How to tackle the new DT curriculum

In September, England's curriculum is changing for key stages 1, 2 and 3. This week, teachers reveal how they are approaching Damp;T


The good news is that the new design and technology programmes of study offer enough familiarity for schools to build on existing good practice without abandoning successful areas of the old curriculum.

But subject leaders will need to use their expertise to move Damp;T forward by exemplifying how the sometimes more demanding elements of the new curriculum can be successfully embedded into existing plans.

Key areas for my school to understand were: what an "iterative process" was and what this would look like in the classroom; what the term "design criteria" meant for key stage 1; how we would teach cross-sectional and exploded diagrams in key stage 2; and how the cooking and nutrition strand would fit seamlessly into our long-term plan without just being an add-on.

Staff then began to update planning. We tracked how well learning in Year 1 built on experiences in the early years, where we could place units of work that would take advantage of staff expertise and where we could establish meaningful links with other curriculum areas.

We then thought about suitable projects and applied the "six essentials" for high-quality Damp;T:

  • Users - Children must make something for someone.
  • Purpose - Products must perform a clearly defined task that can be evaluated in use.
  • Functionality - Products must work in some way and not be purely aesthetic.
  • Design decisions - Children must be able to select materials, components and techniques.
  • Innovation - Children must have some scope to be original in their thinking.
  • Authenticity - Products must be believable and real, and not replicas, reproductions or models.
    • These elements distinguish Damp;T from craft activities. Any project proposal that did not offer these opportunities for children was discounted.

      Schools have a wealth of support available to them. We drew heavily on the free materials from the Design and Technology Association (Data) and the British Nutrition Foundation.

      I feel that our Damp;T curriculum has been reinvigorated, with standards and expectations raised. Most importantly, staff enthusiasm for this important subject is high. We cannot wait for September.

      Rebecca Higgins is Damp;T lead at Newtown Church of England Primary School in Shropshire


      We are fortunate in our school that Damp;T is very popular at key stages 4 and 5. This would suggest that our current key stage 3 offering is very good, but we must not become complacent. Careful consideration has to be given to allow opportunities for creativity and freedom within a framework that takes time, resource and cost implications into account.

      Although we may not match every bullet point on the new programme of study, what we will offer will be exciting, fun and cutting edge. We aim to integrate traditional skills with modern techniques, and to encourage creativity and highly visible outcomes.

      The new curriculum allows us greater flexibility. However, I cannot stress enough the importance of the emphasis on "working in a range of contexts" and "user-centred design". Subject leaders now need to consider the location of the school, their pupils' needs and the influences they are exposed to. This is about making Damp;T more visible by identifying and solving problems that will benefit the community.

      The mention of biomimicry will no doubt scare and confuse some, but Data provides support courses and TES Connect's resources will help you to gain an insight into this fascinating area.

      Programmable components will be technically demanding and may also cause concern, but it is vital for pupils to understand the technologies, products and services they use. This makes the subject more relevant.

      Food technology has become "cooking and nutrition" and our food staff have been designing a curriculum that will instil a love of food in our students and teach the crucial life skill of cooking. As we have our own farm, fortunately it is easy for us to show pupils where food comes from and to use some of the produce in lessons.

      Computer-aided design and cutting-edge computer-aided manufacturing are clearly highlighted and there is a huge opportunity to use these technologies on projects. The price of 3D printers has come down significantly over the past 10 years, with some good machines now available for about pound;1,000.

      Despite the work involved in rewriting schemes of learning, I believe we must continue to reflect on our offering, make tweaks, develop projects and search for new opportunities to deliver a curriculum that fosters in students a passion and excitement for the subject.

      Stuart Douglas is specialist leader of education and subject leader for Damp;T at Ripley St Thomas Church of England Academy in Lancaster

      A look inside the new Damp;T curriculum

      The new programmes of study are designed to build on existing good practice. So don't abandon your existing planning without first seeing if it can be adapted to include the new requirements.

      The Design and Technology Association advice is that the new "cooking and nutrition" requirement should be linked with "designing and making". This means that as part of food technology projects, pupils will apply the principles of healthy eating and nutrition and learn how to prepare dishes.

      Key stage 1

      Pupils should be taught:

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