PLANS TO allow 14-year-olds to opt out of design and technology will undermine the economy and reverse years of work to encourage young women into engineering, Britain's leading engineers have warned.
Government proposals will scupper efforts to develop a technologically literate society and slash the numbers of teenagers qualified for careers in design, engineering and construction, Malcolm Shirley, director general of the Engineering Council has told the Government's curriculum quango.
Education Secretary David Blunkett wants more teenagers to be able to opt out of the full national curriculum in order to focus on their strongest subjects or to consolidate their basic skills.
Pupils will be able to drop design and technology andor modern languages if their school can demonstrate an alternative programme would be more appropriate. But the Engineering Council wants the proposals be scrapped arguing they will have a knock-on effect on post-16 design qualifications as well as on vocational and work-based courses in engineering and construction.
Mr Shirley said: "The 'swap or drop' message seems to be that design and technology capability for all citizens is not important in our society. Such short-term thinking leads to a real danger of closing the doors on possible futures for many capable young people."
He argued that England should learn from the experience in Wales where design and technology was dropped from the compulsory curriculum five years ago.
Since then, the numbers of students choosing to study the subject had plummeted with fewer than one third taking design and technology in 19956 - and just 22 per cent of girls.