Alison Hardy got me thinking

Interesting Blog Post by Alison Hardy at in which Alison questions whether being part of the EBacc will be good for D&T and in fact a betrayal of its true nature.

The letter from Michelle Donelan and 87 MPs to Theresa May and Justine Greening adopts an unashamedly utilitarian tone – D&T essential to bridge the STEM skills gap, see . Alison believes that this may marginalise D&T from inclusion in a general education for ALL students. But that I think is the point of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc). It is not a qualification in its own right. It has been established to provide information to parents, and others, about the achievements of pupils in a core set of academic subjects which are shown to enhance the chances of progressing on to further study. Currently to meet EBacc criteria, a pupil must have obtained a grade A* to C in English, maths, two sciences, history or geography (referred to as humanities), and an ancient or modern foreign language. I’d argue that the addition of an academically rigorous creative practical subject, which would include D&T, would make the EBacc a more rounded and appropriate ‘core set of academic subjects’. As to the purpose of D&T I think there are two key elements as follows.

The unique contribution of design and technology education to the education of young people is to develop both technological capability and technological perspective.

Technological capability can be defined as designer maker capability, capturing the essence of technological activity which is intervention in the made and natural worlds.

Technological perspectiv ecan be defined as insight into ‘how technology works’ which informs a constructively critical view of technology, avoids alienation from our technologically based society and enables consideration of how technology might be used to provide products and systems that help create the sort of society in which pupils wish to live.

I think the above statement makes a good case for D&T being an essential element in the education of ALL pupils to the age of 16.

As always comments welcome.


6 thoughts on “Alison Hardy got me thinking

  1. Yes, agree with Alison, the ‘supply-line’ argument continues to jar for me but it is a strong, economy-linked, message so I imagine that more likely (in the current circumstances) to be heard. If I thought there wasn’t more than a touch of pragmatism in this I’d be even more depressed than I am!

    I am not sure whether the wider education policy picture dictates that ‘get an EBacc place’ is the only option. Or that aligning to a science label is necessary or wise. Or that suggesting putting it up against Computer Science is very comradely (computing is highly populated by engineers and computing is within D&T’s original NC remit – why can’t we collaborate?). As Alison points out in her papers, there is still wide variation in what people believe D&T (let alone designing) is … However, I can appreciate how far the engineering community has come in supporting D&T, working alongside D&TA, Design Council and so forth and D&TA has to be congratulated on its perseverance. A letter underwritten by 87 MPS in support of D&T is I think unprecedented?

    If going down a ‘supply line’ avenue, given that labour force ‘shortages’ are chiefly in intermediate level technical occupations (e.g. p.22 of report below), I am surprised from a policy point of view that the MPs’ letter does not reference the recently published Report of the Independent Panel on Technical Education. Whilst more-or-less confirming what many already assumed is the direction of travel (some on pre-designated path to university, others left in no-man’s land) this is a breath of fresh air in the ’others’ post-16 landscape and deals with all Levels of technical learning post-16 and adult. All recommendations are already agreed bar some funding implications ( ). Timetable from September 2016. If all goes as planned, the shift post 16 will be to ‘academic’ and ‘technical’ education routes* – importantly, not seen as polar, as neither are the full-time college (could be school?) and Apprenticeship options – with shared core learning aspects and bridges both ways.

    As the report points out, ‘academic’ learning/qualification is designed top-down by universities’ requirements. The plan is that ‘technical’ learning/qualification will be treated in the same way, designed by employers’ requirements within 15 broad routes* [Table 1 pp. 34-5]; not NOS – also see annex re. the O*NET system p. 81 onwards).

    “technical education routes should provide training for skilled occupations where there is a substantial requirement for technical knowledge and practical skills”
    [Recommendation 6] – also a timely reminder of how broad technical education is.

    The Independent Panel’s remit did not include consideration of pre-16, general education factors but D&TA points out that without prior experience of ‘technical’ education, informed choice of post-16 route may be a fiction (and genuine ‘choice’ is always a debatable matter of course …). In my mind, the issue is much bigger than D&T – in this case, e.g. how to square this pre-post 16 circle, how to avoid, particularly pre-16, seeing subjects as academic OR technical (or as ‘subjects’ for that matter!), how best to try to further ensure that the ‘hidden curriculum’ doesn’t keep on insidiously selecting/discarding …. How to ensure that technical education routes/destinations are widely seen as and are a really good option on at least an equal footing to ‘academic’ (need another term for that, too much baggage …)


    • I’m very keen on a broad General Education for ALL until the age of 16 and that in that education there are many opportunities for young people to identify the knowledge, skills and understanding they would like to acquire and deploy later in life – some in leisure, some in occupations, some in every day life. The academic/vocational divide seems largely irrelevant to this position. If there is suitable breadth then the pipeline for any particular sector will be wide. Ensuring that the learning experiences are engaging and rewarding for young people of different talents and abilities is the challenge. The answers would seem to lie in how we teach and how we assess.


  2. I don’t disagree about DT being inc. within the EBacc. However, I think the concept should be abandoned altogether – it just excludes other subjects above the other and impacts on timetabling and recruitment/retention in our schools – not to mention parental stereotypes proclaimed by MPs and then echoed by the media.


    • The difficulty I see is not so much the EBacc itself but the unintended consequences of the option structure in schools which tend to marginalise the creative subject for those young people who do triple science. And for my money it’s reallly important that those young people get the chance to study d&t.


  3. I don’t disagree with your arguments David but there are three reasons for the Ebacc: narrowing the gap between richest and poorest pupils, access for all to a broad and academic curriculum, and as a performance measure. The last one gets the most focus, but the first two are also ideological reasons for the Ebacc, which I think we have to understand to able to argue for D&T to be part of the Ebacc. And my view is that the MPs letter does not understand this because of its utilitarian view – they will not convince May or Greening to add D&T to the Ebacc with this view – they need to come at it from the government’s ideological position. So yes – add D&T to the Ebacc but not as an alternative to science and not because it will close the skills gap – only add it for the reasons you give above (it does pain me to agree with you!)


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