Delivering the Design and Technology
The phased introduction of the secondary curriculum began in September 2008 with the introduction of the KS3 programmes of study beginning with Year 7 pupils. QCDA designed a curriculum that:
This was music to the ears of teachers and particularly those who teach design and technology (D&T). The curriculum's over arching aims and its discrete subject specific programmes of study provide many opportunities but in particular the chance to examine exactly what we are trying to achieve with our pupils, how we organise the learning experience and also what our curriculum contains in terms of conceptual understanding, skills and knowledge.
Teachers welcomed the opportunity to take more control themselves and move away from a centrally prescribed programme of study. Once again they could embrace with professionalism the autonomy and responsibility that had been given to them. However for some teachers who qualified since the introduction of the National Curriculum, this may have represented a new challenge. No longer could teachers expect to be told what to teach and how to teach it. Instead, as professionals with knowledge of their subject, their pupils and the local context, they were expected to define their own school's curriculum under a much less prescribed National Curriculum. But this would only be good as it maximised one of the inherent qualities possessed by D&T teachers, that of creativity. As heralded by QCDA this represented a shift from the National Curriculum to our Curriculum.To support subject leaders plan for the introduction, support materials are being published at: www.newsecondarycurriculum.org. The website contains generic and subject specific materials, including other useful web links, video case studies and articles that help 'unpack' the requirements. Engaging with the resources will enable department teams to rethink their provision and move toward a curriculum 'fit for the 21st century'.
Key concepts and key processes, the starting point
The curriculum provides opportunities for teachers to revitalise, in the first instance their KS3 schemes of work and what defines D&T in their schools. It provides the impetus for departments to review what they teach and most importantly how they organise teaching and learning. The guidance materials emphasise that the starting point for this reviewing activity must be the importance of design and technology statement and its associated key concepts and key processes. This is very important, starting from what we are trying to do rather than taking an existing unit of work or project and making it fit.
The curriculum encourages schools to explore different approaches to the timetable. Schools need to explore how best to deliver D&T and use the time that is made available most effectively. It is unlikely for instance that this means that all D&T takes place in weekly or fortnightly timetabled lessons. For D&T the fragmentation of time into short lessons (and in some schools the retention of a carousel timetable model) has presented many barriers to providing pupils with opportunities for deep learning. We need to provide opportunity for longer periods of engagement. Whole school curriculum leaders have been advised that subject leaders are being prompted to request alternative arrangements which might for instance include suspended timetable cross curricular events and the condensing of some of the allocated available time into fewer but longer sessions for part of the year. The teaching of food technology in particular gains from this approach. But also in other areas, the opportunity to vary the activity and really engage with learning over a longer single period of time contributes to the compelling learning experience that defines D&T. It is vital that we make demands on the timetable rather than allow activity to be dictated by it. It is inevitable that a number of ways of using time will evolve and this is only right.
The D&T Association welcomes the opportunity to demonstrate again how the subject can be seen as central to the curriculum. Through D&T, learning that takes place in other contexts can be brought to bear in a variety of real, meaningful and tangible contexts. D&T teachers will easily recognise how as a subject D&T can provide a significant contribution to addressing the whole curriculum dimensions and learning approaches that are set out in QCDA's 'Big Picture'.
They can provide powerful unifying themes that give learning relevance and help young people make sense of the world. They can also be used starting points for planning cross curricular activity involving 2 or more subject areas working together for instance over a 2 day 'immersion' activity. An example of this working can be viewed on the website.
The programme of study identifies a range of curriculum opportunities which should be embraced to ensure a mixed diet of D&T's experience is provided. It lists:
Moving forward: what departments need to do
It is important that schools plan carefully and as a team. Together they should be familiar with the programme of study, the cross curricular dimensions, have had the opportunity to examine and discuss the 'vision' for the curriculum provided by QCDA and engaged with web-based generic and subject specific resources. Understanding the role that D&T can play in contributing to the whole curriculum and its specific value is the responsibility of all D&T teachers. However the review and reform of the schemes of work should reflect evolution not revolution. The maxim 'do a little but do it well' applies. It is not intended that the programme will be fully embedded until 2011.The D&T Association recommends that the way forward is to adopt an approach that initially blends much of what is already good in the department's schemes of work into a more varied 'diet' of activity. It also recommends that making explicit the links both between the D&T product areas and also exploring linking with other subjects for part of the time is the way forward. This will be particularly helpful for schools in their addressing the STEM agenda. Planned experimentation leading to innovation is encouraged. Only then will pupils benefit from a modern curriculum fit for the 21st century.