Shaping the future of D&T teaching

Education and industry come together to develop guidance for design and technology teachers delivering the new national curriculum at key stages 1-3

A new Design and Technology (D&T) curriculum for key stages 1-3 will be introduced in September 2014.

Thanks to input from subject association the Design and Technology Association (D&T Association), as well as the Royal Academy of Engineering, the design council and industry representatives, the new curriculum has been welcomed by many employers and subject experts.

Its content aims to rehabilitate D&T as an enabling or applied STEM subject which gives children the chance to develop vocational outlets for their science, technology and mathematics knowledge.

The new curriculum includes requirements for teachers to use context-based projects, including domestic and industrial contexts, as well as challenging students to understand the iterative process of design, manufacture, product delivery and use.

However, while the new curriculum has been given nods of approval by influential business and industry leaders – including Dick Olver, former CEO of BAE Systems and entrepreneurial engineer James Dyson – it was confirmed in August that D&T teachers in schools across England and Wales would receive no statutory guidance from government to help them deliver the new programme of study or interpret its objectives.

Chris Green, CEO of the D&T Association explains why this is a problem. “Whilst the new programmes of study for D&T are evolutionary rather than revolutionary, they will still present challenges for many primary and secondary schools.

“Teachers will certainly need advice, support and guidance if they are to interpret and implement this new curriculum effectively in September 2014.”

Filling a void

Stepping up to the mark in providing this support the D&T Association joined forces with the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) last week to host a workshop – some termed it a “war room” – which aimed to form the foundations of materials and professional development resources to help teachers understand the scope and potential of their new curriculum.

Delegate at the event agreed that resources must encourage teachers to see their subject as a whole – rather than focusing exclusively on the key stage for which they are directly responsible.

Other feedback indicated that frameworks should be put in place to help teachers understand current and developing industrial and consumer technologies so that contextualised projects prove really useful – both to students and to their prospective employers when they leave education.

Some subject experts from academia also emphasized that D&T teachers should be given more confidence in running projects which do not culminate in a physical product. It was felt this would push them to do more in exploring the scope of virtualisation technologies and the importance of material selection – rather than focusing exclusively on construction and production.

Summing up the benefits of the D&T Association-RAE Non-Statutory Guidance meeting, Mr Green observes: “The day was important because it brought together the views of teachers, industry, suppliers and institutions – all of who had been involved in changing the February draft programmes of study. This was an opportunity to start supporting its implementation.

“Head teachers were identified as being critical in influencing and determining how the subject develops. One proposal was to host 3-4 regional meetings for head teachers to illustrate the importance of the subject by exemplifying good practice, explaining what is wrong with much existing practice and demonstrating how schools can be supported in moving their practice forward.”

For more details on the new Programme of Study for Design and Technology at key stages 1-3 click here.

To learn more about the resources being developed for teachers and employers to maximise the value of the new curriculum, contact: [email protected]