Core no more in skills-go-round

July 19, 1996

Just when educationists think they are getting the hang of the technical vocabulary of vocational qualifications, bureaucrats go and change it all.

"Core skills" is to be phased out and replaced by "key skills". The six skills - sometimes also known as "transferable skills" - will stay the same: communication, application of number, information technology, working with others, improving own learning, problem solving. But the "core" part is being changed to prevent understandable confusion with "core" units in NVQs, "core" subjects in the national curriculum, and subject "cores" within A level and AS level examinations.

Prompted by Sir Ron Dearing, the Department for Education and Employment heralded the name change in last month's competitiveness White Paper, Creating the Enterprise Centre of Europe. There, alongside the Skills Audit, it was explained in an extended but hardly enlightening glossary of terms that "key skills" were "applied skills" formerly known as "core skills".

John Hillier, chief executive of the National Council for Vocational Qualifications, said "this name change can only help to clarify the unique characteristics" of these necessary skills. But as much of the 1996/97 literature has already been published, there will be a confusing interim period when "key skills" will mean "core skills" and vice versa.

To muddy the waters still further, other newly devised categories of skill will threaten to confuse the unwary educationist.

Only last year, the Association of Graduate Recruiters, defining the qualities sought by blue-chip companies, came up with "self-reliance skills".

According to Peter Hawkins, head of Liverpool University's graduate into employment initiative, these skills are so important that, without them, "other skills can be wasted".

Every week THESIS, The THES Internet Service, provides a guide to the news, features and reviews in the newspaper. Job advertisements, appear on THESISon the Tuesday before publication

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