Source of the spark

February 7, 1997

Your editorial comment "Keep the bright sparks burning" (THES, January 31) is to be applauded for its closing comment on the need for sparky people.

However, such people are not just the product of the higher education system as you imply. Sparkiness begins in schools where, unless we are very careful, its source will be stifled by overly prescribed curricula and, in particular, the ever tightening specifications of public qualifications.

An early priority of a national qualifications body should be to examine the extent to which qualifications foster or support innovative thinking and sparkiness.

This may mean a reversal of the current drive for fewer syllabuses, options and approaches to assessment at all major levels. Inevitably, greater variety presents a challenge to standards but it cannot be beyond the wit of a single national body to devote itself to the development of a British Standard for key qualifications with the immediate purpose of sustaining high standards without loss of diversity.

Quanca is that body, and given the current melting pot across the spectrum of changes to GCSE, A/AS-levels, General National Vocational Qualifications, and now university degrees, the climate is right for a coordinated thrust in favour of managed diversity rather than reduced opportunity.

Clive Hart

Hughenden Valley High Wycombe, Bucks

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