Julie delivers design and technology in-service training to teachers for training provider Standards for Education and plans to give her CD-Rom, featuring all her key stage 3 and 4 processes, to teachers for evaluation on this summer's courses. If they rate it a success, she will explore ways of making the software more widely available to schools.
Threading instructions are for Sawtry sewing machines, which are Bernina Activa 140 models, but Julie believes that most other processes will be common to all schools. Of alternative resources, she says: "I haven't come across any other software that shows how to thread the machine. Some sewing machine manufacturers provide videos, but you have to move at the video's pace, whereas the CD-Rom tackles it in bite-sized chunks." SfE: www.sfe.co.uk
Schemes of work
All Julie's schemes of work for textiles are published on the Sawtry Community College website at www.sawtrycc.com. She has structured all the modules to help give children the skills to answer a problem that is put to them. In the Year 7 Novelty Notebook module, the problem is to produce a stylish cover for a notebook. It must be suitable for sale at a garden centre, which has a neighbouring butterfly farm and aquarium - a unisex theme which steers clear of the "Manchester United this, Manchester United that" school of design.
"At the beginning of the module I explain the problem, and explain that they are going to be learning techniques they can use to manufacture the cover, and (that they will be) seeing other students' work. So they design knowing the manufacturing techniques they will use and knowing how other people have made the product."
Julie's thinking has been heavily influenced by her work as an area field officer with the Nuffield Foundation's Design and Technology Project, which produces teaching and learning materials.
"It is hard when you are in school, working in isolation. Dr David Barlex, the project director, has been very motivating - constantly urging me to give the children freedom to make their own design decisions, rather than just giving them the components. For me, design and technology is all about decision-making, and we need to get this over to the children. These are the skills that will help them in future."
The new Nuffield Secondary Design and Technology website at www.secondarydandt.org will be launched on June 25, offering downloadable project resources for key stages 3 and 4.
Portfolio of samples
Julie keeps a portfolio containing examples of children's work at every stage of a project.
"At any time I can get my folder out and show students what they are going to be doing. They see the standards I expect of them - neat cutting and sticking down; straight stitching - and they see that these are not impossible to achieve. I have portfolios for each of my KS3 modules and I use them as a benchmark for assessment."
Sewing supplies and machine support
Julie relies on Kettering Sewing Centre in Northampton (Tel: 01604 637200) to ensure her machines are always working, and to post her emergency supplies, such as machine needles. She says that Nova Trimmings (Tel: 0116 253 1144; www.novatrimmingsltd.co.uk) supply reasonably-priced trimmings and components which, she says, "helps to finance projects that might otherwise not be affordable."
All staff at Sawtry have gained their European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) qualification, which focuses on using ICT to increase productivity. Administration in the school is computer-based and most staff communication takes place via email.
The design and technology department has 10 laptops and its own computer suite, which opened last autumn.
Julie's advice to first-time users of ICT is to forget the old concept that the teacher must know everything.
"We are not now expected to be the fount of all knowledge. We are facilitators, saying to students, how are we going to do this together?"