Strategic thinking

29th November 1996 at 00:00
Peter Davison looks at an approach to planning design and technology lessons.

PLANNING PRIMARY DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY Key stages 1 and 2 By Roy Richardson John Murray Pounds 12.99

The complexities of the original national curriculum Order for design and technology did little to help non-specialists teach this subject. Although the slimmer revised Order has been generally well received, it is still too early to judge its impact.

Planning Primary Design and Technology will be welcomed in most schools as providing a welcome bridge between the Order and the development of good class-room practice. Indeed, the author states: "This support material is aimed to help primary schools make a fresh start in implementing DT throughout KS 1 and 2."

Helpful reference is made to the roles co-ordinators and headteachers play in thinking through the planning and setting a timescale for implementation of the new Order.

A suggested model recognises four stages in the planning: u Knowledge of the Order. Although the Order is summarised for ease of reference, it is debatable whether this will be helpful as the revised version is readily understandable as it is.

u Identifying Strengths. This focuses on carrying out an audit and raises some good questions about resources, health and safety, differentiation and progression. If this section had been set out as a chart, it would have been more helpful.

u Writing Units of Work. While this section contains sound practical advice, a few presumptions will sit uncomfortably with some schools. The suggestion, for example, that it is necessary to draw up a unit of work for each term throughout key stages 1 and 2 is perhaps over zealous. Examples of work planning sheets will be welcomed by many as a useful framework, but clearly not everyone will wish to work in this way.

u Mapping Coverage. A format for mapping sheets, which covers key aspects of materials, designing and making skills, knowledge and understanding, makes the extent to which planning has taken account of study program-mes easily checked.

The chapter on writing a DT policy sets out clear reasons for having one, backed up by sound criteria. Schools without a policy, or those wishing to carry out a revision, will find this a helpful guide. Suggested headings - 12 in total - provide a good framework on which to build. Several questions under each of these headings are intended to stimulate thinking and discussion. Given the demands on primary teachers, perhaps two or three key questions in relation to each aspect would have given a more manageable strategy. The sample policy, while generally helpful, is unnecessarily wordy.

A scheme of work is given to help schools in their planning. There are good links with other curriculum areas. The activities are supported by clear guidance, which should be appreciated by teachers who may lack confidence or expertise in DT. A slight concern is an assump-tion that every term, each class will undertake DT activities, involving a focused practical task, an investigative, disassembly and evaluative activity with a design-and-make assignment. Such expectations suggest a level of enthusiasm on the part of the author which few primary teachers will be able to emulate. Some good line diagrams convey technical information in relation to some of the projects suggested for the schemes of work.

In recent years, most primary schools have wrestled with producing a policy and scheme of work for DT, along with those for eight other national curriculum subjects and religious education. Hard-pressed primary teachers will find this book provides a sound framework which can be adapted to suit circumstances.

Peter Davison is chief adviser for Middles-brough local education authority

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