Foundation learning

Foundation learning

Entry Level and Level 1 Programmes – in a nutshell

  • It’s a programme designed to help your teenager move on to an Apprenticeship, college course or employment
  • Designed to suit their needs so they can progress and achieve
  • It’s made up of a package of qualifications – including vocational subjects like bricklaying or childcare and personal and social development
  • Gives them the opportunity to gain English, Maths and IT qualifications
  • They will receive certificates for all the qualifications they gain on the programme
  • Perhaps most importantly, they will receive lots of support and advice before and during the programme

What is Foundation Learning?

Although the term Foundation Learning is no longer used by the Department for Education, it is a useful term that is often still used to identify Entry Level and Level 1 learning programmes.

Entry Level and Level 1 programmes help students in the 14 to 19 age group progress from Entry Level or Level 1 courses onto other courses, Apprenticeships or jobs. It can also help them to build the skills they need to live independently away from home.

A learner could be a school or college student between the ages of 14 and 19 or an adult. These programmes are designed to help learners progress to level 2 where this is appropriate. Learners may have special educational needs in the form of a learning disability which can range from moderate to severe.

Programmes may be “personalised” which means they are put together to match the needs of each learner personally.  Personalised learning programmes are created by putting together a tailor-made package of qualifications involving a mixture of RQF and “functional skills” elements. 

Functional Skills

All 14–19-year-old learners will undertake all three functional skills (English, Maths and ICT) except for a minority of learners with special education needs or learning difficulties and/or disabilities working at the lower end of entry level 1, for whom alternative provision may be more appropriate.

Personalised foundation learning programmes may be offered alongside other provision. For example, a learner’s overall programme might include additional and specialist learning to support progression on to a Diploma or GCSEs.

So, if they were studying GCSE Art and Design but needed extra help with their Maths, they could take a Level 1 Award in Functional Skills in Mathematics as part of their learning programme.

Programmes are put together to suit the student’s needs and the way they prefer to learn, based on things like:

  • their skills and abilities
  • the subjects they are interested in
  • their future career plans

Programmes can include lots of different ways of learning, for example:

  • one-to-one tuition and small classes
  • group activities and discussions
  • work-based learning with employers
  • volunteering
  • social and sports activities
  • online learning
  • projects

What could my child study?

Vocational or subject understanding covers the skills and experience they will need for a particular area of work or to study a subject at a higher level.

Functional Skills in English, Maths and ICT are the everyday skills they will need for any type of course or job. These are sometimes called key skills.

Personal and social development includes skills like working with other people, timekeeping and communication, as well as activities like sports, art or drama.

There are lots of different subjects they could choose to study, including childcare, construction, cookery, creative arts, hair and beauty and motor vehicle studies.

They can also do general qualifications that can prepare them for work or study, like English, Maths, health and safety or skills for working life.

The subjects available will depend on what is offered by the school, college or work-based learning provider they choose. See ‘How to apply?’ to find out more.

What qualifications could they get?

On this type of programme, they will have a chance to gain qualifications starting at Entry Level and going up to Level 1 (equivalent to GCSEs at grades D-G).

You can look at the Qualifications Explained section to find out more about different qualification levels.

What could this type of programme lead to?

When they start their programme, they and their tutor will agree what they want to achieve when they finish. For example, they may want to go on to a particular course at college or work towards a Level 2 qualification.

Depending on the qualifications they achieve on their Foundation Learning programme, they may be able to progress to:

  • a Further Education course — for example a Level 1 or Level 2 course like a BTEC Award or GCSEs. This may eventually lead on to Level 3  courses like A Levels, or even higher level courses;
  • an Apprenticeship — On completing Foundation Learning, they may be able to start a pre-apprenticeship programme called Traineeships which would prepare them to move on to an apprenticeship.

What is a Traineeship?

Traineeships are for young people who do not have a job and who need to gain experience in the workplace.  They are, effectively, an unpaid work experience programme for young people who need extra help before moving on to an apprenticeship or employment.  Traineeships are aimed at young people aged 16-24 in England with limited exam results who have the potential (given the right support) to succeed in an apprenticeship. Traineeships in Wales are for 16 – 18-year-olds.

They last anything from six weeks to a maximum of six months with the content tailored to the needs of the individual trainee.

The main elements of a Traineeship are work preparation training, English and Maths for those who need it, and a high quality work experience placement with the aim of giving young people the skills and experience that employers are looking for.

What are the benefits of a Traineeship?

  • Involvement in the programme will put the young person in a better position to compete for an apprenticeship or other jobs
  • Basic work preparation training ensures they are ready and have the confidence to take the first step in their career
  • The opportunity to build their  CV and get vital work experience which provides insight and experience of the world of work
  • Improving their English and Maths skills will boost their chances of getting a job and improve their long term career prospects
  • Employers are at the centre of Traineeships to ensure trainees gain the skills they need to secure a job and succeed in it
  • At the end of the work experience placement they get a job interview with the company if a role becomes available or a reference and exit interview

Are trainees paid?

Work experience placements are unpaid but employers are encouraged to support expenses such as transport and meals and depending on their circumstances the trainee may be able to access financial support from their training provider through the 16-19 Bursary Fund or the 19+ Discretionary Learner Support Fund. Trainees continue to receive child benefit and all training costs are funded by the Government.

Is a Traineeship right for my child?

Traineeships are an ideal opportunity for young people who are motivated to get a job but who lack the skills and experience that employers are looking for. If they have been unsuccessfully applying for Apprenticeships due to a lack of skills and experience then they might be a good candidate for a Traineeship which could act as a pathway to further training.

Your teen could be suitable for a Traineeship if they:

  • are unemployed (or work less than 16 hours per week) and have little work experience
  • are motivated to work
  • are aged 16 – 18 inclusive and are qualified below Level 3 OR are aged 19 – 23 and are qualified below Level 2

A Traineeship is probably not right for them if they:

  • already have the skills and experience needed to find an Apprenticeship or work
  • are the wrong age for the scheme
  • are already in a job

Want to find out more?

  • Traineeships in your local area in England are advertised on the Find a Traineeship website
  • Traineeships in Wales are advertised on the Careers Wales website database
  • consider encouraging your child to talk to their careers adviser about it and see what you can find out which can help them
  • contact your local college or training provider to see if they are offering Traineeships
  •  if your young adult is in receipt of benefits they should speak to their Jobcentre Plus adviser

For more about Apprenticeships go to the Apprenticeships Explained section.

How to Apply for Foundation Learning

Foundation Learning courses are on offer at schools, colleges and with work-based learning providers. To find out which courses are available locally, help your teen to use this search tool or search the UCAS Progress courses database. Alternatively, you and they could just get in touch with local further education and training providers and ask what they have available.  Remember that you and your child could also contact your local careers service office .  Your local library or council office should be able to provide you with the contact information you need to do this if you can’t find it any other way.  They will be more than happy to help.


Many colleges have a special course information phone number staffed by people who know all about the various courses on offer.

NB: Some learning providers have regular open days, where you and your teen can find out more about programmes and meet tutors. Phone the provider or check their website to see if there are any open days coming up.

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