As panic sets into every design and technology department in the wake of qualification redevelopment, funding changes and over-scrutiny, I think it’s time that someone asks an important question: what is the future for our hard to reach boys?
A quick internet search yields a plethora of results on the UK skills gaps and how our ministers are carefully assessing budgets to make sure that the absence of skilled workers is managed effectively. Yet despite trades, engineering and manufacturing roles being highlighted, we blindly steam roll towards the English Baccalaureate in an effort to make sure that university spaces are filled and we compete educationally on the world stage.
In light of the lack of people taking up hands-on careers, I wonder why subjects such as ancient Greek and geology have appeared. I find myself asking why we are not redeveloping qualifications to fill the skills gaps and that engage our boys. Where are the GCSEs in health and safety, construction, carpentry? Subjects that are the right level for learners under 16, that let those late developers achieve whilst pushing those lacking in muster towards a career.
I’m lucky to teach in a school where our boys are given a wide range of subjects that might appeal to their learning styles including; uniform public services, engineering and the full suite of design and technology courses.
But I know that I’m in a minority, a young, female teacher whose subject specialisms are resistant materials and engineering. I know that I’m at a critical point in my career, schools are turning their back on my subjects because they are expensive and students struggle to achieve their potential. I fear an application for the upper pay scale in the current climate will be hard-fought. Despite that, I can think of nothing better than teaching a classroom full of cheeky, naughty and often frustratingly lazy boys.
My closest colleagues are resigned to our fate and concerned about the ever-approaching iceberg that is redundancy. We lack enough in the kitty to buy basic items like masking tape and are regularly told that our results are worse than food’s, yet we battle on to do the best for our boys, even if they have little desire to do the best for themselves.
The one thing that weighs on my mind most heavily is the hack and slash method currently adopted by our SLT. Graphics was axed last week, will engineering be next? I look forward to the day when I need a plumber and am pleasantly surprised to find that the person who arrives on my doorstep can recite The Iliad – but leaves me with a leaking tap.
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