Colleges value industry skills

14th October 2005 at 01:00
If Joanna Williams (" Vocational courses limit social mobility", TES, September 30) was just talking about schools, she should have said so and she should also get into FE colleges more.

If she did, she would know that young people and adults are being trained in hairdressing and beauty therapy (to pick up on her example) in college-run commercial salons working on real clients up to level 4(foundation degree-equivalent) and that full and part-time provision is complemented by work-based apprenticeships. One of our young students last year was so outstanding that he has already opened his own salon.

We are not alone in designing our curriculum in vocational areas to provide progression to level 2 (GCSE-equivalent) and 3 (A-level equivalent) apprenticeships and providing full and part-time higher education and higher skills in, in our case - and we are relatively small - computing, engineering, accountancy, photography and learning support.

All FE college lecturers teaching in vocational areas will resent the statement that vocational courses are often taught by teachers with no industrial experience. We recruit from the occupational sector and provide the teacher training on the job, if the lecturer does not have teaching experience. It is, above all, that experience and knowledge from the industry that inspires the learners and generates their respect.

I might share some of Joanna's views on the value of GNVQs but these were designed as generic vocational qualifications for schools to deliver with few vocational resources and without industrially experienced staff.

This is why the 14-19 curriculum should now be designed across schools and colleges to enable all young people to find a pathway that suits their interests, abilities, learning styles and aspirations. Such pathways must include opportunities, through colleges and apprenticeships, to pursue skills-based, vocational qualifications up to higher skill levels.

Anne Constantine. Principal Huntingdonshire regional college California Road Huntingdon

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