Politicians often tell us that putting more money into education will not help teach pupils. But most design and technology teachers would argue that this is nonsense. The nature of the things we make with pupils is almost always limited by cost.
You could go down the sustainability route, with pupils bringing in waste items from home - for example, drinks cans are good for lighting projects in resistant materials. Or you could recycle materials on the premises: when the science department was refitted at one school, we planed enough wood from the old benches to supply our GCSE students with material for three years.
Or you might be able to beg materials from local companies: printers could donate waste paper; bathroom manufacturers could offer vacuum-forming plastics. But ultimately, the projects we use to teach pupils will be dictated by what's available.
You can always ask the head to increase your budget. But you need to demonstrate what your funding means in real terms - the actual amount you receive per pupil, per lesson. For example, your department budget might be an impressive-sounding #163;10,000. But if you have 1,000 students, each doing two hours a week for 36 weeks, that is only 13.9p per pupil, per hour.
So the question you put to the head is straightforward: "What do you suggest the pupils can afford to make with this amount?"
At the end of the day, however, it's likely to remain up to you to make ends meet. And isn't it part of our brief to be creative?
Paul Anderson is a design, technology and engineering teacher in West Yorkshire
Busting the budget and searching for sustainable ideas? Try gerrad_j's textile project from recycled fabrics or doodle_dt's magnetic game brief.
Alternatively, introduce pupils to environmental issues with zaikamaria's task-led presentation on sustainable packaging.
In the forums
In the design and technology forum, teachers are worried about the future of the subject. Read a conversation about the Department for Education's latest report, The Framework for the National Curriculum.
Find all links and resources at www.tes.co.ukresources017.