'Catastrophe' of design cuts

14th August 1998 at 01:00
The future of design and technology in schools is under severe threat with an increasing number of teacher training institutions dropping the subject.

John Howson, a teacher recruitment analyst, warned that if the present trend indicated in official figures worsened the subject would not survive.

He said: "The effect of reducing design and technology in the curriculum for both disaffected pupils seeking vocational type courses and our manufacturing industry could be catastrophic."

Design and technology is compulsory for all pupils up to age of 16, and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority regards it as an important part of the curriculum.

Teacher Training Agency figures show an eight to 10 per cent shortfall in available places, with a number of teacher training institutions including Greenwich University, Bath University and Liverpool John Moores University axing the course. There are fears that even this reduced number will not be filled.

The reasons given are problems with recruiting students with appropriate qualifications and the expense of the course. Some institutions believe their four-year courses will not survive the introduction of tuition fees but there are few degree subjects that naturally lead to a Post Graduate Certificate in Education in design and technology.

Ashley Hambridge, a senior technician at Greenwich University, which has cut 30 PGCE design and technology places, said: "Recruitment was difficult,but one of the main problems was that it is an expensive course to run. You have to provide workshops and can only teach 25 students at a time. Universities have to be run like businesses these days and when it is about getting bums on seats, design and technology isn't seen as cost-effective as subjects that just need a lecture room."

In the past, he said, schools have telephoned the university desperate to find DT graduates.

Sue Martin, director of studies for PGCE courses at Bath University where 12 DT courses have ended, and been replaced by language and information technology courses, said applications had been low and the expense, for example of providing health and safety training, caused problems.

At Loughborough the four-year course has been replaced by a three-year industrial design and technology course, which can be followed by a PGCE. This is because the university is concerned that students will be less likely to apply for four-year courses when they have to pay #163;1,000 tuition fees for each year. Students taking a PGCE are exempt from the fees.

Howard Denton, programme leader for the course, admitted that not all the 54 undergraduates on the course will then go on to take the teaching qualification. He said: "It is difficult to say what proportion will stay on. That will be determined by how successful the TTA and the Government is at making the profession of teaching attractive. "

Alan Smithers, director of education and employment research at Brunel University, said: "Design and technology faces an uncertain future. The Government needs to put substantial resources into technology training. There still needs to be work done on establishing a clear identity for the subject, but unless we have good teachers coming through it will not happen."

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