Revise support for learning

28th April 2006 at 01:00
I enjoyed the summary of Skills for Life in Richard Gross's article, "Workplace must focus on learning" (FE Focus, April 7).

He referred to the importance of training staff to improve skills and achievement, so it is unfortunate that FE was saddled with training that was not fit for purpose.

The user guide from the Department for Education and Skills (2003) describes courses at three levels of the national qualifications framework, a division based on the discrete roles of various participants in SfL - "subject specialists", "subject support" and "adult learner support". With subject options - literacy, numeracy and English for speakers of other languages- and module options at level 2 (GSCE-equivalent), one is faced with 11 training possibilities.

Another complication is the relationship between these specialist qualifications and generic teacher-training courses such as the PGCE. Then we have training choices for "new" as against "existing" teachers of literacy, numeracy or ESOL. It all adds up to an overly complex offer.

Working in post-16 education in Norfolk for more than four years has led me to major criticism of the training on offer, such as:

* the training offered is too complex and confuses potential trainees, funding bodies, and employers such as colleges.

* this confusion has used up substantial Learning and Skills Council funding and sapped the energies of SfL trainers trying to develop this range of courses.

* there is no "fast track" option to bring in experienced primary or secondary teachers into adult SfL.

* level 4 (degree-level equivalent) courses designed to train specialist tutors are a strange hybrid of A-level subject content with teaching observations tacked on. This design (and evidence from observations) suggests completion of a level 4 course does not improve the participant's teaching ability, and so does not help the student.

* The length and assessment needs of courses at levels 3 and 4 are not time-efficient, so they are not attractive to existing staff.

I support Mr Goss's call for further training of SfL staff, but the current training suite must be reviewed urgently and simplified in order to bring about the desired results of improved language and numeracy skills for learners.

Ciaran O Briain Additional learning support organiser East Surrey college Redhill, Surrey

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