DT rewrite represents major success for design sector

Demonstrating what some might view as impressive brass neck, Whitehall spinners have presented the design and technology programme of study as a highlight of today's new national curriculum.

One source apparently told journalists that it would mean "three-dimensional printers will become standard in our schools. a big step forward from Labour's dumbed-down curriculum".

But why shouldn't government gain credit from a new curriculum that does indeed call for students to use 3D modeling and computer-aided manufacture? Because design and technology (Damp;T) experts argued that if the Department for Education (DfE) had had its way students would been darning socks and arranging flowers instead of building computerised products with artificial intelligence.

The campaign waged by the Design and Technology Association (DATA) against the draft Damp;T curriculum released in February might be viewed as an exemplar on how to get ministers to change their minds.

True it did have something of an easy target once the DfE admitted that it did not "have a body of specific design and technology expertise" and had drafted the curriculum internally without any outside help.

The result was "more DIY than Damp;T", took a 21st-century subject back to the 1950s, and would have made England the "laughing stock" of the Western world, DATA warned.

Fresh from a successful campaign to ensure that Damp;T was retained as compulsory subject for five- to 14-year-olds, the association enlisted everyone from inventor Sir James Dyson to the CBI in a battle to get the "regressive" proposals changed.

It had plenty of backing - from more than 90 per cent of those responding according to an online poll - and the curriculum released today reveals that it won.

Gone are all references to maintenance and repair skills and learning about the industrial revolution. Horticulture has been almost entirely removed and instead students will be required to use biomimicry, mathematical modeling and microcontrollers.

Richard Green, DATA chief executive, describes the changes necessary to achieve this more forward thinking curriculum as "immense".

He told TES that the successful campaign demonstrated the importance of subject associations in an era following the abolition of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority quango that left the government without subject expertise.

"I think the fact that the criticism came from a wide range of individuals and institutions from industry and business as well as education made the government listen," Mr Green said. "Because the published draft in February was so weak the view was that this just couldn't happen."

William Stewart

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