Give us plain English, please

9th March 2007 at 00:00

People working in the looking-glass world of further education are used to words meaning whatever some bureaucrat wants them to mean. So, for instance, the feral teenagers snarling and yelping and ignoring your carefully planned lesson are termed "learners" against all available evidence.

Nowhere was this trend more pronounced than when Ofsted redefined the word satisfactory to mean, er, "not good enough". So FErret was pleased to see the following sentence while relaxing with an Ofsted report on Barking College: "The self-assessment report indicates that there is still too much satisfactory teaching."

Less satisfactory teaching now! It's hard to tell if it's the college that's Barking, or Ofsted.

When FErret was a schoolboy on Saturday shifts in Priceright supermarket, the wise old manager never tired of saying: "Only one skill needed lad, only one skill - good communication - keeps the customer happy."

Now, it seems, the wider world of retail has lost sight of that. Retai* Plus is a new national training organisation launched this week to "upskill" 1.3 million people in the retail sector. Things are desperate, it says, only 1.2 per cent of the retail workforce is participating in lifelong learning.

It offers awards and programmes for all levels of staff covering areas such as retail skills, health and safety, customer service, food safety, and team leading. But nowhere in the press release is there any mention of good old communication skills.

But then its own communications aren't too hot. Witness the press release announcing the launch: "Retai* Plus works as a catalyst to bring the further education sector and retailers together providing a proven, out-of-the-box solution to meeting employer engagement targets."

This is not the first time FErret has made a plea for simpler English. Some years ago, we took a Sainsbury's store to task for describing shelf-filling as "ambient replenishment".

If Retai* Plus really wants to do something about the parlous take-up of courses, it should stop making its efforts to upskill sound so uphill.

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