Headlines: March 29th, 2011

Ofsted has called for schools to face up to the challenge to modernise the design and technology curriculum so that it keeps pace with global technological developments.

The report identifies a lack of subject-specific training for teachers that is undermining efforts to develop pupils’ knowledge and skills. 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 schools.

Ofsted’s inspectors 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.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Christine Gilbert, said: “At a time of rapid technological advance schools need new approaches to teaching design and technology. 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.

She added: “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. 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.”

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

The report recommends that the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills should explore how schools can access the latest technological advances in materials and processes.