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Fears rise for return to bad old days;Technology

Subject specialists say dropping Damp;T would be a regression, reports Reva Klein.

Design and technology could be dropped from the compulsory key stage 4 curriculum in a bid to create a more flexible timetable. This is one of several options before the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority as it prepares for next year's revamped curriculum.

Not surprisingly, it's not a popular idea among Damp;T professionals. Professsor John Eggleston, deputy chairman of the Design and Technology Association and professor of education at Warwick University, says: "Just at the time that employers are calling for more skilled school-leavers with good intelligent dexterity, the subject that is known to produce what !s needed may possibly be abandoned."

He fears that making Damp;T an elective GCSE subject could signal a return to the bad old days when "there was the polarisation between the brightest children who took the straight academic route and the less able who were sent to "do shop". The idea then was that the better you were with your hands, the worse you were with your brains. It would be a very depressing regression."

Ruth Wright, executive-general, education, at the Engineering Council, is worried about the messages that would be conveyed if the QCA were to choose this option.

"If the statutory entitlement for Damp;T at key stage 4 were removed or thinned down, pupils would take the subject less seriously at the lower key stages. It could also have a negative impact further up, at post-16. That would be a real shame, especially as A-levels in Damp;T are just being recognised by universities."

But the biggest shame of all for Stephen Burroughs, education officer at the Crafts Council, would be the loss of experience for 14 to 16-year-olds who didn't choose it as a GCSE subject.

"The greatest loss would be of the development in adolesence of pupils' creative and practical skills. Without compulsory Damp;T or art, without the opportunity to handle material things and be creative with them, young people could face creative atrophy and a dulling of the senses.

"What we need now is a debate on whether the current style of exams could be reworked, perhaps by combining Damp;T with other subjects outside the GCSE framework. And with it, an intelligent discussion about what children need to know to manage in the outside world."

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