Schools hit the wrong skill keys

25th May 2001 at 01:00
Employers say teachers should not be stressing academic disciplines. Julie Henry reports on research findings

EMPLOYERS believe that schools are teaching pupils the wrong key skills, research reveals.

The basic qualifications, intended to prepare students better for work or further study, were introduced into most sixth forms last September.

The majority of schools now concentrate on information technology, communication and the application of number - subjects which can lead to a student gaining up to 30 university entry points.

The majority of schools are not teaching the three other key skills qualifications - working with others, problem-solving and improving your learning.

The new research reveals that schools and employers have different priorities. Skills which were regarded as being "softer" by schools are considered by employers to be far more valuable than the three main key skills.

Cambridge University's school of education surveyed 357 students after they had studied key skills for five months. About 15 per cent were planning to enter the job market after A-levels.

A total of 15 employers were interviewed, representing a range of sizes and sectors. Most firms were positive about the efforts of schools and colleges to prepare young eople for the world of work.

They listed leadership, organisational skills, confidence and the ability to negotiate as key to success at work and considered these qualities to be part of the three wider key skills areas.

Employers were concerned that school-leavers lacked initiative and had unrealistic ideas about work. Coming in late, not turning up at all and poor social skills were common.

One employer said: "Some young people have an astonishing tendency to believe that the firm owes them a living."

While firms bemoaned the quality of IT training in schools and colleges, many considered themselves well-placed to teach computer skills.

Many of the students surveyed thought key skills were an unnecessary burden, particularly when they were taught as separate lessons rather than through their A-level subjects.

Pupils thought communication and use of number covered the same ground as GCSEs. IT was perceived as the best-taught, most useful and most valuable to employers.

The report, by Anthony Kelly and Lesley Dee, said:"The key skills qualification must justify its inclusion in the curriculum if students are not to reject it altogether.

"Students are struggling to manage their time and key skills are seen as the weakest link."


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