Robots and Systems
main site  >  home  >  Personal Robotics Seminar, London 1985  >  28 May 2007

London West Hotel, SW6.    Wednesday 3rd July 1985

Timothy Coote
Commotion Ltd

Like all massive structures, the Education System is slow to move, but once momentum is gained change follows rapidly. It is a fickle market which requires detailed knowledge of needs, trends and planning developments.

Several concurrent developments are having, and will continue to have a profound and fundamental effect upon Secondary Education in particular and, by implication the need for coherence, Primary, Further and Higher Education also. The inter-relating strands that make up these developments include: Central Government initiatives; changes in Educational funding; DES and HMI pressure for curricular change; Local Authority initiatives; changes in Examinations and Assessment procedures; technological development.

In terms of our interests the most influential Government initiative in Secondary Education is, and will continue to be the TVEI, the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative. Under this the Manpower Services Commission directly funds local projects through negotiated contracts with Local Authorities which put up schemes. There are fourteen LEA's in the first pilot scheme which began in 1983, about sixty in the next year and rather fewer in the third, that is the current year. The funding level for the first phase was generally over 3 million per scheme but the level has since decreased. Clearly all this money is not available for the purchase of equipment. Much of it will go on administration and the training of staff. However there are substantial sums for curriculum development, especially in the technological areas.

In general the purpose of these schemes is to pioneer new ways of teaching and learning in the 14-19 age group. The content of the courses run is to be "more relevant to life and work in a Technological Age" and the skills acquired by pupils are to be directed at making them more competitive in their search for jobs. It should be emphasised that the MSC do not prescribe courses of study, approaches or even the content of the curriculum, therefore the schemes are many and varied. Hence the allocation of funds, their control and application varies in each Local Education Authority. The important thing is to establish contact with the appropriate person in the Education Department, keep them well informed and offer a product with good educational value at an accessible price.

In addition to TVEI funding is TRIST. That is TVEI Related In-Service Training (for Teachers). Again funded by Central Government via the MSC, the specific areas of Design and Technology, Microelectronics, Information Technology, Physical Science and Business Studies are are especially singled out for attention under this scheme.

Under the general title of "Curriculum Matters", an HMI series is being published covering the Curriculum, English, Science and Design and Technology 5-16 The 5-16 tag notes that for the first time the Local Education Authorities are seeking to achieve cbherence in the entire compulsory education curriculum.

LEA changes are, by definition varied in their detail but are, generally, linked to Regional and National changes. The British Schools Technology scheme which is jointly run by Trent Polytechnic at Nottingham and Bedfordshire Education Authority functions for the sole purpose of training and re-training teachers in the so-called "new" technological subjects and as part of its ground rules asks participating schools to nominate pairs of teachers: one from Science and one from the Design and Technology area of the curriculum. In this way it is hoped to influence schools to encourage co-operation between these inter-dependent disciplines.

Another fundamental shift is away from individual material based craft courses such as metalwork and woodwork towards balanced courses based on the need for acquisition of generalised problem-solving skills across a spectrum of Design-Make-Evaluate activities. This shift under the general title of Craft, Design and Technology has already occurred in many schools.

From 1988, the new joint exam for the 16+ entitled the GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) will support and improve, rather than constrain, curriculum development in CDT.

Almost by definition "high-tech" means "short life". For this reason, and the fact that Education is perhaps one of the most discriminating markets in terms of demanding value for money, it is obviously necessary to ensure that there will be a reasonably lasting niche for your product. That it represents good value, more in terms of its ability to educate than to perform to high specifications, is perhaps the most significant factor. As technology develops the need to learn about it develops. There is also the need to educate the educators in the sense that we create our own market by pushing the development of Robotics along.

Suffice to say that we at Commotion believe we are beginning to understand the educational market, it is highly complex and extremely varied. Very often, for no apparently explicable reason, something that works well in one location fails miserably in another seemingly similar situation. Obviously the local control of educational spending in terms of detail has quite alot to do with this. The trends, however, are that spending on equipment to support up-to-date teaching and learning in the general area of Technology and in Control in particular is likely to increase. In the future as Education itself wakes up to the fact that an awareness and capability in handling technological decisions and hardware is an essential part of everyday life the situation should continue to improve.