Joint Computing at School and Digital D&T meeting | Presentation

I mentioned a joint Computing at School and Digital D&T meeting that took place last Monday (8th July) at MMU. It was an ‘interesting’ talk to devise, as I hoped that both D&T and Computing /ICT teachers would be in the audience and part of the brief was to describe to teachers from each subject something of the background to the other subject. So there was an inevitable risk that I would, at any time, only  be saying something new to half of the audience… I’ll let others be the judge of whether I pulled this off or not. [As it turned out the audience was mostly teachers from an ICT/Computing background with a small number of D&T folk present.]

D&T CAS talk 8-7-13I’ve made the PowerPoint of the talk available via my publications page, though I’m not sure how helpful it will be to those who weren’t at the actual event. If you do decide to grab it, please note what I say on that page about the Yanone Kaffeesatz font…

That was definitely a talking session, but we agreed to follow it up next term with a practical session looking at some microcontroller systems; probably PICAXE and Genie with a bit of Arduino and mbed… – and I’ll bring along a couple of Makey Makeys.

We’ll try and get a better mix of D&T and ICT/Computing teachers along to that one…


Excellent D&T CPD with Teach Design at the Design Museum

Despite the sunshine and the nail biting cricket a dozen teachers turned out for a day’s professional development by Teach Design at the Design Museum. I started the day with a key note concerning the knowledge, skills and values that underpin our subject to overturn the claim of the National Curriculum Review Expert Panel that design & technology had lacked disciplinary coherence, considering how this might be taught, how the lack of level statements might be addressed and the importance of providing a national standing committee that safeguards design & technology education. Powerpoint available at

Phew – a lot to get through in just over an hour but participants were thoughtful and responsive agreeing that the subject community needed to develop an orthodox approach without succumbing to uniformity. They were also keen to take the discussion back to their schools. This was followed by Phil Holton who was in top form describing the learning opportunities provided by Vex robotics in both construction, programming and CAD. Participants working in pairs then constructed a “claw bot” which they could control via a hand held R/C unit. VEX provides a range of opportunities:

  • Constructing from plans and controlling via R/C
  • Constructing from plans and controlling via programming
  • Designing and constructing and controlling via either R/C or programming

The construction was not simple but all groups succeeded and learned a lot about how to manage such activities with pupils in the classroom. Clearly there are lots of opportunities to collaborate with teachers elsewhere in the curriculum whose task is to teach programming. Their views on the use of a simplified version of the language C to programme for control purposes would be welcome.

Then there was a presentation from The Drawing Tool Company showing how a rather neat template can be used to teach isometric drawing. And there is a website with useful video resources. The competition to use the template to develop a design of a tent was challenging and I completely fluffed it. I suspect that this aid is best used initially in more structured situations.

This was followed by two inspirational sessions from Steve Parkinson. The first concerned disassembly, using equipment provided by Dyson. The second concerned the circular economy which invalid ‘tearing down’ a variety of products to establish how their design was or was not appropriate for a circular economy. In both sessions Steve showed in-depth subject knowledge and considerable insight into how pupils learn.

So I think it was a great day well worth foregoing the sunshine and cricket.

And after the session – a great planning meeting plotting all sorts of future events – so do watch the Teach Design space

KS3 Nuffield D&T materials available for free download

I’m delighted to be able to say that we have now made the Nuffield D&T KS3 resources available for download from this site.Nuffield D&T KS3 book

There are more than 200 documents available covering all material areas and with progressive support for developing D&T capability from y7-9. These are all free in both senses (free as in beer and free as in speech); there is no cost for these materials and you are free to use them, or parts of them, in any way you wish with whomever you wish.

We have tried our best to organise the materials helpfully so that you can rapidly drill down to the kinds of resources that you are interested in. if you can see ways in which this organisation can be improved, we’d be pleased to hear your advice.

The new D&T National Curriculum is, as David has noted, now near it’s final form and looking like a document providing sensible growth from previous Orders; this is a good time to be revising your KS3 schemes of work. We hope that within these resources there are things that will help support this development. Inevitably, after 15 or so years, the rapid advance of technology has made some items less relevant but we think the bulk of the materials remain fresh and appropriate.

We’d be very happy to hear from colleagues who find the materials useful in guiding their curriculum development.

Equally if you or your department would like advice on using the materials to refresh your curriculum, please do get in touch with us.

New Programme of Study for D&T is fit for purpose – well almost!

In February the D&T community were almost in despair at the publication of the consultation Programme of Study for design & technology. After the initial wailing and gnashing of teeth senior figures from industry beat a path to the minister’s door with the result that she asked for advice. The advice was heeded and the resultant publication five months later is such a significant improvement that it is almost beyond recognition compared with the original proposals. Learning how to cook is still there and this will annoy those who argue that this should reside in PSHE but this is my only caveat. You can download the Programme of Study for design & technology D&TNCjuly2013. As I think you’ll see …

The purpose of study statement reads well and is suitably aspirational.

The aims relate strongly to the aspirations of the purpose statement.

The subject content requires iterative designing and making, and identifies design, make, evaluate and technical knowledge as matters to be taught. The same framework is used for all key stages. The identification of contexts for designing and making is welcome and becomes more demanding with the move from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 3.

In many ways this new programme of study repeats material that appeared in the National Curriculum of the previous administration but I have to admit that this new programme of study is clearer and through this clarity more demanding. It is now imperative that the community of practice responds to this demand and develops schemes of work that enable teachers to meet the challenge of the aspirational purpose of study statement. And of course a key requirement here is the availability of sustained and substantial professional development. Not short one off sessions after a long days teaching but a sequence of significant activities over time which taken together provide the opportunity to develop, implement and evaluate approaches to teaching and learning that meet these new requirements.

Demise of National Curriculum levels – NOT a cause for concern!

Michael Gove has announced that there will be no level statements of attainment for the new National Curriculum. The reasons given on the DfE website:

We believe this system is complicated and difficult to understand, especially for parents. It also encourages teachers to focus on a pupil’s current level, rather than consider more broadly what the pupil can actually do. Prescribing a single detailed approach to assessment does not fit with the curriculum freedoms we are giving schools. 


Where will this leave schools in planning lessons that enable learning and ensure progression? And where will it leave Ofsted when they look at lessons? Judging lessons on pupils’ awareness of their level and what they need to do to move to a higher level will no longer be relevant. This was always tricky territory at best, particularly the practice of moving between sub levels, and in many cases led to ritualistic lessons providing so called progression data that had very little to do with genuine learning. Will each school have its own unique way of ensuring progression? How will Ofsted establish any sort of orthodoxy or consistency?

Maybe the following questions can be considered when planning and looking at lessons:

  • Is the content of the lesson appropriate for the subject?
  • Does the content build on previous learning?
  • Do the pupils comprehend what they are being asked to learn?
  • Do the pupils understand why this learning is important?
  • Do the pupils know what they have to do to achieve this learning?
  • Are the pupils actively involved in the learning?
  • Is there appropriate stretch and challenge to ensure that all pupils are making progress albeit from different starting points and at different rates?
  • Are there opportunities for pupils to show that they can be self-directed?
  • Are there opportunities for pupils to make decisions about how to tackle the required learning?

If teachers can plan lessons so that the above can be answered successfully then perhaps the demise of levels is not such a bad thing.