opinion Achievement records are a `total waste of time'

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The Independent Online
Unless I am badly mistaken, the National Record of Achievement is the biggest white elephant to have been foisted upon the education world in decades.

Originally dreamed up by teachers to try to motivate disaffected pupils, the National Record of Achievement (NRA) was launched in 1991 as a government- backed initiative. Sixteen-year-olds are presented with a folder that is supposed to represent the culmination of a process by the students, of reviewing and recording achievement during their school life. We are told that this is a valuable tool when presenting yourself for interviews and trying to secure employment. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I received my own record two years ago. Presented in the professional quality, government-issue folder, it comprised copies of my best bits of GCSE work, certificates I had gained inside and outside school, records of attendance and punctuality and the almost compulsory positive character review by my teachers.

I did not mind compiling my record while busily revising for my GCSEs. It would ease my passage into one of the sixth-form colleges and schools I was interested in attending to do my A-levels, and then would help me to gain a place at university.

How wrong can you be? My record has been happily collecting dust at the back of the drawer where it was placed on the day it was received. I was not asked to produce the document to gain a place in the sixth form at my new school, and I was offered places at five universities, one after interview, without a single reference being made to it. I have also taken on part-time summer work without anyone mentioning it.

My experience is not unique by any means. Many friends who have left education for full-time employment have encountered open lack of interest or sheer ignorance among employers on the subject of these records.

Even Sir Ron Dearing, who seems to be able to put a gloss on everything in education, has rung the warning bells about the record. In his Review of Qualifications for 16- 19-year-olds he writes that the NRA and the process underlying it "could now benefit from the kind of review that any initiative needs from time to time".

In my view, such a course of action would be ill-advised. National records of achievement may be of limited use to poor school achievers, who need some evidence of their school activities, but for those progressing to universities or skilled work they are a total waste of time.