Re-building D&T: Informed stakeholder perception

We can identify a range of important stakeholders:

  • Government
  • Teacher Trainers and CPD providers
  • SLT and governors
  • Teachers
  • Parents and pupils
  • Awarding and assessment organisations
  • OfSTED
  • Professional Associations
  • Professional Institutions

For each of these stakeholders it will be essential that they have a sound grasp on the following:

  • What the subject is about, its nature and bodies of knowledge;
  • Why it is important;
  • How pupils learn;
  • How pupils are assessed;
  • The worth of any qualifications pupils might achieve

callout-22It is essential that the stakeholder knowledge of the subject is driven by an understanding of its clarity of purpose and sound epistemology, as established by those who lead the community of practice of design & technology education, as opposed to what the stakeholders might wish to be the purpose and nature of the subject.

There has been only limited research (Hardy, 2016) into the beliefs of various stakeholders but this has shown that there is a wide variety of different views, most of which do not reflect sound epistemology and the clarity of purpose established earlier in this paper.

Only if clarity of purpose and sound epistemology are clearly established as the underpinning orthodoxy can pervasive good practice be developed. These three features are necessary to develop the informed stakeholder perception required to change the status of the subject and reverse its decline.

Achieving informed stakeholder perception

SLT and governors, teachers, parents and pupils

Influencing these stakeholders will largely need to be undertaken by the subject leaders in individual schools. The D&T Association has a leadership role here through the provision of advice and guidance on how this might be achieved. This is to some extent dealt within File 2 of the Design & Technology Association’s Subject Leaders File, but more detailed advice would be helpful. This might include some information written specifically for the stakeholder groups that could be adapted to local circumstances.

It would also be useful if there were an easy to use feedback mechanism by which schools could inform the D&T Association of stakeholder response.

Recommendations to the D&TA

Provide information materials, aimed at the various stakeholder groups, that subject leaders can adapt and use.

Provide a mechanism by which subject leaders can feed the responses of stakeholders back to the Association.


Teacher trainers and CPD providers

callout-23The ITE landscape has changed considerably in recent years and it is important that the D&T Association finds ways to understand that landscape in all its variety –  including SCITTs, School Direct, Teach First, Teaching School Alliances, Academy Chains and HEIs – and identify points of contact that enable influence. It is particularly important that all ITE providers deliver a consistent message concerning epistemology and purpose.

We believe that the above builds into a case for the D&T Association to develop training materials that cover the key messages in this paper and that ITE and CPD providers of all stripes can be encouraged to use to inform their work in design & technology.

Noting that the funding implications of what follows are not insignificant, we think that an invitation conference, bringing together as many design & technology ITE and CPD providers as possible, would provide an excellent opportunity to share and discuss the messages in this paper and explore ways of building them into professional development programmes at all levels. Awarding organisations (see below) as significant providers of CPD should also be included.

Recommendations to the D&TA

Develop training materials for design & technology ITE and CPD providers covering the key messages in this paper.

Organise an invitation conference for these ITE and CPD providers to discuss and disseminate the materials.

Government, OfSTED and the awarding and assessment organisations

callout-24The D&T Association has, we believe, established good contacts within the DfE, OfSTED and the awarding organisations. However impoverished understandings of the nature of design & technology and its purposes in the curriculum seem to be very hard to shift in these very organisations whose attitudes to the subject are key to its success.

The challenge appears to be to develop the capacity to achieve a much more proactive stance that enables the D&T Association to inform and contribute to policy at the earliest stages. The recent revision of the KS3 National Curriculum and the development of a new GCSE provide a model for how the D&T Association can wield its influence to great effect. To build on this it would be useful for the design & technology community and its supporters to develop suggestions for action or change that are consistent with the D&T Association’s vision for the subject and which are likely to gain a positive reception from Government, for example by indicating solutions to issues that the DfE is actively working on.

Given the significant influence that GCSE content and assessment has on subject practice, it would be helpful to ensure that the Chief Examiners for design & technology in the various awarding bodies, along with their colleagues, were to be brought into this conversation about design & technology epistemology and purpose; the suggested invitation conference (see above) should include these people.

Recommendation to the D&TA

Encourage the design & technology community and its supporters to develop suggestions for action or change which are likely to gain a positive reception from Government.

Industry, employers and professional bodies

callout-25These are perhaps the most difficult of the stakeholder groups to influence, given that they inevitably have wide-ranging perspectives but also an instinctive view of the subject of design & technology which means that their arguments in support of it are almost always entirely economic.

We have argued above that embracing the wider arguments for including design & technology in the curriculum (including the social, personal and cultural) should lead to more pupils engaging with the subject at GCSE and thus provide a larger population of young people with a good understanding of designing, making and technology from which future employees can be drawn. This is a case that needs to made robustly to industry and employers. (The corollary of this argument is that focussing exclusively on the economic argument is, perversely, leading to a decline in the subject and thus a shrinking of this informed population.)

We suggest that since there is a well identified group of those who have already indicated their positive attitudes towards design & technology in the various campaigns of the D&T Association, it would be reasonably easy to persuade them, or a panel drawn from that group, that this broader vision for design & technology still aligns with their interests while making the subject much more robust for the longer term. Once this core group can publish a statement of rationale and support for both the epistemological underpinnings and the broad purposes of design & technology then this can be used as a platform to persuade others.

Recommendation to the D&TA

With key partners from industry and the professions, develop a statement of support for design & technology that clearly defines both the epistemological underpinnings and the broad purposes of design & technology education.

Use this rationale as a platform to persuade others to be active in support of design & technology as a school subject.

A final thought: Wise men and women

We suggest that an advisory body composed of influential thinkers including academics, consultants, industrialists, politicians, civil servants and head teachers be convened. These would be drawn from both inside and outside of the design & technology education community. Meeting once a year their remit would be to explore and examine the issues affecting design & technology in schools and to report in the form of strategic advice to the D&TA and the wider design & technology education community. They would be focussed on achieving informed stakeholder insight and recommending actions aimed at improving the position of design & technology in schools.

Recommendation to the D&TA

Convene an advisory body to explore and examine the issues affecting design & technology in schools from a wide perspective and to report annually in the form of strategic advice.

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