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High-tech hopes are dashed by low funds

Technology teachers, supposedly at the cutting edge of Britain's manufacturing future, are having to scavenge in skips for materials, says a new report.

The subject is financially crippled in all but a few schools, according to the report's author, Professor Alan Smithers, from Brunel University. In a speech next week he will accuse the Government of retreating from its vision of technological literacy for all.

While designated technology colleges receive preferential funding, his research shows that the average secondary school spends only Pounds 5.03 per pupil on the subject, while some devote just 40p.

He will reveal the results at Brunel's annual technology conference next week.

A survey covering one in 10 secondary schools in England and Wales shows that nearly 90 per cent spend under the Pounds 9.30 recommended by the Department for Education and Employment.

"They are having to beg, borrow and scrounge resources, even to the point of picking their way through industry skips or using reclaimed materials like old desk tops," Professor Smithers told The TES this week.

In four out of 10 cases, technology departments received less in 1995-96 than in the previous year because of difficulties funding the teachers' pay settlement. Only three in 10 schools received more money this year than last.

"The Government is retreating from its aim of technology for all," said Professor Smithers, the director of Brunel's Centre for Education and Employment Research.

Sixty-three per cent of departments lacked the right equipment to teach key stage 4 of the new national curriculum. At both KS4 and KS3, the average group size was above the maximum recommended by the Health and Safety Executive and the National Association of Advisers and Inspectors in Technology.

Next autumn sees the reintroduction of technology as a compulsory subject at key stage 4 after five curriculum re-writes in six years.

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