“If you build it, they will come.” I think this quote from one of my favourite films, Field of Dreams, is a good place to start with my opinions of the reforms and which qualifications are best suited to my students.
Taking that first step – choosing the right qualification – will allow many great things to follow: from inspiring and preparing students for participation in tomorrow’s rapidly changing world, to having that small wow moment in the classroom when students make that connection from content to context. I am aware of all the problems and issues – from numbers to support and re-training, etc. – but if the qualification is right and the passion from the department is sound, it will work. All the issues will naturally work themselves out and hopefully in a few years you will have ex-students pop back into your department with a massive smile on their face, as they now work in a design technology and engineering related industry.
That is the goal and, let me say, I have had the honour and privilege of being in this situation. Getting them to chat to the upcoming students will enable you to complete the circle. Or fillet the edge, as they say if you have recently been on a CAD course!
With the changes in qualifications, now is the perfect time to reflect and also look forward. The question you should be asking yourself is “Which qualification best prepares my students for tomorrow’s world?” Not “Which specification is easiest to teach and which involves the least amount of work?”
What type of role models would we be, as teachers, to our students if we based all our decisions on what is easiest for us? If you are worried about having to learn new things, there is a lot of support and material out there and as a D&T community we are very good at sharing. It only takes a couple of seconds to scroll down the D&T Facebook page and see all the wonderful ideas and collaborations we all share on a daily basis. Just take one step or one specification point at a time. I often find learning with the students to be the most interesting lessons. It is OK not to know every single detail on the specification; it is about facilitating your students in learning and having the right skills and pedagogy to allow them to learn independently and as a team.
I feel OCR has taken a bigger leap forward than the other exam boards in this subject and I feel we need to take that step with them. The pedagogy and content of the GCSE and A Level provide a perfect structure to hang your aspirations and enthusiasm on.
In particular, the Design Engineering strand through the GCSE and on to the A Level is best suited for my students and department. Both qualifications have been devised by working closely with representatives from higher education and industry professionals to ensure that the direction of the qualification fulfills the requirements that support educational and career progression. There has also been a focus on ensuring that the content reflects authentic practice, giving an insight into the way that creative, engineering and/or manufacturing industries function. Learners are thus enabled to make the connection between the knowledge, understanding and skills they develop and how this will benefit them in the future. Learning about design, technology and engineering strengthens learners’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills within a creative environment, enabling them to develop and make prototypes/products that solve real-world problems, considering both their own and others’ needs, wants, aspirations and values.
There are many things that makes D&T special and unique as a subject, but the main one is relevance to today’s society. With this new specification, at no point can a student ask “What is the point of learning this?” and “How will this help me after school?” The course is written to be as dynamic and academically rigorous as you want it to be. I am really looking forward to starting this course and hopefully you are too.
To end on another classic film quote, from Rocky: “I guess what I’m trying to say, is that if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!”
We would like to hear your thoughts. Please comment below with your feedback on this blog. If you would like to know more information about our new Design and Technology qualifications, get in touch by emailing D&T@ocr.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @OCR_DesignTech.
Andy Thomson - Director of Design Technology and Engineering – Highgate School
Andy has experience of both the independent and state educational environments. He displays an outstanding level of commitment and drive for the subject and has developed a department that is at the forefront of emerging technologies. Andy teaches at least one class in every year group from Year 3 all the way up to Year 13 which allows him the unique opportunity of understanding exactly what is happening in each Key Stage and to also practise exactly what he preaches. Andy’s passion and love of the subject is not limited to Highgate School, he is a true believer in outreach and has developed strong relationships with schools all over the country, spending some of his holiday teaching and sharing his knowledge and skills with teachers and pupils at other schools. He has taught teachers enrolled in the Teach First program and via Teach Design initiatives and even attended sign language lessons in order to teach D&T to deaf children from a local school. Andy was awarded ‘Teacher of the Year 2014’ by VEX Robotics at the Big Bang Show. His work with imbedding robotics into the curriculum has been an amazing success and three of his teams made it through to the world robotics championships in Kentucky, USA. Recently Andy was made Teacher of the Year 2016 by the James Dyson Foundation and was awarded Subject Leader of the Year 2016 by the Design and Technology Association.