Pedalling hard not soft on NVQs

January 19, 1996

Alan Smithers claims a third of the evaluation advisory group share his view that last week's report on the top 100 national vocational qualifications "soft pedalled" (THES, January 12). All members have written to me refuting this. There is also strong support for the report.

Professor Smithers also says my report "pulls punches". If he means I have not accepted all his points, he is right. My role was to listen to everyone and then form my own judgements. Professor Smithers questioned the research. The figures he quoted were from one strand of the research - a postal survey of employers. Anyone with experience will know that 20 per cent is a good response rate. But to validate the findings, we conducted face-to-face interviews and consultation and also did separate research in Scotland.

All these told the same story - that employers value NVQs/SVQs and support the concept. It should also be noted that the Confederation of British Industry, Trades Union Congress and Training and Enterprise Councils, all with employment interests, have been involved. Professor Smithers made a valuable contribution to our discussions. He influenced me, particularly to recommend separate standards from qualifications and training specifications. But to question the concept of NVQs/SVQs flies in the face of our research and the views of the other members on the group. Nor will it serve the country's interests in building an internation-ally competitive workforce.

Gordon Beaumont Chair Evaluation Advisory Group Beaumont Report

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