Sunderland children will get ‘1940s education’ under changes

Professor Stephanie Atkinson
Professor Stephanie Atkinson
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SKILLS will be more suited to 1940s Britain than today if curriculum changes go ahead, claims a Sunderland lecturer.

Professor Stephanie Atkinson, who became the country’s first female woodwork teacher in the 1960s, has condemned the Department of Education’s plans to shake up the curriculum for design and technology studies, saying it will only “lower standards and reduce expectations”.

Her warning follows the National Curriculum Review of Key Stages 1-3 that has been taking place over the past two years.

The consultation for design and technology ends on April 16, and the current proposals have left Prof Atkinson and fellow members of the Design and Technology Association (DATA) angry at the “dumbing down” of the subject.

Proposed changes include developing and using a range of common practical skills in mechanical and repairing contexts, as well as common diagnostic, maintenance and repair tasks on electrical appliances, learning to cook following straightforward recipes and cultivating plants for practical purposes, such as for food or decoration.

Prof Atkinson, Professor of Design and Technology Education at the University of Sunderland, said: “The new proposals will lower the standards and reduce expectations. Even its use of terminology to describe content assumes low status such as, ‘straightforward skills’, ‘basic skills’, using ‘simple’ techniques.

“It is more DIY than design and technology. Where are the words that we would expect to see? Words such as ‘challenging and rigorous’, ‘meeting user needs and values’, ‘working with smart materials’, ‘computer aided design and manufacture’.

“The proposals would be more suited to Britain directly after the Second World War, and it concerns me greatly.”

In a survey by DATA, more than 90 per cent of members believe the changes are not rigorous or challenging enough.

However, outside the teacher training community for the subject there has been little coverage or concerns made in the media to protest against the changes.

The proposed plans coincide with concerns raised by the Education Select Committee to the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, about the lack of importance shown towards engineering qualifications. In a recent report, they stated that it was sending the wrong message to young people.

Prof Atkinson has raised the issue with Guy Opperman, Conservative MP for Hexham, who said he has conveyed the concerns to Mr Gove, and is waiting for a response.

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