We must shine a light on essential skills

8th July 2011 at 01:00

Your editor Gerard Kelly is right ("Employers find school leavers wanting, but are they looking in the right place for solutions?", 1 July).

Our learners do need the skills of confidence, enthusiasm, curiosity, investigation, resilience and challenge. But our political masters are steering the good ship education away from that particular coastline, despite the fact that employers are asking for it to remain in the harbour.

The comments by many of the business leaders also focused on the importance of skills ("A view from the bridge - what pupils are missing"). Christine Gilbert's comments are connected, too ("Too few 'outstanding' schools excel at teaching, warns Ofsted chief"). Outstanding teaching comes not from the instilling of knowledge into learners, but rather from encouraging the acquisition of the necessary learning skills to apply that knowledge to the appropriate context.

So why is the importance of skills not recognised in the education system? So many schools have to make knee-jerk responses to address the short-term goals of politicians, rather than looking at the skills every person needs for them to be successful in life.

I'm working with schools across the country and seeing a different situation where the emphasis is placed on learning steered by competences, rather than knowledge acquisition. In one such school, their observation rate of lessons rated "good" or "outstanding" rose 25 per cent in three years.

Phil Parker, Education consultant, Student Coaching.

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