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Appliance of science on the decline

It may interest you that as a result of the Government's aim to improve standards through the national curriculum, the quality, complexity and finish of practical work from 15-year-old pupils, within the Orders for technology, have fallen to the level that teachers used to expect from 12-year-olds.

The example given to teachers from the Midland Examining Group and presumably approved by the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority for a grade B project, worked in wood, is typical in complexity and difficulty, of a Year 8 project completed in fewer hours some years ago. As SCAA controls standards across the country, we assume that the other examination boards will have similar exemplar work.

It might be interesting to compare practical work from CSE and O-level candidates from the late 1970s or early 80s with this year's examples, or next year's examinations. Fifteen years ago pupils were designing and producing artefacts of shop-bought standards, whereas the example of a grade B given to teachers for next year is a simple "pull-string articulated toy", with no jointing or accurate cutting required.

Many of the articles produced by pre-national curriculum students have been, and are still being used today, giving relevance to technology being a worthwhile conversion of valuable and reducing resources. We suspect that today's efforts may be kept as a diversion for a while and then discarded.

The quality of the written part of the coursework is commensurate with that of a 15-year-old pupil of 15 years ago, although it has to be said, to comply with the Orders for technology many of the written work marks depend less on quality and more on whether a pupil has "hit" particular attainment target statements. This is the pupil equivalent of "tick lists".

Some of these attainment target statements do not significantly contribute to the specific design process and are largely irrelevant and highly contrived.

The technology national curriculum Orders have been reviewed, and this should provide the examination boards with an opportunity to reinstate or improve the standards of practical work that we are familiar with from key stage 4 pupils.

MIKE WILCOX

The Central Berkshire Group of Technology Co-ordinators

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