Peter Davison welcomes the latest topic-based materials for key stage 2.
These key stage 2 technology materials should be welcomed with enthusiasm by teachers. The books are attractive, informative, easy to use and relate closely to the topic-based work favoured by many schools. The 10 books are intended for use by Years 5 and 6. Set 1, for Years 3 and 4, is already published. Many of the suggestions feature cross-curricular links with scope to consolidate and extend knowledge and understanding in several subjects, particularly mathematics, science, history and art. There are common features in each book which should help both teachers and pupils to gain maximum benefit. Particularly noteworthy are a clear contents page, a useful index and an appropriate glossary which will extend vocabulary and understanding in relation to design and technology.
In addition, the general layout is attractive with relevant text, good photographs and clear diagrams to clarify a range of construction techniques and detailed features of various mechanisms and circuits.
Throughout, there are numerous questions to inspire curiosity, discussion and investigation activities.
Suggestions for pupils to work in teams when carrying out certain tasks reflect a feature of the draft proposals for the revised Order in design and technology. Indeed, many other aspects of this series align closely to both the current and likely future requirements of the national curriculum.One of the weaker features concerns the development of ideas at the planning stage. Frequently, a task begins with such wording as "Draw your design . . ." but little guidance is given about the range of appropriate techniques necessary to generate, develop and refine design ideas.
Turning briefly to some of the individual books: Great Inventors is perhaps a curious title (should it have been Inventions perhaps?) particularly since there is little reference to people. This book is essentially a key source of information about tools, materials, components, energy and control.
Famous Five reiterates the importance of five fundamental principles which are as critical today as they were to ancient civilisations - the lever, the incline plane, the pulley, the wheel and axle and the wedge. Fashion is Fun provides a good introduction to textiles technology and suggests some interesting comparative studies between Victorian fashions and those of today. Realistic investigational tasks centre on manufacturing, distribution and retailing and highlight opportunities for developing business awareness.
Earth, Air and Space is one of the most interesting books, but identifies limited scope for designing and making - central activities in design and technology. In many respects it is more appropriate to primary science.
The Teacher's Guide provides a good overview and suggests appropriate strategies for organising and developing projects. The impressive "Technology Recorder" relating to attainment targets and programmes of study will soon become obsolete.
However, the commitment of the publishers to keep all user schools up-to-date with changes to the national curriculum makes this series an essential resource for primary schools both now and in the foreseeable future.