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First global primary forum

International design and technology conferences tend to emphasise the secondary curriculum at the expense of primary issues. But the University of Central England's Centre for Research into Primary Technology is redressing the balance by hosting the world's first international conference on primary DT on June 28-July 2. It will follow the Design and Technology Association's annual conference at the Chamberlain Hotel, Alcester Street, Birmingham.

Clare Benson, director of the CRIPT, says: "The UK is the first country to have design and technology in the primary curriculum as a legal requirement. In England we get knocked so much in education that we felt it is important to show that so much is going on that is good - and share it. We wanted to say, 'Look, we actually are leading the field', and it's a chance to find out where other people are at."

Speakers from 14 countries will share their research findings. Jan Schoultz of Linkoping University, Sweden, will talk about pupils' understanding and gears; Dr Beverley Jane of Deakin University, Australia, will discuss approaches to learning in technology; Dr Malcolm Welch, assistant professor at Queen's University, Canada, will explore Year 7 students' use of three-dimensional modelling in designing and making; and Dr Hung-Jen Yang, associate professor of the National Kaohsiung Normal University, Taiwan, will speak on integrating technology with computer literacy.

There will also be speakers from the Czech Republic, Costa Rica and the West Indies. UK speakers include Mike Ive, HMI, and Andy Breckon, chief executive of the Design and Technology Association.

The workshop programme encompasses: puppets; food technology activities with the Meat and Livestock Commission; Asian textile experts demonstrating techniques which can be incorporated into the curriculum; and LEGOdacta on how construction kits can be used to illustrate structures and mechanisms.

Clare Benson feels it is vital for primary technologists to demonstrate the value of the subject at a time when the political focus on basic numeracy and literacy threatens to squeeze other disciplines off the timetable. "We have come such a long way from the days of teachers just doing maths and English and whatever they were interested in," she says. "The national curriculum framework changed that and we don't want to go back."

She says that it is important to recognise the role of subjects like design and technology, even at key stage 1, in enabling children to apply knowledge of maths and English to real life situations. "It's about problem-solving, thinking critically and being creative."

The conference will include opportunities to visit schools to see D T in action. The Tuesday and Wednesday programmes have been arranged so schools can use a day visit as an in-service training opportunity at a cost per day of Pounds 65.

Details from the Centre for Research into Primary Technology, tel: 0121 331 6100

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