Heads seek delay on technology lessons

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(First Edition)

HEAD TEACHERS yesterday urged John Patten, Secretary of State for Education, to postpone compulsory GCSE technology lessons for pupils aged 14 to 16 in England and Wales.

Meanwhile, support among teachers of English for a boycott of Key Stage 3 tests at age 14 is to be tested by the National Union of Teachers. Last-minute changes imposed by Mr Patten to set books and the tests have provoked anger among teachers who still do not know what to prepare their pupils for.

The union's executive agreed the survey yesterday but a boycott would require a further ballot.

The National Association of Head Teachers and the Secondary Heads Association, representing almost all heads, said that schools had to cope with three different GCSE technology courses at once because of changes ordered by ministers: the current GCSEs, the amended GCSE courses that pupils are already working towards for examinations in 1994 and 1995, and the 'Mark 3' version due to start in autumn 1995.

In a letter to Mr Patten, heads said that they were angry and frustrated because little account had been taken of the need to plan such a complex subject in advance.

Schools want to wait until the revised curriculum is ready in September 1995, and to continue the present GCSE courses if they wish. The National Curriculum Council had advised that the new order should be postponed, the head teachers point out.

Mr Patten announced in June that the first technology syllabus would be scrapped and replaced by a course setting more challenging standards and increasing the subject's practical emphasis.

Yesterday, the Department for Education said that ministers had considered the matter very carefully and decided that it would be in the best interests of pupils to be able to continue technology beyond the age of 14 and take a GCSE qualification in the subject.