Time to get down to detail

26th April 1996 at 01:00
ROYAL COLLEGE OF ART SCHOOLS TECHNOLOGY PROJECT. DT Challenges Teacher's Resource Book 1 Y7 Red Hodder Stoughton Pounds 25. COLLINS REAL-WORLD TECHNOLOGY Working with Materials: Wood, Metal, Plastic By Colin Chapman and Mel Peace. Collins Pounds 10.95.

DESIGN AND MAKE ASSIGNMENTS By Stewart Dunn, Collins Pounds 45.95. Age range 11-plus

Bob Welch on textbooks to support the revised schemes at secondary level. As the new national curriculum order starts to bed down in schools, teachers could be forgiven for thinking that at last we have a period of stability and the opportunity to consolidate the good work which is taking place. Schemes of work for key stage 3 have now been finalised and schools are getting to grips with design and make assignments supported by focused practical tasks and activities where pupils investigate, disassemble and analyse a wide range of products.

The Royal College of Art Schools Technology Project, an initiative from the Department for Education and Employment and the CTC Trust, continues to publish material to support DT teaching in secondary schools. Last year, the first student book of DT Challenges was published and is followed now by a substantial and detailed Teacher's Resource Book. This provides guidance on curriculum planning and help for teachers considering strategies for differentiation to ensure pupils progress in their designing and making skills. Ideas for enrichment activities are included alongside detailed notes to support the assessment of project work. While an attractive feature of the pupil's book of challenges, the wavy line which surrounds the more formal text in this book is distracting and one wonders what purpose it serves.

The next challenge for schools is the introduction of the new key stage 4 courses starting next September. The additional flexibility provided by the Dearing review has enabled pupils to choose the medium or range of media in which to work. New syllabuses have arrived in schools and examination boards have been active in organising seminars and producing support material.

The publication of Working with Materials by Colin Chapman and Mel Peace is therefore very timely. The authors are to be congratulated. For once, here is a textbook which lacks superficiality and contains well-considered, substantial information for pupils on modern manufacturing technologies. This well-illustrated book considers a range of strategies and techniques value analysis, flexible manufacturing systems and quality assurance.

The organisation of the book is most effective with examples drawn from industry juxtaposed with detailed descriptions of processes and techniques. This ensures that the theoretical content of the book is set within a real-world context. The final section includes examples of project work from schools and colleges.

This book should be essential reading for any pupil taking a DT endorsed syllabus related to resistant materials and also for the increasing number of GNVQ students studying manufacturing or engineering. At Pounds 10.95, it is good value for money.

Such a strong recommendation, however, cannot be given to Design and Make Assignments by Stewart Dunn. The introduction to this key stage 3 book states that it has been written "to provide everything needed for a busy teacher teaching design and technology to the new orders".

As the book contains no ideas for designing and making with food and work with textiles is restricted to a wall hanging and glove puppet, it is difficult to see how such a grand claim can be substantiated. The title is also rather misleading. As well as 23 assignments, including designing and making a computer controlled vehicle and pneumatically operated toys, the book includes numerous information sheets with drawings and lists of tools and components.

As is becoming more common, all the material can be photocopied freely within an institution. This accounts for the somewhat high price of Pounds 45. 95.

On the plus side, the text and illustrations are clear and many of the information sheets would make useful resource cards. The course planner is very straightforward and can be used easily to check coverage of the programme of study. The practical activities have been trialled in schools and make realistic demands on resources, including the purchase of what seems to be a very easy-to-use system for constructing electronic circuits.

However, some typographical errors detract from the content and, finally, do we really need to resort to word searches as a means of developing design and technological capability?

Bob Welch is inspector for technology for Berkshire

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