Make up the lost ground;Subject of the Week;Technology

29th October 1999 at 01:00
Kevin Harcombe examines ways of raising the profile of Damp;T in primary schools

Design and technology, according to a recent National Association of Head Teachers survey, has suffered even greater neglect in primary schools than the other foundation subjects. Most teachers realise it is an important part of a broad and balanced curriculum, but that breadth and balance have been undermined by the drive to achieve literacy and numeracy targets.

We worked like Trojans to get literacy and numeracy up and running, which led to a squeeze on time and resources available for all foundation subjects. Now the literacy hour is established, we should try to regain some of the ground lost in Damp;T.

In practice this means more resources for training and materials. Primary teachers have risked becoming deskilled in the foundation subjects because the mass of in-service training time and funds have been devoted to literacy and numeracy.

In an attempt to reverse this trend, the National Association of Advisers and Inspectors of Design and Technology has published guidelines to show that its subject can provide valuable contexts in which to raise attainment in literacy at key stages 1 and 2.

Gareth Pimley, technology adviser for Shropshire, and author of the guidelines, believes Damp;T can provide relevant and motivating contexts for literacy. He sees it as a matter of common sense. "If Damp;T requires children to write instructions, why not use this ready-made context to teach the language features of instructional texts in the literacy hour?" He hopes the guidelines will reduce teachers' planning for literacy (did I hear three cheers?) by providing stimulating contexts, and that the approach will add purpose and direction to children's writing. School-based trials have shown that some boys progress more rapidly in literacy when Damp;T provides the vehicle for their reading and writing. Some children with special needs also respond particularly well. In my own school, boys respond more readily to non-fiction writing tasks.

David Wray, professor of literacy education at Warwick University, agrees that literacy can be successfully delivered through design and technology and help to close the gender gap in attainment. He says: "Before the national literacy strategy, writing and reading were dominated by narrative, while boys, for a variety of reasons, are more turned-on by non-fiction."

The strategies have had other positive effects on the foundation subjects. Improvements in teachers' questioning skills brought about by the NLS are having a knock-on effect in the foundation subjects - in Damp;T children can be taught to self-question to improve their designs and evaluations.

'Primary Design and Technology: bringing literacy to life' by Gareth Pimley is available from Data Publications on 01789 470007.David Wray's website (including sample writing frames and other literacy resources) is at staffD.J.Wray Wray.htmlKevin Harcombe is head of Orchard Lea Junior School, Fareham, Hampshire



Retelling the sequence in which a product was made

* set the scene - what was made, what materials were used, who made it and how long it took

* sequence events - how the product was made step-by-step

* produce a closing statement - briefly describe the main features and strengths and weaknesses in the product or what was learned Using instructional writing - producing step-by-step plans for making or using a product

* state goal to be achieved

* list what is needed - materials and components

* produce a sequence of steps needed to achieve goal Producing non-chronological reports - for analysing, classifying or describing existing products

* make a general classifying statement

* state purpose of product

* describe materials, components and parts of the products

* identify particular design features

Put it in your diary - Damp;T Week 2000

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