First published on November 2011.
Design and Technology was introduced as a statutory subject for all pupils from ages 5 to 16 in the first National Curriculum in 1989. It was a visionary move taken by the then Secretary of State, Kenneth Baker, and, in the 22 years since then, a huge amount has been achieved. The subject provides young people with the opportunity to be creative and to look to the future; to design and make products and services, using a range of materials; to make design decisions that matter to the users of those products and services and to the wider world; to draw on a wide range of knowledge to solve problems in relevant, real-life contexts; and to develop an enterprising attitude and to take risks. It is a hugely challenging and motivating subject that can lead on to employment, FE or HE and to craft, technician or graduate-level careers.
However, the current review of the National Curriculum potentially puts at risk these major advances which are the envy of many other countries, and there is a possibility that the subject may lose its statutory status. Another threat comes in the form of the newly introduced English Baccalaureate which does not include a technical, creative or practical subject. Many schools are adjusting their Key Stage 4 curricula to ensure EBacc league table success – and for many students, this will mean fewer opportunities to study D&T at GCSE.
With the significant skills shortages that exist in the creative, manufacturing and engineering sectors, I believe that D&T in primary and secondary schools has a vital role to play in sparking the interest and enthusiasm of young people to work in these areas which are essential to our economic recovery and growth. If we are to build on the educational achievements of the last 22 years, we must, firstly, retain D&T as a National Curriculum subject; secondly, review and modernise its content in collaboration with the relevant sectors of business and industry; and thirdly, provide teachers with a comprehensive and coordinated professional development programme to help them introduce these changes. It will be a challenge, but it is a challenge we cannot afford to duck.