Blurring the Lines: Preparing for the New D&T GCSE

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This guest blog has been written by Bronwyn Flemming from Kesteven and Sleaford High School Selective Academy (Lincolnshire)

I am a teacher of Art and  DT Textiles in a small all girls selective academy in rural Lincolnshire. I teach KS3, 4 and 5. My back ground is fashion design, it's what I did at college, at Leicester Polytechnic and then at the Royal College of Art, and it's the industry I worked in for twenty odd years before I went into teaching 10 years ago. 

I have to admit that in teaching Design and Technology, whether Textiles, Resistant Materials or Graphic Products, the key areas we teach at our school,  I concentrate on the design bit, far more than the technology bit, because it is what I am most familiar with. It is how I was trained and how the department at my school has run for many years, with the emphasis on separate materials areas and design and make projects, which I have to admit most of the girls seem to enjoy. 

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However, technology has changed out of all recognition since I went to college, we didn't have computers back then or mobile phones, we live in a technological age and we have to keep up. With the proposed changes to the DT GCSE in 2017 I enrolled on the recent course at York University STEM centre run by Julie and Paul Boyd to prepare DT teachers for the inevitable changes in our subject. I had taken part in a Textile teachers day course run by Julie in Nottingham the previous year and knew the course would help me prepare for the changes to the qualification and equip me to share the information with my colleagues. 

The course covered all aspects of the proposed changes, from why the changes were taking place, what we were doing in our departments, and how this could be built on over the coming year. We looked in some detail at the proposed format and content of the GCSE exam and coursework elements and the new specifications from the various exam boards and looked at the various models that could be used to teach it.
The content of the new qualifications was chunked and we worked in groups and in pairs on a range of activities to complement this. These activities were devised to improve teaching and learning, have a better understanding of how elements of the course can be taught at KS3  and a number of practical activities on speed designing, materials and basic electronic programming, which I had never done. 

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Julie and Paul were enthusiastic, informative and supportive, dealing with a wide range of teaching experience in the room, seasoned heads of departments to NQTs, and took questions in their stride. I was pleased to discover I was not the only DT teacher whose 'technological knowledge' was a bit inadequate. They were equally generous sharing the resources from the course, a large number of documents covering every aspect of the course were made available to us as well as material packs and results from our practical work.

Since returning to school with some enthusiasm for the new qualification I have started to change the teaching environment in the textile room updating my displays to include a wider range of materials that could be included in textile applications with examples from fashion designers doing this including a board displaying 'future fashion,' and another on e-textiles. 

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I have contacted all of our feeder primary schools to find out what they are covering in DT at KS2 and asked them to complete a questionnaire, have held a department meeting to cascade the key areas from my training and this week we are auditing our KS3 delivery to see if we can tweak Year 7 and 8 and adapt the Year 9 schemes of work to lead more cohesively into the new GCSE. We have to take into account that in KS3 we have a number of Art teachers teaching DT so the scheme of work has to be teacher and user friendly.

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In a Year 10 observed lesson I adapted the speed designing resource for my current cohort to improve their creativity and break the “I know what I am going to design and make Miss” attitude where designs barely change from initial idea to finished product. It worked really well, working in pen, with no rubbing out, I was impressed with how much the students produced during the lesson. 

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I have also started to confront my fears - the areas I am less confident in, and have bought the components to start teaching myself programmable electronics with textiles in mind, Crumble board in hand and programme down loaded - the sense of satisfaction that can only come with being able to change sparkle lights from yellow to blue and pink to green! A small step I know for many, but quite significant step for me! 

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As a department we do not have much in the way of new technology, no 3D printer, no laser cutter, not even a sublimation printer, so much of what we teach has to be 'old tech' - the basics, but we are also teaching an awareness of the 'new tech'. It was quite amusing to see the catalogue for the Costume Institute 2016 exhibition 'Manus X Machina; fashion in the age of technology' at the MET, contrasting images of fashion garments from the past v high tech 21st century fashion, I have to admit with very limited funding we have available, our department is still working in the past, but we are trying hard to work towards the future.

So, since half term I have accomplished a fair amount, and have already completed a number of my short and middle term outcomes from my action plan - there is still much to do, but I feel I have made a very positive step in the right direction. 

I would highly recommend the CPD courses run by the STEM centre and particularly those run by Team Boyd.

See courses we are currently delivering at The National STEM Learning Centre. These courses are eligible for an Enthuse Bursary which pays for the course fees and overnight accommodation for 2 day courses (available for state funded schools and academies)

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