The lead inspector at the Adult Learning Inspectorate has hit back at industry criticism of college lecturers and the NVQ qualification.
At an event held by City & Guilds (C&G) last month, leading chefs including David Nicholls and Andreas Antona praised the education body's new VRQ chef qualification, claiming there was a real need to overhaul the NVQ system. Antona, chef-proprietor of Michelin-starred Simpsons in Birmingham, said an NVQ "says nothing about a person's ability".
But speaking at the conference, hosted by the Professional Association for Catering Education in Coventry last week, Nigel Flood insisted that hospitality provision had "undoubtedly improved" over the years in further education colleges. "Chefs are always complaining of a lack of skills among youngsters coming through the NVQ system at colleges, but this is not the case," he told delegates. "We find pupils have good skills generally, but where they perhaps sometimes fall down is not having the speed expected in the kitchen, typically learnt on the job."
Flood said the reality in education was not as gloomy as made out, with college lecturers generally doing a fine job of teaching practical skills. But he admitted that the way theory was taught at colleges was not always as engaging as it should be, with too many teachers trying, unsuccessfully, to emulate celebrity chefs, and boring pupils.
Flood defended the NVQ, claiming it was sometimes the victim of poor teaching and sometimes the victim of chefs having a rose-tinted view of the old C&G 706 qualifications.
Despite this, the inspector conceded that the raft of new qualifications introduced in the past few years such as advanced GNVQ and diplomas had left employers in an understandable muddle.
By Chris Druce