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Complications ruthlessly cut

Status of food studies is upgraded in a more flexible scheme. Linda Blackburne reports. The confusion which has surrounded design and technology has come to an end with the publication of the new Order. But so ruthless has the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority (SCAA) been in pruning DT that technology, as well as information technology, will be the subject of special Government support in February 1995.

Anne Waldon, a SCAA technology officer, calls the recent history of DT "horrifically messy".

The heavy pruning necessary to give teachers maximum flexibility meant schools would have difficulty implementing the Order, she said. DT and IT staff in primaries and secondaries will be the only teachers to receive special subject guidance.

The confusion stems from three different proposals for changing the DT curriculum, including the National Curriculum Council September 1993 draft, on which the new Order is based.

One debate surrounding DT has been on the status of the study of food. Home economics teachers, who have been campaigning to save food and ultimately their jobs, will be relieved to discover that food has been enhanced in the new Order. Sir Ron Dearing, SCAA's chairman, proposed making food studies compulsory for five to 11-year-olds and optional for 11 to 14-year-old, which incensed the food lobby but pleased the Engineering Council, which wanted food removed from DT.

A compromise has been reached which can best be explained by looking at the KS3 assignments the draft proposals recommended in May. If, for example, a school decided to do nine assignments, pupils were required to do three projects with resistant materials (for example, metal, wood and some plastics); one with a compliant material (for example, some plastics and textiles); one with a compliant material or food; and four using materials of their own choice.

The new Order increases schools' flexibility considerably. The number of assignments is no longer specified, so if a school's nine projects could look like this: one using resistant material; one using compliant material or food; and seven using materials of their own choice. Ms Waldon said: "There is far more scope to decide which materials to use and what emphasis to put on them at key stage 3."

She maintained that this was the only part of the Order which made a specific requirement: "Even there, rather than talk about materials in traditional terms, we have tried to encourage schools to experiment. The national curriculum should not stultify design and development."

And she stressed: "The National Curriculum Council was absolutely clear in the initial revision that food and food technology were appropriate for DT, and the difference between food being not statutory and not being in the Order is subtle but very important."

However, most respondents felt that food should be a statutory area of study at KS3. Some schools felt it should remain optional, as did many industrialists, and one or two organisations argued that food had no place at all in DT, according to SCAA.

The consultation also showed that secondary teachers and a number of industrial organisations were worried that a free-standing DT short course would not be educationally sound. The majority agreed that combined courses, with complementary approaches and contents, were potentially worthwhile.

Key changes from draft proposals * number of design and make assignments to be taught at each key stage no longer specified; * programmes of study reorganised into sections stating the opportunities to be provided, and sections listing the material to be taught; * sections on planning and evaluating integrated into designing and making; * requirements for knowledge and understanding incorporated into the level descriptions; * in KS1 and 2 the sections on mechanisms, structures, quality and health and safety brought together in a section called technical knowledge and understanding; * at KS2 requirements to learn about distinguished engineers, designers and technologists, and historical development of familiar products scrapped; * at KS3 status of food studies enhanced with increased flexibility in content of design and make assignments; demand within designing and making reduced; sections stating content to be covered when working with particular materials scrapped; requirement for pupils to design and make systems incorporating feedback scrapped; * at KS4 text giving background explanations scrapped; * sections on progression integrated into other parts of programmes of study.

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