Teacher as author;Reviews;Arts;Interview;Eileen Chapman

29th October 1999 at 01:00
Eileen Chapman is associate deputy head (curriculum) of William Farr C of E comprehensive, Welton, Lincolnshire. She is the co-author (with Janet Inglis and Sue Plews) of the Collins Textiles Foundation Course and the Collins Food Foundation Course, for key stage 3

Before design and technology became a part of the national curriculum, textbooks on food were mainly to do with nutrition, recipes, and types of diet. Textiles books contained information about fibres and fabrics and how things were constructed.

In the 1990s, the books began to change as the subject was refocused. They became more about designing and thinking about types of products, rather than just making things. They put a great emphasis on design skills - but at the expense of giving children enough information to make the things they designed. Some teachers believed the making of products was being devalued, although there was still every opportunity to use these skills - you still needed to be able to make a sauce or sew a seam.

I had started teaching food and textiles in 1975, and later moved into advisory work. I became interested in writing when I was running national curriculum training, and developing materials for teachers to use. For me, the changes in design and technology were not a huge shift. I'd always tried to get children to think about the intention of a product, and who the users were going to be.

The books I've worked on for key stage 3 pupils, on food and textiles, aim to bring the practical element back into the subject so that pupils think about design but also have the techniques and the knowledge to make things.

We've included ICT skills, such as desk-top publishing and computer-aided design and manufacture, in this. We've also given the books an industrial focus, with case studies looking at products from their inception to being on the shelves.

In the past, food and textiles books appealed mainly to girls, but we've tried to make them interesting for boys too - looking at accessories, such as bags and hats, which boys like, and fabrics for the future.

I didn't find it as hard as I expected to write the books, and it's satisfying to feel you're making a contribution to the wider scheme of things.

My husband, Colin, also writes design and technology books, and he has helped me to be clear about what I'm trying to say .

Luckily, we haven't both had to be writing heavily at the same time. When you have to shut yourself away to meet a deadline, it's nice if your partner can get on with cooking a meal.

Eileen Chapman was talking to Diana Hinds

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