Review of Literature

Literature on the topic of NVQs can be divided into three main categories. Literature concerned with NVQ design approaches to delivery and assessment systems. These deal with the theory of how to plan implement and monitor systems. Discussions on the direction of vocational education and in particular the relationship of this to liberal education and training. Reports and articles which analyse the problems and strengths of NVQ delivery and assessment in catering training and education.

Within these categories certain themes dominate. Firstly the discussion of competence based assessment, the consequences of different views on competence and validity of using these defined outcomes as the starting point for curriculum development and delivery. Secondly the discussion on approaches to delivery and assessment that are vocationally based rather than academic and how or if these should be joined. Thirdly the problems and successes in this field and likely future developments.

This review is constructed chronologically and these themes will be discussed further in chapter six.

In: Competence Based Education and Training: Background and Origins (1989) by Eric Tuxworth competence is seen as being either general or specific in nature. In the case of NVQs in Catering and most other areas the NVQ framework has been related to specific vocational skills. Tuxworth describes how competence is used in NVQ both to indicate a capacity in an individual and as an element of a life role or an occupation. He outlines two major criticisms of CBET (competence based education and training). Firstly that the conception and definition of competence is inadequate because the competent person has abilities and characteristics which are more than the sum of the separate elements of competence derived from job analysis. Secondly that there is lack of research evidence that CBET is superior to other forms of education/training in terms of results. A fundamental issue is raised as to the appropriateness of minimum competence in the pursuit of high standards in Education and in Industry:

"The notion of "minimum competence levels" is useful for certification purposes but carries some risks if these are the only standards available. Many organisations depend on high level performers for their success. We should be looking for ways of cultivating excellence in occupational competence and the recognition of enhanced performance." (Tuxworth 1989 P22)


In National Vocational Qualifications and Further Education (1989) John Pursaill provides basic information on standard setting and NVQ development for selected occupational areas including Hotel and Catering. He identifies accredited NVQs and notes they have been based on Caterbase Hotel and Catering Training Board's modular system. Assurances were given in this report that HCTB

"does not seek to replace further education qualifications, but to complement and support them" (Pursaill 1989 P22)


Gilbert Jessup in Outcomes: NVQs and the emerging model of Education and Training (1991) describes and discusses the NVQ approach and proposes a model of how it should be delivered and assessed. Jessup sees training as being associated with achieving defined goals and learning with intellectual and cultural self-development.

"No one would dispute that we learn a great many things through experience in life rather than as a part of our formal education and training. Nor would anyone question that what they acquire from an education or training programme is a personal and selective interpretation of the course which is offered. The focus on learning would help to eradicate the distinction between education and training …I do not make this distinction. My head does not have separate compartments to receive education and training." (Jessup 1991 P4)


Jessup believes that learning should be the central process in NVQ delivery and assessment, it should be individualised with objective information and guidance provided and that assessment should be an integral part of the process. He also sees the need for a reduction of staff: student ratios, though according to Pring amongst others and from the writers own observations it would appear that the opposite is occurring

Jessup argues that in Britain people are operating far below their potential and a cultural shift is required in the way employers view training and in attitudes of employees. This he believes requires an infrastructure and culture in companies that "designs in training systems and values it". Furthermore

"In addition to learning directly from work, experience will normally need to be supplemented by inputs of training at colleges. Company training centres and approved assessment centres, open learning, computer assisted learning and other means." (Jessup 1989 P97)


How far these supplementary inputs occur will be examined later in the dissertation. In his conclusions he suggests that the overall NVQ delivery and assessment model needs to be designed to promote learning. It should incorporate many feature which make learning more attractive and easier to access.

Designing Competence Based Training (1992) by Shirley Fletcher examines different approaches to CBET. Fletcher identifies the purpose of NVQ as being to develop a competent workforce through a system of assessment rather than training. In Europe the perspective on learning is that it is a life long experience. Fletcher saw that in the UK emphasis was specifically on what individuals should do in the work place. The current Government's emphasis on life long learning appears to be influenced by this European initiative.

