The TES, March 2 carried a series of rather gloomy stories in FE Focus. On the first page a report suggests that half our students fail their FE courses, another says the British are third from bottom in the European literacy and numeracy league.
Finally, there is a report on our failure to deliver key skills in schools and colleges. The nearest to a hopeful story is one saying that in desperation the Government is going to have to spend pound;1.5 billion to improve adult numeracy and literacy levels.
I was particularly surprised at the report that new courses in key skills, introduced last September, are likely to flop because, far from being a new concept, key skills have been included in every General National Vocational Qualification since 1997.
During the past few years the equivalent of key skills (core skills, common skills) has become part of every mainstream vocational qualification. So the emphasis on essential skills is most certainy not an innovation.
These are, after all, the skills that students need in order to do well in all areas of the curriculum - and ultimately in employment. They have never been a separate set of skills at all and are normally delivered embedded within vocational studies.
It may be that students' key skills have not been developed to anything like the extent needed. Those who fail courses often do so because they cannot cope with the standards that are now required in English, maths and IT.
Work on improving these skills will not only lead to better results, but what students learn will stay with them throughout their lives.
What is innovative here is ensuring the adequate development of skills, and that should be applauded by anyone concerned with current FE issues in the context of lifelong learning. We should all be working to ensure that key skills does not flop.
Derek Munton Lecturer Mid Kent College Chatham, Kent