Creative squeeze will drain industry;Letter

17th December 1999 at 00:00
I READ with dismay that David Blunkett, the Education Secretary, wants to give teenagers the choice of dropping design and technology at Key Stage 4. I understand that some degree of flexibility is needed, but I find this move part of a worrying trend to try and squeeze creativity out of the core curriculum.

Design and technology is important. The act of creatively using your hands, together with your brain, is a vital part of education and is immensely challenging. It is a socially inclusive and cohesive activity which benefits all pupils whatever their abilities, including the most academic and those who want to concentrate on work-related learning. Design and technology is rooted in the practices of industry, manufacturing and business. What better background for a young innovator or entrepreneur?

It is essential for the economy that people grow up knowing and understanding the design process. I don't mean just designers and engineers, but everyone and especially bankers, economists, politicians and accountants. These are the people who need to understand the value of creativity, technology and manufacturing. Design and technology courses in schools provide the springboard for this understanding.

Design and technology could be - should be - at the centre of the curriculum. It is entirely compatible with high levels of numeracy and literacy - the design process draws on areas such as maths, science, technology, communication and art. Designing and making something is truly creative, and developing creative abilities is a basic function of education.

Design has the lowest truancy level of any subject and research at Exeter University shows that design and technology is by far the favourite subject at school. Credit for this must go to the enthusiasm and dedication of the teachers.

When compulsory Damp;T was dropped from the curriculum in Wales the number of girls taking the subject fell to 20 per cent.

It has always worried me, as a manufacturer of household products, that we have so few female engineers (20 out of 350). Letting pupils opt out of Damp;T is turning the clock back.

Technology is playing an increasingly important and central role in all our lives. So, we have to create a culture where people are not afraid to try something new, and we have to inspire designers and engineers to develop new technology to solve problems.

I fear Mr Blunkett's proposals pose economic and cultural risks. He is making decisions on behalf of the children in schools today that will put them, and Britain, at a disadvantage in this technological age.

James Dyson



Tetbury Hill

Malmesbury, Wiltshire Letters sent via email

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