She sees as

"a mistaken belief that the actual processes or methods of designing training will actually change." (Fletcher 1992 P14)


She compares the UK view of competence which reflects the expectations of employment, and focuses on work roles rather than jobs to the USA view where competence is an underlying ability of a person which results in effective and/or superior performance in a job in other words transferable skills.

In Vers l'Europe des competences? Setting 14-19 in a European perspective: (1993) Penelope Weston and Robert Stradling propose that there are four influential philosophies on curriculum. Firstly Encyclopaediaism from Comenius where the view is that the curriculum should embrace all human knowledge. Secondly Marxism where the approach of an 'applied' curriculum relating to economic and social goals is paramount. Thirdly the Danish approach where emphasis is on real life problems and concerns. Finally the English academic tradition with a "canon" of theory based disciplines.

Against this background the Commission of the EC in 1989 set the objective of providing all young people with at least two years of post compulsory training along with this higher participation rates, a better-qualified workforce were targeted.

Weston and Stradling 1993 assess the situation at that time in the UK as based on a relatively narrow curriculum approach compared with the rest of Europe where there was significant movement to a broader training with more generic input. Employers and higher education institutions were at the same time concerned that education and training to 14-19 year olds were not meeting their needs nor were they value for money.

"If there is one thing…these very different education systems have in common it is the pressure to improve, to satisfy the needs of the economy and the demands of parents and students." (Weston & Stradling P3)


They saw the main issues for education and training as firstly the time lag between the changing needs in employers' recruitment and training needs and changes in educational provision as too long. Secondly the issue of how to ensure appropriate forms of post sixteen education. Consequently European initiatives to modernise the curriculum appear to have been targeted principally at vocational education. The authors see that the European approach places emphasis on greater flexibility of learning approaches and assessment and better partnerships between education providers and employers. The European view as portrayed in this work appears to reflect OHCMI concerns on these issues as well as the need for effective careers guidance

The authors identify clear differences between approaches of other European countries and the UK:

"As Alison Wolf has pointed out 'only in England is assessment being used as a major instrument to a change post-compulsory education and training" (Wolf 1991 P13)


Furthermore they point out that the lack of IT and other resources and traditional approaches to teaching hamper modernisation in the U.K. Weston and Stradling add to Jessup's view in that they see the focus as increasingly on change in the process of learning which they regard as the most difficult kind to implement.

In The 14-19 curriculum - a further education perspective: (1993) by Dick Evans and Jenny Cronin emphasise the difficulties faced by FE institutions as a result of political change. The nature of NVQs is discussed and the priority of staff development to cope with the flexible learning strategies required.

"The curriculum of the future must be guided by the following principles: Breadth, Balance, Differentiation (equated to depth and curriculum experience), Entitlement, and Progression " (Evans 1993 P155)


Evans and Cronin identify the potentially radical impact that NVQs can have on VET namely that the traditional methods of teaching based on a defined syllabus and largely prescribed approaches to delivery are not essential to NVQs. The emphasis on evidence presentation to required standards becoming paramount.

Harry Tomlinson identifies further characteristics of NVQ delivery in The problems of choice and diversity (1993). Like Evans and Cronin he is concerned that the emphasis on NVQs is on assessment and not on curriculum. He also believes that they could end up being concerned more with assessing skills that have already been developed and not on improving and developing skills

More positively he sees opportunities for modernisation in flexible learning.

"Flexible learning is about meeting the learning needs of students as individuals and groups through flexible management and use of learning activities, environments and resources. More particularly it gives the student increased responsibility for his or her own learning within a framework of appropriate support." (Tomlinson 1993 P228)


In Flexible Access to Vocational Qualifications (1994) John Pursaill and Mary Potter mainly looks at ways to improve adult access to FE. They note that the National Advisory Council for Education and Training set various targets, that at least half the workforce by 1996 should be aiming for NVQ qualifications and at least half the workforce should be qualified to NVQ level 3 or equivalent.

