Harvey McGavin talks to the keynote speaker at next week's DT education show.
Design and technology needs a new image and greater investment if it is to compete with other mainstream subjects, according to the new chief executive of the Design and Technology Association.
"One important aim of placing design and technology in the statutory curriculum is to modify the attitudes and culture of our society by giving technology equal status with the arts and sciences," says Andy Breckon, who will be the keynote speaker at next week's Design and Technology Education Exhibition.
"We have to get together to develop a clear understanding of the basic skills teachers need to teach the subject." To this end, DATA has just produced a document outlining the main competencies required of secondary teachers and is in the process of putting together a corresponding guide for primary school staff.
Breckon stresses the need for a unified approach to the teaching of the subject: "The only way we can do this is to bring in all the agencies - industrialists, schools, SCAA and the Government - to work on a common framework. At the moment there are three or four national projects."
The current state of the subject gives cause for concern. A survey co-ordinated by DATA of DT funding in schools has found that spending on the subject has dropped significantly since the last such study was conducted in 1993. Average expenditure per head in primary schools fell by almost a quarter - from Pounds 1.80 to Pounds 1.44 - while secondary school spending went down from Pounds 5.19 to Pounds 5.05 despite the inclusion of the subject at key stage 4.
The survey, of 289 primaries and 178 secondaries across 40 local education authorities, found that 18 per cent of primary teachers and 5 per cent of secondary DT teachers had received no in-service training in the past year. Some teachers who had received training reported a lack of sufficient resources in their schools to put into practice the skills learned.
"The effect of inflation has not been included, however, so the cuts are even worse in real terms than they appear. There is now an urgent need for action in a significant number of schools if the quality of teaching and learning is not going to be seriously affected. We need to develop high quality learning experiences for pupils of design and technology." Class sizes were also affecting the delivery off the subject in schools, he says: "It's a problem on health and safety grounds, if nothing else."
The Design and Technology Education Exhibition, which features live demonstrations of work by primary and secondary schools, free seminars and displays from nearly 200 providers of resources and equipment, runs from October 26 to 28 at the NEC in Birmingham.
It is a professional event for teachers of the subject and administrators and it is expected that more than 12,000 of them will attend, many with a view to sharing ideas on how to implement the revised curriculum which has just come into force.
A special feature this year will be the display of some of the most inventive work of Britain's sixth formers in a Focus on Excellence in A-level Technology, using exhibits gathered with the co-operation of the two main GCSE examining boards.
o Design and Technology Education Exhibition, NEC, Birmingham October 26-28. Full detail from the organisers ICHF, tel: 01425 272711.