14 November 2008

Functioning skilfully ... with fingers crossed

I spent most of today in discussion of the new "functional skills" approach being piloted in education here – specifically in relation to ICT. It's in the nature of the functional skills idea that they cannot be realistically separated (real world use of ICT involves presenting information in textual and numeric forms, for instance), which is part of their value and appeal – but my involvement in the ICT aspects of teacher training makes it of particular interest to me.

The principles driving development of functional skills delivery and assessment are exciting, and could make the biggest difference to British education in many years ... but, hold on a minute.

We've been here before. "Core skills" and "key skills" have both come in like breaths of fresh air, engendering the same excitement. Both were smothered under bureaucracy, passive resistance, and political back pedalling, until they became simply an extra burden resented by learners.

I'm not being cynical. I'm thoroughly and enthusiastically committed to the values and objectives of the functional skills programme. I just hope that its spirit can be kept intact, not diverted and distorted before (or during) implementation.

QCA, take note – and keep your nerve.

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