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Estelle weakens key skills reforms

MANAGERS have criticised the Government for watering down its commitment to fund key skills education in colleges.

Education Secretary Estelle Morris's decision that the three wider key skills should be regarded as non-essential for employability has been condemned by the Association for College Management.

"We would like to see the Learning and Skills Council fund the wider key skills and we don't think that these should be seen as having less status in terms of developing the student," said Nadine Cartner, the ACM's education officer.

The Education Secretary said colleges should not continue to have a "financial incentive" to automatically enter students for all key skills.

The changes will mean colleges no longer get automatic funding for key skills. Local LSCs will be expected to devise a system of funding based on the level of need.

She emphasised the importance the Government places on communication, application of number and IT, which form the Key Skills Qualification, compared to the softer key skills of working with others, improving own learning and problem-solving. And she has asked the Learning and Skills Council to adjust its funding policy to encourage colleges to take a more "flexible" approach.

She says there should be no formal assessment where subjects already cater for the student's key skills needs.

"Key skills were a government initiative that colleges were keen to deliver," said Adrian Perry, principal of Lambeth College. "Employers say they want employees who are good communicators and who are not afraid of new technology. The current discussion may give encouragement to backwoods opposition.

"The reforms need support and, for as long as colleges are funded so much less than schools, money is an important part of that."

But some colleges welcome the reduction in the burden of testing.

"My staff are not so concerned with funding but with the amount of testing which is taking place," said Reg Chapman, principal of Blackpool and the Fylde College.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority insists all six key skills should be a post-16 entitlement, but recognises the need for modifications to overcome widespread hostility.

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