Top tech teacher quits 'in despair' at subject's decline

1st April 2011 at 01:00
`I fear the subject is being overlooked and neglected. It's not being prioritised as it should'

A leading technology teacher has joined a growing chorus of concern that the subject is being marginalised in Welsh classrooms.

Dorian Caudy, head of the technology faculty at Morriston Comprehensive in Swansea, said the subject was not being supported by ministers and claimed that a recent inquiry by Assembly members was a "missed opportunity" to highlight the problem.

"I fear the subject is being overlooked and neglected," Mr Caudy, chair of the network of design and technology teachers in Swansea, said. "It's simply not being prioritised as it should.

"Technology teaches innovation; it's where science comes alive. I have seen a marked decline in the number of pupils choosing to study technology subjects at GCSE in the last few years, and that's a terrible shame."

Mr Caudy, once a contestant on the Robot Wars television series, made his comments as he prepares to leave Wales for New Zealand, where he believes the subject is taken more seriously. He has taught at Morriston for the past 15 years.

Mr Caudy criticised the Assembly's Enterprise and Learning Committee (ELC) over its recent inquiry into the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects. The report, which contained 22 recommendations, "marginalised" technology and engineering in favour of science and maths, he said.

"It reads as a science report, not a STEM report. Why have technology and all of its innovations been left out? I am in despair at this missed opportunity," said Mr Caudy.

His criticisms follow serious concerns expressed by technology firms to the ELC inquiry. The Engineering Education Scheme in Wales said technology and engineering were "generally treated as less important" than the other STEM subjects, while GE Aviation said engineering at school level was "very limited".

Selwyn Gale, the WJEC exam board's chair of examiners for A-level design and technology and organiser of the annual Innovation Awards, said teachers like Mr Caudy had "legitimate concerns" about the subject.

"Technology tends to be the `Cinderella subject' when it's bundled with science and maths," he said. "I think it's a big mistake by the ELC not to highlight these concerns more strongly."

Gareth Jones AM, chairman of the ELC committee, denied that the "significant contribution" of technology was neglected in the report, which was published in January, and has written to Mr Caudy.

Although there were no specific recommendations about technology, he said the report highlighted the "unacceptable, precarious state" of technology education. "Whenever reference is made in the report to STEM subjects, all four subjects have equal validity and status," he wrote to Mr Caudy.

According to figures from WJEC, the number of GCSE entrants for design and technology subjects fell from 13,668 in 2006 to 11,703 last year - a drop of 14 per cent.

However, statistics show that the number of technology-trained secondary teachers has increased in that time. Estyn said design and technology courses achieve some of the highest standards in secondary schools.

A spokeswoman for the Assembly government said there were a wide range of technology courses available for pupils. "Take-up for these subjects is high and has remained so for many years," she said.

Original headline: Top technology teacher quits Wales `in despair' at subject's decline

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