School tests 'discriminate against girls'

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Indy Politics
TEXTILES and graphics are being left out of next year's practical tests in technology for 14-year- olds, leading to fears that this will discriminate against girls.

The School Examinations and Assessment Council (Seac), which is supervising the tests, has issued guidance to schools on how they will operate next year. The guidance says the practical test in technology 'is likely' to focus on 'construction materials, control materials and food'. But there is no mention of either textiles or graphics.

This is despite the fact that in examples of the tests given to teachers, textiles and graphics are given equal importance to other aspects of technology. They are included in the non-statutory guidance to technology in the national curriculum, and have been taught since 1990.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, has written to Lord Griffiths, chairman of Seac, urging him to think again about the tests.

He said yesterday: 'Textiles and graphics are part of the subject order for technology . . . Indeed, many schools concentrate their efforts in the areas of textiles. Nonetheless, it appears that these two aspects of pupils' work are being excluded from next year's tests although they were part of the 1991 trials.

'As a result, as much as 40 per cent of young people's work in this subject for the last three years will be outside the tests. This will downgrade these areas of work in the eyes of pupils and parents who will come to see them as a waste of time.'

And he warned that it would discriminate against girls. 'Inadequate resourcing has ensured that sex-stereotyping has not yet been overcome. Consequently, the vast majority, though by no means all, of the pupils affected by this omission will be girls.

'It seems incredible that anyone should believe such areas of study are not of importance to our economy. It is particularly sad that the possibility of such a view should come to light in the same week as the British Fashion Awards are announced.'

A spokesman for the council said that although pupils would not be tested on textiles, the subject would still be taught and valued. The tests could only sample a range of what was taught. There was a broad range for all pupils.