Skilful opposition

ALTHOUGH I was not a member of the Moser Committee, I was the specialist adviser to the committee. I was at all of their meetings, but my memory of the debate about tests and qualifications is different from that of Annette Zera. (TES, March 8). Furthermore, only one of the Moser Committee's recommendations concerned national tests.

It was Professor Michael Barber, not Richard Layard, who suggested at the first meeting that there should be a National Literacy Guarantee and a National Numeracy Guarantee. He did not suggest this because there were no existing qualifications and tests in adult literacy and numeracy, but because there were rather too many. I think we found 60.

All of these qualifications had little recognition outside of adult basic skills schemes, including the qualifications we had developed at the Basic Skills Agency. Michael Barber's proposal was to replace all of these with two new highly regarded and valued qualifications. This proposal did create considerable discussion and debate. However, by the time of the publication of the Moser Report, all of us agreed and signed up to the recommendations about a new qualification based on a test - including Annette Zera.

As part of the debate we consulted adults in basic skills programmes. A majority of them supported the Michael Barber proposal. This contrasted with many professionals in adult education who were opposed to it. What was the difference between these two groups? Most adult education professionals already have lots of qualifications; almost all adults with poor basic skills do not have any.

Alan Wells


Basic Skills Agency

Commonwealth House

1-19 New Oxford Street

London WC1A 1NU

Send letters to: FE Focus Letters page, TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield London E1W 1BX.

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