Cutting edge lessons instead of woodwork

It's best way to motivate new generation of inventors, says exam board

Darren Evans

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Design and technology teachers must become more cutting edge if they are to motivate the next generation of world-class inventors, says a Welsh exam board official.

The WJEC launched new AS and A-level specifications this academic year, and Steve Howells, the board's Damp;T subject officer, said the aim was to move away from boys-only woodwork sessions towards more challenging lessons for both pupils and teachers.

He said schools should move away from thinking about the subject just in terms of wood, metal and plastic, and become more innovative.

The new syllabuses have been heavily influenced by the success of the board's Innovation Awards, which just celebrated their 10th year. The students' inventions were exhibited in Llandudno and Cardiff last week.

Among the winning designs were a device to attach off-road bikes to cars and an alarm system for golf bags.

Both designs also won gold, the top prize, in the leisure invention category at the British Invention Show - a coup for young Welsh innovation.

Selwyn Gale, former principal examiner of WJEC and organiser of the awards, said growing numbers of teachers were coming to the annual event to take ideas back to the classroom.

"In the early days, a lot of teachers were uncomfortable with work they didn't expect, but that isn't the norm any more," said Mr Gale. "Teachers are looking for different ways to encourage children to work." He thinks the new emphasis on innovation at A-level is important for the subject, and for the technology industry in Wales.

"Innovation is essentially the future," he said. "It's very easy for teachers to stay on the same ground. We need to realise that not being successful is part of the learning journey, and we should award those who are trying to be different."

Mr Gale also believes other subjects can learn from this new way of thinking.

"It's about doing something different, going into uncharted waters, moving away from what's safe," he said.

"There are some subjects that lend themselves to this, such as maths - getting children to think mathematically rather than just doing maths."

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Darren Evans

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