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NVQ assessment is in a mess, so I'm getting out

LETTERS

Sir, Like a previous correspondent ('Why NVQs are letting us down', Letters, June 22), I am also a southern-based NVQ assessor and I, too, cannot put name and address to my letter for fear I might be victimised or get my centre sanctioned because of speaking out.

I have a family to support and I am sure it is because of this that many more assessors have to grit their teeth about what they have to endure.

Like all bona fide assessors we welcome standards and codes of practice to follow and measure our own understanding and performance against. But because of the way external verifiers interpret the rules, the verification system is in a mess.

While NVQ assessors are required to be trade-specific, external verifiers are not, so how can they challenge an experienced assessor when they don't know what they are talking about - then expect to verify to a national standard? It is nonsense.

The problem lies not only at external verif ication level but ultimately at the very top of the awarding body, as, it appears, centres are suspended on a whim. If such minor matters were penalised in any other industry, there would be a public outcry.

I have met several high-profile external verifiers and have not been impressed by their dictatorial attitude. As well as being unprofessional, their last visit to me it was quite critical and demoralising.

I believe this is the norm to most external verifier visits. Just ask any assessor who has experiences of them.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority knows this kind of thing goes on but does little about it. If you put in a complaint to QCA on its website, you don't get any response.

So who is responsible for the current situation? Certainly the Government turns a blind eye, because it likes to take the credit for trained qualified employees under its f lagship initiatives. But in reality it is a waste of time, money and resources and needs drastically overhauling.

What is needed is an independent authority that will look at the whole system and what actually goes on in the real world - and not what City and Guilds, CITB and QCA perceive it to be or what they want the industry to see.

We need a body to put a stop to the undermining of professionalism of many good centres and assessors. It should actively support and encourage centres, rather than to try and catch them out on small administration errors.

At the same time I get criticism from candidates who cannot understand why I present them with questions that are either out of date or bear no relevance to the qualifications they are taking. In some instances the correct answer to a taskspecific question would actually fail in the corresponding health and safety test.

Candidates are often bewildered by it all. Can it be correct to expect them to provide up to five correct answers to one question? The wording of the questions is extremely difficult and can easily be misinterpreted from the outset. I would suggest that the questions have not been written by someone within the industry, or at least not by someone who has got their hands dirty on a construction site.

As for me, I have managed to get another job, I have had enough. I have been an assessor for many a decade and felt I had given my very best not only to my centre (which has been very supportive) but also to my candidates.

This approach would no longer appear to be what the CITB requires of assessors.

Name and address withheld