New Year resolutions for D&T

It's been a mad couple of weeks which is why there was no newsletter last week. This is the final newsletter for 2014, and as we are going into a new year, it seems timely to reflect on new year resolutions for D&T. If you are a Head of Department why not use some of these reflection questions in your first departmental meeting of the new year?

A challenging time for D&T

It has been an eventful year with the new KS3 curriculum and the impending changes to GCSEs and A levels. Added to this are budget cuts and the challenges D&T faces competing with core subjects for time. There is much change ahead for D&T and many challenges for us as teachers. This was also reflected in an article this week by BBC Education ( where Richard Green stated that D&T could have as little as 5 years left on the curriculum if some of the current challenges aren’t addressed. 

‘Talk up’ D&T

In the BBC article Richard Green encourages ministers to ‘talk the subject up’ and to recognise its importance among the STEM subjects. As D&T teachers we also need to recognise that we need to do this too:

● In your school, do pupils, parents, the community generally, other staff, and SLT have a clear idea of what D&T is?

● What keywords would parents, pupils, the community, other staff, and SLT use to describe D&T, each material area and the projects you do? Do those words fully reflect a dynamic, 21st Century D&T department?

● How do you promote and celebrate D&T on a weekly basis?

● Does your team present a united ‘D&T’ message by referring to themselves as D&T teachers (or D&T and then their material area e.g. D&T graphics) rather than just using their material area (e.g. graphics)?

● What links to STEM do you have and how closely do you work with science, maths and ICT to ensure D&T plays a key role in STEM?

● Do all material areas fully embrace and promote their links to STEM?

A 21st Century D&T curriculum

What we teach, how we teach it and the projects we choose create the perception that others have of D&T:

● Do projects showcase 21st Century D&T rather than reinforcing stereotypes of what D&T is?

● Are your projects different to the ones parents made when they were at school?

● Do your projects use new materials and technologies that parents have never seen before?

● Do you plan teaching and learning with a dynamic STEM approach or do you have a more traditional craft approach?

Strengthening our D&T community

One of the reasons the new GCSE puts all materials areas under one umbrella heading is to try and ensure those outside D&T understand it better and recognise the links across the materials areas. It is also important for us to consider how well D&T teachers themselves understand their own subject:

● Do D&T teachers in your department fully understand what happens in other materials areas apart from their own?

● Do D&T teachers fully value what each material area does and promote and celebrate all material areas as being equal?

● How do you celebrate individuality within the D&T materials areas whilst still ensuring you are recognised as one subject?

Maintaining a positive outlook 

It is important that the D&T community maintains a positive outlook and ‘believes’ in D&T rather than focusing on the negatives & rumours that have no substance in facts:

● Are you supportive of all materials areas in D&T?

We know about some of the changes coming at GCSE but the specifications themselves don’t exist yet and there is currently no reason to suggest that any material area is more vulnerable than any other. Although there will be significant changes to the specification schools will still be able to teach each material area separately using specialists if they wish to. The only real threat to a material area will come from individual schools who decide to exclude it for their own reasons. 

● Are you basing decisions about D&T on facts or rumour?

We must be careful of making assumptions about the new GCSEs and A levels until we have hard facts. Some material areas in D&T are already being marginalised based on rumours and assumptions, and some of these are coming from the D&T community itself. This only weakens the position of D&T overall. 

A focus on textiles

Textiles is my specialism in D&T so I can’t help but be particularly passionate about its future:

● Do you believe in textiles?

There is no reason for textiles to be seen as a vulnerable subject in D&T. The references to fashion and interiors in the proposed new GCSE, along with other textiles related references, as well the textiles references at KS3, clearly indicate there is a place for textiles within D&T. Indeed with the availability of programmable components in textiles we can cover all areas of the KS3 curriculum in textiles alone. 

● Do you challenge those who undermine textiles?

Many within the D&T community themselves, including textiles teachers, are being negative about the future of textiles and this is the biggest threat it faces. This justifies decisions some schools are taking to marginalise textiles and it is creating a self fulfilling prophecy. It is important to remember that all of D&T is at risk, & not to allow textiles to become the scapegoat.

● Do you focus on STEM textiles?

Challenge people who say textiles is a dying industry. This is completely untrue, and some of the most exciting and revolutionary technology around at the moment, as well as what will exist in the future, is textiles based, with the UK being acknowledged as world leaders. Like any other industry, it is changing and evolving, and just because it isn’t the same as 50 years ago doesn’t mean it is dying.  D&T textiles on the curriculum needs to reflect this industry and craft based projects such as aprons and toys need to be considered carefully. Do they reflect 21st Century textiles? Do they portray an image that aligns with textiles engineering, textiles technology, complex pattern cutting, CAD/CAM etc. or do they reinforce traditional negative stereptypes?

● Are you considering an art textiles curriculum?

Some schools are making the decision to put textiles with art. This is not a decision to be taken lightly, despite the importance of art, and the cross over between the subjects. Although there are strong links, D&T textiles and art textiles are different and D&T is a weaker subject overall without textiles. If you are considering going down the art textiles route remember art is just as vulnerable as D&T, more so in some ways. There are also issues around how secure textiles is within art, as it is only one aspect of the subject, along with the fact that someone who trained as art teacher may have the advantage at interview over a D&T trained textiles teacher. If you consider the move to art textiles to be right for your department avoid saying this is because it is ‘easier’ or better ‘because it has no exam’. I have heard these comments many times and they are insulting to art colleagues and under value art as a subject. They also suggest D&T textiles teachers don’t like hard work and a challenge! 


A time for New Year resolutions for D&T

● What New Year resolutions will your department have for D&T in 2015?

● What will your department do to contribute to strengthening the D&T community in 2015?

● How will your department embrace the curriculum changes and make them work for the benefit of D&T?

If you need any advice on the changes within D&T and how your school is responding to them I am always happy to answer queries. Email 

And finally….

Don’t forget if you are looking for lesson ideas over the holiday all of my blogs are archived on my website along with an index that will help you find resources for individual focus areas more quickly 

I hope everyone has a well deserved rest and great Christmas and New Year and I look forward to continuing my newsletter updates at the beginning of 2015.

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