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James Dyson

"Dumbed down" design and technology curriculum scrapped by UK ministers

News: UK government ministers are to scrap the draft design and technology syllabus for secondary schools amid claims by industry figures including inventor James Dyson (pictured) that the curriculum had been "diluted" with skills such as cooking and gardening.

The Department for Education will now review subject requirements after admitting to the Telegraph that the curriculum, which was drawn up just two months ago, had been "dumbed down".

The document was criticised after it emerged that pupils aged between five and 14 would receive lessons in sewing and knitting, bicycle maintenance and cultivating plants for "decorative displays".

Writing in The Times in February, James Dyson, inventor of the Dyson bagless vacuum cleaner, said the academic rigour demanded in other core subjects was missing in the government's "diluted" design and technology draft syllabus.

"Life skills such as how to grill a tomato and what to do if your bike chain falls off take pride of place," he said. "Gardening has become a key component in a subject that should contextualise science and maths in a practical format."

Pupils should learn to invent as well as mend and maintain, he added. "If the British automotive industry is to continue its renaissance it needs young engineers capable of questioning and improving rather than just fixing."

During consultations, which ended on 16 April, Britain's Design Council urged people to campaign against the "potentially retrograde proposal for design in our schools", while the Design & Technology Association, a body that campaigns for design and technology teaching, said the draft syllabus would "seriously undermine 20 years of development in the subject".

A government source yesterday told the Telegraph the revised curriculum would be geared towards helping pupils towards jobs in manufacturing, engineering and computer-aided design. "We have had a lot of good ideas on how to make the D&T curriculum more rigorous and more in line with what industry needs," the source said.

The move comes just two months after the government abandoned controversial plans that would have removed design and other creative subjects from the compulsory school curriculum after age 14, proposals that were fought by key industry figures such as Apple's Jonathan Ive and architect Norman Foster as part of the #IncludeDesign campaign.

D&AD president Neville Brody had described the government's plans to "demolish" creative education as "insanity", telling Dezeen: "The creative industries need high-quality creative graduates. If we're not getting the graduates, we’re not going to sustain the industry."

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Photograph by Eva Rinaldi.