Market forces

7th September 2001 at 01:00
Andy Breckon calls on the Government to invest in the modernisation of Damp;T

As schools minister two years ago, Charles Clark challenged the design and technology community to modernise its curriculum and make it more relevant to young people and industry. DATA immediately took up the challenge and with others set out a modernisation programme and strategies for implementation.

However, in our seventh Annual Survey of Provision in Design and Technology in Schools (20002001) there is great concern that teachers lack resources to engage students in the new technologies at the heart of a technological society. The success of the CADCAM in Schools Initiative is that more than 4,000 teachers are now trained in using high-quality CAD software. Yet many teachers are now frustrated by not having suitable CAM hardware.

One problem seems to be that because industry and educational charities have initiated change, the Government does not own the initiative and therefore displays interest, but provides limited funding. This is well illustrated by the Government's own specialist schools programme, where there is a ratio of 6:1 Government funds to industry support. At present CADCAM in Schools has a ratio of 1:7 Government funds to industry support. Similarly, the Marconi ECT programme (www.data.org.uknewsmain.htm) is struggling for resources and is only able to move forward because of Department for Trade and Industry funding.

DATA's annual survey also makes recommendations in a wide range of fields. In training it concludes that all one-year PGCE trained teachers have a three-year induction programme to ensure they have the appropriate subject knowledge and skills. It recommends that a new fund for training in new technologies is urgently required and there is a case for focused funding for subject leaders as an effective way of raising standards.

DATA estimates that approximately 60 per cent of schools are in need of some specific equipment as part of their modernisation programme for the subject and it estimates schools can only be brought up to date with a five-year programme estimated to cost pound;175 million. The funds will need to be focused on those in greatest need, with a commitment to curriculum modernisation. DATA also comments on new building developments under the Public Finance Initiative but is alarmed to find new facilities reflecting old models and not the new practices.

Teachers are also concerned by the quality of OFSTED inspectors, who are often out of date in their subject. Finally, the report is highly critical of the lack of genuine research and development funding.

DATA believes the Government is in a unique position to assist in raising standards in Damp;T through its national control of the curriculum and assessment. However, those standards need to be relevant to young people's lives and work. Increased relevance often includes applying new technologies where teachers need retraining, new resources for teaching and learning and a supportive culture. The Damp;T community has been extremely positive about change from within, without the Government needing to drive the changes; however, there is an impression that Damp;T education development can be left to the free market to solve the problems.

Surely it is too important for our country to leave technology education to the whim of local managers. In the developed world there is a significant decline of students studying science and technology; this country at present has major growth in Damp;T and the Government should seek to embed this in our culture. The Damp;T community wants Government to take more ownership of the issues we face.

We have generated a momentum which was hard to reach and can be easily lost, but with Government support we can enhance our success and achieve the goals that a design and technologically literate society requires.

* Research Paper 16: Annual Survey of Provision in Design and Technology (20002001) is available from DATA.

Andrew Breckon is chief executive of DATA, 16 Wellesbourne, Warwickshire CV35 9JB. Tel: 01789 470007E-mail: DATA@data.org.ukWeb: www.cadinschools.org

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