No more nonsense

8th September 2000 at 01:00
Jenny Jupe of DATA hails a new era of modern curriculum planning for Damp;T

Over the past 10 years teachers have made well founded, if not ambitious, claims about design and technology's capacity to engage and stimulate young people. The Office for Standards in Education supports this view with evidence that rates of truancy are at their lowest in Damp;T lessons. Let us not lose sight of this in the weighty scheme of work, currently only available on the QCA website, that will aid curriculum planning at key stage 3. As helpful as this tool may prove to be, it is variety, combined with rigour and individual school need, that underpins any good programme of learning. If, on reflection, your departmental scheme of work has a proven track record (improved standards, excited, absorbed pupils, Ofsted approval, etc) then you might gently nudge it into line with the new Order.

In the national scheme of work the QCA rightly reminds us that "developing teaching to raise standards is a fundamental requirement of every teacher". However, if in your cycle of "plan, do, review" a light touch appears to be what is required then do not be seduced into throwing out the baby with the bath water. For many departments this will mean looking no further than the QCA's Teacher's Guidance booklet, where page 21 provides useful suggestions and describes the main changes in the new design and technology curriculum:

* three strands in the programme of study (not all new content) * enhanced requirement to use ICT * teaching about modern, including smart, materials * assignments to include control systems * an expectation to include both food and texties * the reduction in attainment targets to one.

The checklist that follows in this guidance will help any skilled teacher assess what needs to be modified or developed. Appendix 9, "Guidance on constructing and reviewing a scheme", goes further and provides some useful scenarios of potential weaknesses and possible solutions.

But an overarching aim must be to establish classroom activities that will stimulate pupils and provide them with quality learning experiences, and departments remain free to select from the wealth of curriculum planning aids available.

Vital to this will be the balance between the process of designing and the quality of making, and how the association between the two is made explicit to pupils. The "pretty nonsense" phenomenon of the last century must now be a thing of the past.

We must continually question the relevance of poorly crafted items when excellentCADCAM packages can enable pupils to achieve fully functional, high quality products.

In 2000, when the total world trade of 1949 is now carried out in one day, when as many telephone calls are made in one day as in the whole of 1983 and as many e-mails are sent in one day as in the whole of 1990, we must modernise our curriculum to empower young people. How we achieve this is as much down to the ingenuity and intellect of teachers as it is to the curriculum planning tools that they choose to use.

Jenny Jupe is deputy chief executive of the Design and Technology Association (DATA), 16 Wellesbourne House, Walton Road, Wellesbourne, Warwickshire, CV35 9JB. Tel: 01789 470007. E:mail: Website

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