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Curriculum changes could threaten the spirit of invention that powered John Logie Baird's television, Alan Turing's early computer and James Dyson's vacuum cleaner.

Changes planned for key stage 3 would allow schools to drop one of the four focus areas in the design and technology curriculum. Technology teachers fear that the topic of systems and control - which is largely electronics but also hydraulics and pneumatics - will lose out to food technology, resistant materials and textiles, because there are fewer specialist teachers to teach the subject.

Richard Green, chief executive of the Design and Technology Association, warned that electronics could fall by the wayside.

"All four subject areas are under threat," he said. "But electronics is more vulnerable than others. It is perceived as the harder part of the design and technology curriculum.

"The electronics in schools strategy has an effective training scheme in place, but there's not enough funding to provide training across the workforce." It was vital that a 21st-century curriculum incorporated systems and control.

Mr Green said that last year's Government Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics report stated that a strong supply of scientists and technologists was needed. "The majority of products have electronics in them and the UK has a vibrant industry in research and development," he said.

He added that electronics was very popular with pupils, who found it engaging and hugely motivating.

There was also concern that if pupils were not covering the topic at key stage 3, they would not have a good grounding for the planned vocational diploma in engineering.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is consulting on the draft programmes for key stage 3.

* irena.barker@tes.co.uk

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