TES letters

Qualifications matter, so don't count credits out

What level is Carol Azumah Dennis referring to in "Saying good riddance to bad qualifications" (Further, 1 August)? Is it 1, 2 or 3? Let's not confuse credits (the curriculum) with assessed units (skills). The reference to photographic evidence is typical of those who have little understanding of the requirements. Photographic evidence can form part of the evidence bank for gaining credits, but credits do not equal assessed units.

Regarding the certificate of personal effectiveness, Dr Dennis is being imaginative in citing a young person with no qualifications who nonetheless is able to speak with confidence, get along with colleagues, come up with good ideas and act as a worthwhile member of a team. The certificate precisely addresses the development of skills required for the workplace. Is Dr Dennis seriously suggesting that a prospective employer would be more willing to take a risk on a candidate with no qualifications?

Let's not criticise the authors of a qualification that has at its heart a meta-cognitive approach to learning. Several universities have been delighted at the prospect of welcoming students who have conducted a meaningful piece of research before entering higher education - as part of their certificate of personal effectiveness at level 3.

Gratton Mulcrow
Deputy headteacher, Cardinal Wiseman Catholic Technology College, Birmingham

Dumbledore may be gay - but who cares?

If voters had no issue with Albus Dumbledore's homosexuality when putting him in the top spot of their favourite fictional educators, why would TES need to mention it ("Harry Potter and the unspoken assumption", Letters, 1 August)? Why is it of any interest to anyone? You wouldn't read about Mr or Mrs Smith, heterosexual teacher of maths, history or whatever. Really, who cares? Isn't this the better attitude?

M Riley
Blackrod, Lancashire

Road map to a skilled workforce

The engineering skills shortage debate has been raised again as the result of a recent report published by Cranfield University in partnership with the Higher Education Academy.

Some 46 bodies, ranging from academia and trade groups to manufacturing and design, concluded that "a revolutionary improvement in postgraduate education" was required. This comes as no surprise. Over the past two years, rising student dissatisfaction has led to a 13.5 per cent fall in the number of full-time postgraduates. And it is frustrating to see that, despite leading in innovation, the UK's universities are slowly slipping down international rankings.

So what is being done? The Cranfield report calls for three things: an industry road map, a cross-sector taxonomy of postgraduate education and an overhaul of teaching methods to bridge the gap between student and industry needs.

Although this goes some way to combating the problem, more is needed. We suggest the use of an innovation strategy whereby employers must innovate in terms of both product and process development. One way of achieving this is through government-funded Knowledge Transfer Partnerships.

We face a second wave of skills shortages if we fail to address the current situation. A serious remodelling of industry and academic collaboration is required if we are to lay the foundation for sustainable growth.

Rob Phillips
Managing director, Accutronics

Off-kilter appointment at Ofsted

It is ironic that at the very time Ofsted is proposing to take inspection in-house and end the contracting out of state school quality control to private providers, the inspectorate is to be chaired by David Hoare, who personifies quasi-privatisation through his business background and his involvement with the Academies Enterprise Trust.

Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria

Cracking the code, one language at a time

I have spent some time trying to gauge the needs of teachers in respect of the new computing curriculum and I'm convinced that the vision for improved computing in education can only be achieved by the adoption of common standards.

The national curriculum requires state-maintained schools to teach more than one computing language. But I believe schools should consider choosing one computer language as a common standard for the following reasons:

  • Continuity for students throughout school.
  • Parents can obtain the language for home computers.
  • Non-IT teachers can feel confident in spending time learning the language and embedding it in their lessons.
  • Coding clubs could draw on a common pool of resources.
  • Students with an aptitude for programming would have a greater chance of expanding their skills beyond the basic requirements of the curriculum.
    • I have programmed professionally and I recognise how broad the profession has become. The adoption of a unique academic standard may seem counter-intuitive, but when we consider the broader reasons for having computing content on the curriculum, it is obvious that far more structure and support is required. Teachers are using the resources that are currently available, including languages based on sophisticated object-oriented methods of which they have little or no knowledge. At the same time, low-level languages are rarely, if ever, mentioned.

      I can only speak from experience and with the passion of someone who is self-taught: this is the correct and inevitable direction for computing to take, but it is only a beginning.

      Rob Jeffs

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