Letters extra: Bureaucratic threat to Key Skills progress

23rd February 2001 at 00:00

With reference to your article "Sixth Formers shun Key Skills (TES Feb 9), it is not only just the lack of recognition from higher educational establishments that is acting as a dampener on Key Skills, it is also the ridiculously bureaucratic and unnecessary assessment arrangements, that contributes towards the problem.

If the 11-18 comprehensive school in which I work is anything like the norm, and informal soundings would suggest that it is, teachers simply do not have the time, on top of everything else, to map Key Skills through their new ASA2 schemes of work. Their major priority is making sure that their own subject teaching meets the requirements of the new specifications. With three modules per subject to prepare for at AS level this year, it is only natural that colleagues will be looking to give their students every opportunity to succeed, especially in this climate of teacher accountability for academic attainment and progress.

If the pressure of time is on the teachers, it is no less on the students themselves. The basic package of studying four AS level subjects, leaves precious little time in the year 12, this is insufficient time to allow the students to pursue the type and quality of project work needed to satisfy the Key Skills Assessment Criteria. With year 12 students preparing for 12 modular examinations within their four subjects during the academic year, there is a serious work overload issue for those wishing to gain the Key Skills qualification as well.

Finally, the bureaucratic burden issue should not be under-estimated or lightly dismissed. At level 3 in Communication, Application of Number and ICT, there are over 60 assessment criteria which every student has to hit, in order to attain the qualification.

Failure to hit just one of these can lead to failure. The administrative system required to handle these assessment requirements is clearly going to be burdensome. Surely the assessment arrangements could be streamlined and simplified to make the process more manageable for both teachers and students?

Let me conclude on a more positive note. I am not against the Key Skills qualification. On the contrary, I am in favour of it, and wish to make it work for our students.

Philosophically, I agree with the government's requirement to improve the skills base of young people in this country, so that succeeding generations can compete on a more level playing field with many of our European competitors.

However, until QCA and the examination boards realise the real problems of the present arrangements, our students will continue to lag behind in their Key Skills, because the qualification is almost unworkable for many schools, at the present time.

Martin Cope
Key Skills Co-ordinator
Kirkbie Kendal School
Cumbria LA10 5DY

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