You will sit an exam at one of our centres across Dorset. Your tutor will book your exam after a discussion with you to identify a day/time and venue to fit in with your other commitments. 

When will I get my results and certificate?

The length of time taken to receive your result will vary, subject to time of year and the awarding organisation, although you will usually be notified within 6 weeks. Once your certificate has been received it will be sent out in the post. 

Functional Skills and Apprenticeships

Functional Skills have been an essential part of all apprenticeships since October 2012.  

Whatever apprenticeship you are completing attainment of approved Level 2 English and maths qualifications is a mandatory requirement of your apprenticeship programme.  

Before starting your apprenticeship we will assess your starting point for English and maths attainment and you will need to provide certificated evidence that you have already achieved maths and English at Level 2 – for example a relevant GCSE or Functional Skill qualification.  

If you have other maths or English qualifications they may be able to act as an equivalent and the Government has provided a list of acceptable current or prior equivalent qualifications for English and maths which we will refer to however if you do not have evidence of qualifications that satisfy the English and/or maths requirements you will need to work towards Level 2 in these subjects before you can proceed to End Point Assessment stage and complete your apprenticeship.

If you experience difficulties achieving your Level 2 English and/or maths arrangements can be made to provide you with additional learning support. In some circumstances achieving Level 1 and attempting Level 2 may be sufficient but is not guaranteed.

Apprentices on Level 3 or higher apprenticeship programmes should hold or achieve an approved Level 2 in both subjects ‘before they can successfully complete the apprenticeship.

You can check the level of English and maths needed for your apprenticeship by looking at the Standard.