National Curriculum: Andy Mitchell on design and technology

I’m Andy Mitchell from the Design and
Technology Association. One of the things I think we are most
excited about with the new programme of study, is that it redefines the very
nature and purpose of what the subject is about and indeed the purpose
of studies is so important and needs to be, together with the aims,
read in conjunction with the individual programmes of study. It defines a subject and says why it’s
so valuable and defines the contribution it plays to the new
National Curriculum and all children’s learning. The new programme of study provides one
coherent document which is the first time for quite a few years that
Key Stage 1, 2 and 3 have been presented in the same document
and adopting what we are referring to as cumulative progression;
What’s learned in Key Stage 1 is built on in Key Stage 2 and then
built on again in Key Stage 3. The new programme of study provides a
framework for schools to build their own local curriculum and that’s
important. It doesn’t include
everything – some things are missing and we’d expect schools to put those in
for themselves. The Design and Technology Association is
developing a whole range of resources to support teachers in
implementing, but first of all, exploring what’s meant by the new
curriculum, unpacking it and then tailoring it to meet the specific needs of
their own local circumstances. There are two specific resources that
we’ve developed in the first instance that will really help teachers unpack
the programme of study and help me interpret its true
meaning. One is an annotated version which explains terms in curriculum that
are perhaps new, that weren’t there before and we believe that that freely
downloadable document, which is also being printed and made available to all
our members, the annotated program of study will actually answer many of the
questions that they have. It provides exemplification for what’s
meant by mathematical modelling for instance, or iterative designing or
the meaning of user centered design or bio mimicry. The second resource that we’ve developed
is to do with the school curriculum principles for Design and Technology (Key
Stage 1 to 3) and these are six overarching principles that should be, we believe,
evident in all the Design and Technology work that young people, children, pupils
undertake. They are user, purpose, functionality, decision-making,
innovation and authenticity. You can find details about these, they
are explained in this resource, again freely downloadable from the
Design and Technology Association website and questions against those and
examples of good practice across the three key stages of what
evidence of those principles looks like, in good quality Design and Technology. One aspect that is emphasized in the new
National Curriculum is the starting point from which Design
and Technology activity should arise and that is the use of context.
All too often design challenges that children and young people get set,
start with being given a brief to work from. What this curriculum does
is it even goes as far as to say to young people – challenge that brief,
is that actually the right brief. But even further back than that is
starting from context, identifying a context where there are
opportunities to improve the quality of life or for Design and Technology
to make a difference. There are a range of contexts that are
provided, as examples, to work from. A different range for Key Stage 1, 2 and 3.
They are only exemplars but we believe they are good. They range from working
with the familiar; at home, in school to perhaps working in the less familiar; the
local environment, the community, industry and agriculture. It is these contexts
that provide starting points. By studying them we can identify
opportunities for Design and Technology activity and students, individually
or working in groups, supported by the teachers, can write their own
briefs for designing and making activity. We’ve actually been on the road talking
to just under a thousand teachers at our local branch meetings over the past
three months and we are pleased to say that the curriculum is being largely
very well received. It moves the subject on but it’s
through a process of evolution not revolution. What schools are doing already in some
cases is good and can be built on. It’s not about throwing everything away
and starting afresh.

2 thoughts on “National Curriculum: Andy Mitchell on design and technology”

  1. With twenty years teaching experience in D and T, I think more open-ended teaching is the direction to aim if D and T is to continue as a subject and grow in schools. Over-prescribed projects – where the brief and spec lock students into a "follow-the-teacher" approach (with only token opportunities for design), really do work against the spirit of the subject and in my opinion continue to hold it back. Having said that, it would be unwise to go unprepared into a class and simply say "write your own brief" without anticipating what would follow. However, if structures and teaching systems have been setup to manage/guide the possible outcomes, you can still get across your "skills" but also develop far greater motivation in your students by allowing these learner-led projects. It takes a bold step to allow this to happen in your class and might seem inappropriate with learners you believe will not cope, but from experience the results can be surprising and extremely rewarding.   

  2. An awesome explanation of the curriculum. As a former designer and now, a teacher of design and technology; the scope of delivery is wider.

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