Pursaill and Potter provide examples of college strategies for open access and flexible delivery. They identify that assessment is not tied to learning programmes, that there are no entry requirements. The crucial changes in practice required are seen as shifts in attendance mode, assessment on demand and increased role of accreditation of prior learning (APL).

Closing The Gap: Liberal education and vocational preparation (1995) by Richard A. Pring. is a challenging and controversial work, which attempts to reconcile what the author sees as a fundamental gap in educational approach. Pring examines the background to educational change particularly changing political control.

"the discovery of the 'consumer' of education (employer and the parent particularly), and the government's involvement in defining 'standards' have altered the control over educational aims and thereby redefined them." (Pring 1995 P83)


Pring asserts that curriculum refers to learning experiences through which the course is put into practice. Teaching and learning styles are seen as part of the curriculum incorporating the aims, the philosophy, resources and the planning of the teacher.

Pring states that competence based curriculum is focused on pre-specified and precisely stated outcomes. So as with Tomlinson he recognises that in competence based systems the curriculum is assessment led. The curriculum comes later it is the means selected to achieve these outcomes. Effort is made to assess 'on the job' in circumstances in which competence is realistically displayed.

Pring notices that growth of relatively short modules leading to explicit outcomes has been typical. Assessments are cumulated and eventually credited to a qualification.

"The NVQ vision is of the whole working life captured within a finite number of assessable competences as opposed to how formal assessment has been practiced in schools and universities where formal assessment comes at the very end of the entire course with little opportunity for the accumulation of credits, usually dependent on a written response." (Pring 1995 P95)


Pring argues that prescribed performance criteria cannot substitute the judgement of the teacher and that the two systems vocational and academic offer two different objects of assessment, namely skills as opposed to quality of understanding. He also outlines the history of NVQ development starting with the Task Group on Assessment 1987 which proposed formative assessments based on a limited but comprehensive range of activities, a wide range of assessment techniques, and the employment of nationally standardised tests and teacher assessments.

Pring asserts that modern education is a commodity that is delivered so that students might use it for purposes. Concluding that the aim of education is to learn - to acquire knowledge, skills and understanding - not to get a certificate. He discusses the idea of traditional learning and the judgements, sensitivities and appreciations it transmits. He outlines the conflict between educational and intellectual value and social utility: Should economic relevance or social relevance be dominant in education?

Pring sees the inclusion of these in vocational education and training as essential believing that

"…something bizarre is happening where all learning is organised around the concept of competence." (Pring 1995 P152)


Furthermore he critcises attaching so much importance to skill as it

"fails to do justice to the other mental qualities and cognitive achievements which are much more than skills." (Pring 1995 P153)


Training Who Needs It? 1995 a report by the Hotel and Catering Training Company, which was the Industry Lead Body, consists of recommendations and findings based on a survey of employers, trainers and colleges. The report aims to improve attitudes and strategies adopted by industry and Education and Training providers.

Recommendations are that employers should regard training as an investment and not a cost. The report shows that

"with some notable exceptions, industry itself does not see a responsibility to invest in the training and development of its staff." (HCTC 1995 P2 )


Furthermore evaluation of the effectiveness of training is rarely carried out by employers therefore they cannot be sure of the quality of training.

"At present training is concentrated on new entrants, and on those expected to hold full-time, permanent jobs in particular." (HCTC 1995 P3)


Aspects of the report are even more critical of the industry's approach and attitude to training.

"Effective training in the industry suffers from lack of planning, monitoring and evaluation"." (HCTC 1995 P15)


Colleges and other training providers are urged to be more aware of the changing needs of the industry and make every effort to adapt training accordingly. The funding formula is seen as not fully recognising the extent to which colleges need to invest in their Realistic Work environments.

