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I remember very well my first attempt at teaching ICT and design and technology to a Year 6 class who possessed few key skills and even less enthusiasm. Six weeks later, we had achieved several glued pieces of wood and a lot of frustration. I've learned a lot since then. I find that children learn best in if I intervene minimally. Within the structure of the QCA Schemes of Work, I find that the Focused Practical Tasks require a clear lead from the teacher, but other parts of the process see me taking a back seat. I try to give children key skills and let them discover the answers.

I make my introduction as brief as possible, concentrating on health and safety, behaviour management and equal access for all, and then let the children explore. I use the plenaries to tie up loose ends and ensure that the children have the knowledge they need for the next step.

Though I encourage them to ask questions I only give them the answers when they have tried every other possibility. Children can struggle with the practical skills of construction and so I teach them to see Damp;T as a process - perhaps my pupils won't make a perfect photograph frame immediately, but I can see their research on how frames are constructed and I have their own designs and an evaluation that tell me that a frame was not made easily (if at all), because the child found the construction very difficult. Damp;T is a complex voyage of discovery - child-led through investigation, questioning and analysis - and worthwhile mistakes.

Chris Perry, Damp;T subject leader, Victoria Park Primary School, Smethwick, Sandwell

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