Launching the National Curriculum Review consultation last May, Education Secretary David Blunkett stated that he was not changing the status of any subjects in the national curriculum. So it seems strange that two weeks before the Department for Education and Employment launched the new national curriculum, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority began consultation on major changes at key stage 4 for design and technology and modern languages. It's totally changed how we see the review.
It is astonishing that these subjects are to have their statutory status changed. It is hard to think of more appropriate subjects to study in the 21st century. Ten years of outstanding work with tremendous support from industry, and an approach that is the envy of the world, are being thrown away. For what? DATA supported the limited disapplication under section 363, for instances when a more work-related curriculum was considered appropriate for a disaffected student. But the new criteria refer to a balanced curriculum which simply allows anyone to disapply if they want to, and although it suggests this is for individual pupils, schools will disapply whole cohorts.
The new national curriculum provides a good blend of updating with a degree of stability. In KS1 and KS2 there has been some simplification, but only structures and use of construction kits have been removed. This decision does not appear to be logical and is like saying: "Here is a car - you can keep on driving even though we have removed the gearbox as a cost-saving exercise". DATA's message to teachers is: continue the good practice of using construction kits and do explain to children why materials are used to create appropriate structures. The increased use of information and communications technology in KS2 is welcomed.
In KS3 and KS4 there is some significant new material, which we congratulate the DFEE for including. Increased emphasis on CADCAM from KS3, introduction of the requirement to teach modern materials, more emphasis on electronics and systems and control are most encouraging and could develop into an exciting new curriculum. However the Government's decision to ignore a 72 per cent vote in favour of food technology at KS3 leaves the profession questioning the value of consultation.
DATA welcomes the combining of the attainment targets. This makes sense, as the process of designing and making should not be split into parts. But we would have liked more emphasis on the application of knowledge with the attainment targets.
My final criticism is of the design of the subject-specific booklet. The photographs are not representative; the importance of design and technology statement is cramped in one corner, yet eight of the 48 pages are totally blank; and most pages fail to make use of the facility for full colour.
Andrew Breckon is chief executive of the Design and Technology Association. 16 Wellesbourne House, Walton Road, Wellesbourne, Warwickshire. Tel: 01789 470007.DATA@data.org.ukwww.data.org.uk