"As a result, colleges are being driven by the funding mechanism and much less so by the needs of the industry" (HCTC 1995 P7)


The report identifies key problems in design and delivery of Catering and hospitality training and education. Recognition is given to the need to address the problems of NVQs outcome focus in that HCTC believed that attention needed to be given to not only to the actual content of training courses but also to the way it is delivered. Written work packages are seen as support material and not a substitute for training:

"But there should not be too much reliance on the written word: messages need to be easy to access and easy to understand. Words of mouth is often preferable to a pamphlet, no matter how well designed." (HCTC 1995 P6)


Weaknesses are identified in that more and better flexible learning programmes and support materials are required - particularly targeted at small businesses. The report concludes that the identified weaknesses can only be overcome by a long-term strategy that does not appear to exist on a regional or nationwide basis

The report by the: Department of National Heritage Competing with the best. (October 1996) identified that in 1995 only 29% of all employees in Hotels had vocational qualifications as compared with 70% in Germany and 30% in France. The report highlighted problems in that recruits lacked experience as consumers of the industry, or indeed might have a cultural bias against, for example, eating out. They also detected a British tendency to equate service with servility.

The report firmly lays the blame for some of the problems on the industry:

"Two-thirds of employers surveyed said that new recruits were not required to have the skills needed in the job, the main reason being that employers preferred to develop those skills in-house." (Dept of National Heritage 1996 P6)


The report concludes that the industry will be damaged by its human resource practices which are leading to high turnover, skill shortages and a lessening of service quality and calls for long term investment and strategy in people

A Report on the quality of Education in Wales - Catering Studies 1993-95 March 1995 by OHMCI the report recommends that teaching craft skills should be "above the minimum standards set by industry" clearly challenging the presuppositions in NVQ. Furthermore it recommends the need to develop effective strategies for assessing student progress and performance in Realistic Work Environments:

"Colleges find it difficult to monitor and quantify the attainment on NVQ programmes. As yet there is no effective means of accurately measuring the achievements of part-time students nor comparing college successes in achieving National Targets for Education and Training." (OHMCI 1995 P13)


The lack of guidance from awarding bodies whose remit is to verify has made many teachers uncertain about how they should organise their courses and had led to a significant narrowing of the curriculum. The report found that NVQ programmes … did not equip students with independence and maturity necessary for work of other progression. It also noted a decline in craft students of some 50% over a ten year period with a nearly gain in BTEC courses.

Crisis and Change in Vocational Education and Training (1996) by Geoffrey Elliot echoes many of Pring's arguments and examines the political and economic pressures on FE. In this work the historical background to the formation of NVQs is also examined in some depth. Elliot's contends that Vocational Education and Training (VET) is in crisis as a result of government reforms which have been misguided in intention and contradictory in outcome.

He examines "radical" Conservative education and training policies and studies a group of lecturers who work in FE. As Background he notes that over 3 billion of government resources are invested annually in FE, which is characterised by high diversity and complexity.

The responsibility for FE has until recently been shared by the government Education and Employment departments leading to further complexity and confusion. The Employment and Training Act 1973 set up Manpower Service Commission, which funded considerable amount of FE, introduced Youth Training schemes and Youth Opportunity Schemes.

In 1985 the government set up a review of vocational qualifications (RVQ) which led to the development of the NVQ framework. RVQ felt strongly that vocational qualifications had to be first and foremost statements of competence which took account not only of skills and knowledge but of the ability to apply these in the working situation.

NCVQ (1988 then adopted a definition of competence which focused more centrally upon observable actions and behaviors:

"The ability to perform work activities to the standards required in employment." (Elliot 1996 P85)


He argues that NCVQ in describing competence in terms of performance subsumes competence within performance. In relation to lecturers work practices Elliot observed that:

"It is commonly assumed that the incorporation of FE has brought about major changes in the working practices of lecturers. However it appeared to the writer …that lecturers could draw upon a repertoire of strategies to counter attempts to impose external systemic and specific changes perceived to be at variance with their core values." (Elliot 1996 P4)


Elliot concurs with Pring's views that teaching based on competence assessment can have serious drawbacks.

