Want a job? We need D&T teachers!

Published 12th May 2014

Written by: Andy Mitchell

The most important educational resource of all is a supply of dedicated, highly skilled, motivated and committed teachers. This is never more the case than when it comes to the teaching design and technology in secondary schools. Yet we are possibly approaching what could well be a national recruitment crisis. For the second year running, teacher training recruitment is showing signs of falling well below target.  (Last year less than half the places for initial teacher training in D&T were filled.) Training institutions are once again predicting short falls, which in turn will mean that schools wishing to recruit additional teachers and fill the vacancies left by others moving on will be hard pushed to do so.

This situation is of course very bad for the subject but the converse applies i.e. it’s a very good situation for those who are considering a career or even a change of career and joining the teaching profession.

As the well-known line recruitment goes: ‘we all remember a good teacher’.  Its true and there is no sign that even with the advent of new technologies, online courses, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) etc. the need teachers will diminish.  Teaching and learning is after all best when it is considered as a social activity.  The vast majority of people prefer to learn along side others and in the presence of experts who can guide their learning. So a career in teaching remains a secure option.

For a long time, career opportunities in design and technology teaching have been very attractive for those ambitious for their students, the subject and importantly themselves.  Due to the constant developments in technologies the subject depends upon, the teaching profession relies on new members joining its ranks, bringing with them new skills and knowledge to complement that already in the school. For this reason, the best new D&T teachers, immediately have the respect of their peers, reflected in their ability for instance to use new digital technologies including CAD/CAM.  It also means that even though they are less experienced in the art of teaching, they are greatly sought after and quite often appointed over and above applicants with several years under their belts.  Often the fact that they have trained at one of the number of the highly respected and long established providers such as Sheffield Hallam University or Goldsmiths, University of London, is enough to secure an interview. It means they will arrive with highly respected skills and knowledge that their teaching colleagues are looking for to compliment their own.  Thereon in, for those who seek it, rapid promotion often follows, either within the school or at others.  It is not unusual for Subject Leaders to be appointed with less than 4 years teaching experience behind them.

Quite apart from the obvious benefits of relatively secure employment, career prospects, enviably high annual leave and financial benefits, being a D&T teacher offers so much more. Lets look at some of the benefits and attractions:

Spending time doing what we love most – engaging others in solving problems, working with materials and being creative.

Access to a wide range of resources that out of school hours you can often use for your own ends. (It has long been viewed that for students to see work that their teachers are doing is of great educational value.)

Teaching a subject that is really popular – if you can’t make D&T fun, then there is something wrong! Kids literally queue up at the door for more in many schools, lunchtimes, afterschool clubs even coming back during holidays.

Opportunities to engage with local industry who want to support what you are doing - because the outcomes of D&T are so tangible,real and visual, its not difficult to get local links going and involve local companies and individuals in helping you to fulfill your vision.

Being valued as an expert - as someone who possesses skills and knowledge that most of their colleagues teaching other subject don’t have, its not difficult to gain respect and kudos – especially when they see what you are getting your students to do.  This can of course be very sophisticated and well beyond your  non-D&T colleagues’ personal experience of the subject or what they did at school. Good D&T departments are always on a Headteacher’s  list when showing around visitors as they are much more interesting environments than standard classrooms.

So why is it that once again we are facing a shortage of applicants. I think there are a number of reasons:

  1. There has been so much uncertainty about the future of the subject and this has put people off. Now it is secure as part of the English National Curriculum this uncertainty has been removed. The subject has a very sound programme of study defining what needs to be taught, to which teachers are responding very positively.
  2. The removal of a bursary for trainees - this has now been restored for graduates with a first or upper second-class degree and although not at the same level as before, still favours them over colleagues in most other subjects.
  3. Education being constantly in the press and subject to constant change - this is certainly the case, but change is something that D&T people are good at dealing with. In addition, with the relaxing of centralised curriculum and strategies – a move away from teachers being told what to teach and how to teach it, schools and teachers have much more local autonomy.
  4. The negative portrayal of teaching being constantly subjected to Ofsted inspection - there are at least signs that this is being diminished and freedoms being reintroduced. Perhaps the ‘re-professionalization’ of teaching.

Too often we hear in the general press about the negative aspects of teaching – unsurprising really as crisis and problems sell news. But one only has to look at the pages of our publications and at this time of year, the exhibitions that take place in schools celebrating D&T in action, to realise that there is a lot going for it as an occupation. It’s easy to forget that behind all this excellent work, there are teachers, justly proud of their achievements and although ready for a long summer vacation, up for doing it all again next year as they enjoy their job.

If you know anyone who might be interested in becoming a teacher talk to them and point them in the direction of how to go about it. The link Get into teaching provides many of the answers to immediate questions, including setting out the routes available at graduate and under graduate level accompanied by details to do with funding.

Those of us already in the profession have a responsibility to ensure others follow us.  If not, we will not have a subject and we wont have sufficient colleagues working alongside us to teach the curriculum.  I think during the 16 years I spent teaching in the classroom, six of my A level students (that I know of) went on to become D&T teachers. Maybe that’s not many, but how many can you claim?

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