Developing a framework for vocational qualifications is always going to be expensive

18th October 1996 at 01:00
Your article "Tories face training fiasco" (TES, October 4) and leader "An unqualified failure" contained both inaccurate and distorted facts. Furthermore, the National Council for Vocational Qualifications was not approached for comment.

Nowhere in the report does Peter Robinson state that only 700,000 people have acquired NVQs. He argues that some people may hold more than one certificate, but he concludes only that it is "possible that significantly fewer than the one million people who are often quoted as holding NVQs actually do so". Our own data to July 31 shows that 1.2 million certificates have now been issued.

As far as development costs are concerned, the highest actual figure quoted by Mr Robinson is Pounds 107 million and he quotes further work which has "attempted to estimate" other costs. In the appendix Alison Wolf concludes that her figures are not intended to provide any conclusions regarding value for money, nor can they do so. No one would deny that developing a completely new framework for vocational qualifications would be an expensive process. Nowhere in the report are GCSEs and A-levels mentioned in connection with confusion among holders of NVQs. Labour Force Survey figures acknowledge a reduction in confusion and Robinson warns that one member of a household may be answering on behalf of another and suggests this should be borne in mind when interpreting data in that section.

Dr Capey did not appear on The Money Programme on October 6. He has informed us that he was interviewed by the programme makers and refused to say anything negative about NVQs.

Dr Capey did not lose his seat on the council for "failing to toe the party line". After six years as an active council member, he was not re-appointed but still remains a valued adviser to NCVQ and is a member of the GNVQ policy committee.

Alan Smithers mentions that we have failed to make the "necessary improvements" to NVQs. The Capey report on GNVQs (commissioned by NCVQ) and Beaumont review of NVQs have raised criticisms, which have been or will be acted upon. Professor Smithers was on the Beaumont committee, whose findings included the fact that 80 per cent of respondents supported NVQs.

We are not sure of the source of the statistics that one in 10 NVQs have been awarded in hairdressing - it is either inaccurate or it has been misread. It is accepted that long-established awards such as hairdressing will "clock up" a significant number of certificates.

Your leader picks up on some of these inaccuracies and goes further.

As far as we are aware, no "temporary certificates" are issued. Perhaps you mean traditional. Nor can we find mention of City Guilds in the Robinson Report.

You also imply that NCVQ frustrated researchers in the search for data. We have no record of any formal approach from Mr Robinson prior to publication but have now received a request for a meeting and data subsequent to the broadcast of The Money Programme in which we offered them full access to data.

The five-yearly review recognised only a potential conflict between the accreditation of NVQs and their promotion. It did identify the need for their promotion and also said that no other organisation was better placed to carry out that promotion. While we cannot speak directly for the Beaumont and Dearing work, we would strongly refute any suggestion that the Capey report was sanitised in any way.

I am unaware of having lost any teeth due to spitting them out over the fact that the research has been conducted. Both the Robinson report and your article fail to deliver balanced reports and we were not asked to comment by Mr Robinson or your reporter on such scathing and critical comments.

However, this has caused unnecessary damage to the huge number of employers and individuals who have found that NVQs are an ideal solution to their training problem.

JOHN HILLIER

Chief executive NCVQ 222 Euston Road, London NW1

The Editor writes:

The report by Peter Robinson says: "In Spring 1995 about 660,000 people were working towards NVQs." These were the latest figures available to researchers and confirmed by the DFEE. The article in The TES does not refer to GCSEs in connection with confusion among holders of NVQs but "awards equal to GCSEs" (NVQ levels 1 and 2).

The report says that at level 2 (GCSE-equivalent) "hairdressing accounted for nearly 8 per cent of all NVQs awarded since 1988". Figures from the Centre for Economic Performance estimate a total at all levels of 65,000.

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