Pupils 'will miss out on food skills'

GENERATIONS of children will fail to learn the essential skills of cooking good nutritional food because of changes in the way technology is taught, a new report says.

Home economics is being marginalised because schools are preferring to concentrate on other aspects of technology, according to the report, written by Professor Alan Smithers and Dr Pamela Robinson of the University of Manchester.

They say the recruitment and deployment of teachers 'is a muddle'. Teachers presently teaching in technology departments are from diverse backgrounds - everything from silversmithing to keyboard skills. 'Just over half were originally craft, design and technology teachers and a third home economics teachers, and these two groups are still battling for the soul of technology,' the authors say.

'CDT seems to be winning since it provides two-thirds of the heads of departments against less than one-fifth from home economics. Home economics has become bowdlerised to food technology and is itself in danger of being lost from the curriculum (and with it some of the essential skills of being able to look after oneself).'

The variety of backgrounds of the teachers has led to considerable confusion as to what should constitute technology. Even if there was immediate unanimity, with only 1,300 teachers being trained a year, it would take two decades for the new teaching to be reflected in the classroom.

The academics, who carried out the research for the Engineering Council, surveyed 349 of the 3,488 state secondary schools in England and Wales. Heads of departments were asked to describe themselves. Three-quarters were men, with four-fifths having CDT as their main area of expertise. Eighty-eight of the heads were women with more than two-thirds coming from home economics.

Technology Teachers - Getting It Right; Engineering Council, 10 Maltravers Street, London WC2R 3ER; Free, but send SAE with 40p stamp.