Planning and Implementing Your NVQ System (1997) by Shirley Fletcher is a detailed guide to planning and implementing NVQs. It explains NVQ and assessment, how to plan for NVQ implementation and how to maintain and expand NVQ systems.

An evaluation of a flexible learning Development in NVQ Food and beverage Service (June 1997) by Christopher Bulmer and George Moss is a brief and rather uncritical study of introducing text based leaning packages at the outset of NVQ implementation in Bridgend College. Based largely on questionnaires and interviews of students this paper concentrates on the students' attitude towards the work packages and how the development of first modules improved their perception of them. The mixed mode of delivery consisted of practical sessions (not clearly defined or examined in the paper), limited tutorial, interactive workshops and learning packages.

The paper sees this method as a more effective use of resources and staff while providing flexibility for students with different abilities and speeds of learning (again not defined or quantified). The main difficulty highlighted was that recent school leavers found it difficult to cope with this form of learning and that guidance and counseling was required to assist them in completing the packages.

Results showed that the flexible, mixed mode delivery worked for all but 12% who were younger and less experienced. This raises the point of the lack of preparation of students in secondary education for this type of approach. The issues raised by Weston and Stradling namely the use of audiovisual and IT equipment in VET are not addressed.

"There is no doubt that as students became involved in the mixed mode delivery their confidence increased" (Bulmer & Moss 1997 P167)


Readability and relating theory objectives to practical objectives were the main problems and were overcome by counseling and guidance and through developing skills in self-management.

"A teamwork approach to practical sessions overcame one of the major drawbacks of supported self-study identified by Sieminski (1993), that the learning opportunities conferred by small group work are lost to the independent learner." (Bulmer & Moss 1997 P167)

The majority of learners saw the relevance of the text-based packages to the NVQ. In such a vocational area it would be rather surprising if they did not. Concluding the authors identify a major change in approach of lecturers to students

"What is perhaps most interesting is that the instructors in this system were deployed in areas where they were most needed, supporting and counseling less-experienced learners and providing interactive workshop support for all learners prior to practical sessions." (Bulmer & Moss P168)


Employers Net Costs of Training to NVQ Level 2 (April 1998) by Terence Hogarth, Chris Hasluck, Jane Pitcher, Ruth Shakleton, and Geoff Briscoe is a report detailing economic costs and benefits of NVQ training 16-24 between February and August 1997. Costs included trainees wages, drop out, supervision costs, fees for off job training, tool and travel allowance. The costs in Hotel and Catering were 3384 per candidate less 1000 government funding. Most employers were not funded directly as this went to training providers.

The brief Report from The Inspectorate Hotel and Catering Curriculum area survey (March 1998) produced by FEFC identifies certain major trends without a great deal of analysis. Hotel and Catering enrolments in 1996-7 were 5% of all enrolments in FE and growth occurred in full and part -time enrolments with a drop in other areas overall there were 2% fewer than 95-6

They reflect the findings of HCTC that NVQ programmes are generally those of industry needs but do not always reflect current practice. This is perhaps because although teachers are seen as suitably qualified teachers they are not always up on current practices. Furthermore Key Skills are not integral in NVQ delivery. Strong links with European countries were also seen to have been developed by many colleges.

Key Facts and Figures 1999 - Hospitality Industry Sheila Davie, HTF (1999) identifies a steady growth in NVQs in catering and a 5% increase in those holding a qualification in the industry in the last four years. It also identifies 8,124 Hospitality establishments currently in Wales with 76,267 employed with 5,400 vacancies. Employers saw the offering of training as an important method of reducing staff turnover. The report contains various statistics on the industry and qualifications.