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Extra Pounds 10m needed to fund technology

Engineering Council highlights parlous state of subject, Nicholas Pyke reports

Technology, a subject thought to be crucial to Britain's economic future, is so badly funded that it is scarcely being taught in many schools, according to a long-awaited report from the Engineering Council.

Professor Alan Smithers and Dr Pamela Robinson from Brunel University call on the new Government to spend an extra Pounds 10 million a year to meet the true cost of the subject, and to institute a 10-year rolling programme of capital investment.

Some technology departments are so short of money that teachers are reduced to picking through skips in order to find appropriate materials, as The TES revealed a year ago.

At the same time, technology departments are cautious about the new short courses in the subject - the legal minimum requirement. They would prefer to run the more expensive longer courses to maintain the status of their subject within the school.

The lack of money affects classroom space, teaching staff, and technical assistance, says the report. In one-fifth of schools, the classes spilt over into ordinary rooms, while more than 70 per cent of schools said they had no storage space.

The average size of technology groups was 21.1 at key stage 3 (11-14) and 20.2 at key stage 4, both above the maximum recommended by the National Association of Advisers and Inspectors in Technology. In some schools the class sizes averaged 30.

The report was based on a sample of 344 maintained secondary schools, 10 per cent of the total in England and Wales. It found that the average technology grant in 1994-95 was Pounds 5.86 per pupil. In almost 90 per cent of schools it was below Pounds 9.30 per pupil, the figure recommended by the Design and Technology Association. The amount varies from Pounds 21.10 to 40 pence.

Not all schools are suffering. The city technology colleges and the technology schools were notably better funded.

"It is for the Government to take the lead," says the report. "If it is serious about technology for all then it must find ways of funding it adequately. As one of the schools in our sample said, 'The lack of funding defeats the actual purpose of the subject'.

"Technology in schools, learning how to put to use the discoveries we have made about the world, is too important to the future of the country, educational opportunity and the quality of all our lives to be left to founder through lack of funding."

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