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Innovate to survive

DATA has taken up the challenge to bring the design and technology curriculum up to date, says Andy Breckon

Sir William Stubbs, chair of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, stated at the 1998 IDATER conference that one weakness in design and technology was its failure to modernise. Schools standards minister Charles Clarke, when launching the CADCAM in Schools Initiative in June 1999, welcomed the statement but told the profession to modernise or lose its position in the curriculum.

Entrepreneur and designer James Dyson has always promoted the subject's potential for innovation and it was pleasing to see QCA chief executive David Hargreaves in his lecture "Towards Education for Innovation", which took place at London's Institute of Education in November, place Damp;T at the centre of such work.

The Design and Technology Association has taken up the modernisation challenge. We believe innovation is linked in many ways to new materials, techniques and processes, and that these stimulate and captivate young people because of their relevance and excitement in meeting design challenges. DATA's modernisation programme has four strands.

The first strand is modernisation of the Damp;T curriculum. DATA has currently established the three main focus areas for the modernisation of the curriculum to promote innovation, which are:

* Designing and making through computer-aided design and manufacture. This covers most Damp;T focus areas including product design, engineering and textiles work and is spearheaded by the DATA-managed CADCAM in Schools Initiative, which has made a major impact on Damp;T. The generous software offers of ProDesktop from PTC and ArtCAM Pro from Delcam have helped continue our world leadership and develop curriculum innovation with CAD CAM.

* Access to elecronic and communications technology (ECT). This new project will be launched formally later in the spring term. The project is funded by Marconi, the Department of Trade and Industry and DATA and seeks to train and support a teacher from every school in ECT so that a course at key stage 4 can be run. At present, less than 20 per cent of schools offer such activities.

* Food technology. This programme is under way with support from the British Nutrition Foundation, the Meat and Livestock Commission, the Department for Education and Employment, the Department of Health, the Food Standards Agency and major companies looking at the role of nutrition, health targets, functional foods and a range of new industrial manufacturing and processing systems.

The second strand in the modernisation programme concerns new resources and better accommodation. The technology colleges' initiative has proved that with additional resources, major improvements in standards can be achieved. Damp;T now needs investment across those secondary schools deprived of resources for many years. DATA estimates that at least pound;160 million is required over the next four to five years to provide sound resources in all schools.

The third strand is Damp;T's need for a major programme of training in new skills and technologies. Curriculum development needs training, materials and resources. There is a need for regional training centres.

The fourth strand is fourth is re-establishing the value of Damp;T in primary education as an essential part of the curriculum with Damp;T seen as a vital tool in enhancing learning through practical activities.

Andrew Breckon is chief executive of DATA,16 Wellesbourne House, Walton Road, Wellesbourne, Warwickshire. Tel: 01789 470007. E-mail: Web:

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