Ofsted: Schools must modernise design and technology curriculum

Government education watchdog Ofsted has highlighted electronics in a critical report on the schools design and technology (D&T) curriculum.

Meeting technological challenges? Design and technology in schools 2007-10‘, found that in over a quarter of primary schools and about half the secondary schools visited there were insufficient opportunities for pupils to develop knowledge of modern materials, electronic systems and control, and computer aided design and manufacture (CAD/CAM).

“At a time of rapid technological advance schools need new approaches to teaching design and technology,” said Her Majesty’s chief inspector Christine Gilbert. “Teachers need subject specific training in both knowledge and skills to stay up to date with developments. Pupils need to learn about new materials and technologies and to investigate practically how and why products work. This is fundamental to the improvements that need to be made.”

In particular, Ofsted said: “Too many teachers are failing to keep pace with technological developments or expand on their initial training sufficiently to enable them to teach the technically demanding aspects of the curriculum. This often results in an out-dated curriculum in the later years of primary schools and early years of secondary school.”

Where pupil achievement was no better than satisfactory, the report claims it was the result of weaknesses in teacher planning and assessment, and work that was pitched too low, lacked relevance, or duplicated earlier learning.

“Most pupils in the schools visited enjoyed designing and making products, solving real problems for people in their communities and further afield, and seeing their ideas taking shape,” said Gilbert. “This was vitally important to them. Achievement and provision in D&T was best where up-to-date technologies were used and explained accurately. But the variation between the best and weakest provision is unacceptably wide.”

It suggests gender remains an issue, with needs to improve boys’ achievement and challenging gender stereotyping subject choice.

“In Key Stage 4, choices of D&T options and attainment at GCSE were found to be markedly different for male and female students,” said Ofsted. “The report found that some schools are starting to encourage more girls to take-up electronics, while others are having success enabling more boys to choose to study food technology and catering.”

Electronics comes in for further study.

“Other countries, such as China and France, emphasise the study of electronics, computer aided design and manufacture and robotics,” said Ofsted. “In around a third of the secondary schools in the survey, too little use was made of this technology in teaching D&T. As a result, the take-up of GCSE courses in electronics and in systems and control in the schools was low, reflecting the national picture.”

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