Response to Pearson Press Release - Proposed Design & Sustainability qualification

Published 14th February 2023

The Design and Technology Association welcomes calls for a revised version of the design and technology curriculum and acknowledges the need for managed subject reform. Pearson presented their thoughts to the Association at the end of November. While there are many aspects of the proposals presented that we are happy to support, there are also areas of some concern, and it was felt that we required more detail before responding in full.

Our Reimagining D&T paper released last year followed extensive consultation and was also informed by the Education Policy Institute’s A Spotlight on Design and Technology Study in England. This publication followed research the Association instigated in 2021, working with key industrial and organisational partners. It sets out the Association’s intent for 2023 and beyond. This includes producing an extensive suite of contextually led resources created working with business and industry partners and aimed at transforming the KS3 curriculum. These resources will be made available free of charge later this year to all UK secondary schools.

While Pearson’s proposals are welcomed, the Association strongly feels that we need to build from foundations up to avoid creating a qualification-led system. It can be convincingly argued that a significant part of the difficulties experienced in recent years stem from the fact that teachers are required to concentrate on a system dominated by outcomes and that insufficient thought has been given to the core epistemology of the subject.

The focus on key global issues, including sustainability and the move to a circular economy, is to be applauded and is one that any high-functioning D&T department should already be covering within their curriculum offer. To that end, the Pearson proposal, as it stands, offers very little detail as to what is new within their proposed offer. We accept that this is a conceptual proposal, and the detail will follow. We are not so much questioning content at this stage, but we hold a strong belief that the future direction of the subject should not be dictated by any party with a strong commercial interest.

The suggested approach could be perceived by headteachers and governing bodies struggling to find qualified D&T teachers, as a curriculum model that lends itself to be delivered by teachers from a range of subject backgrounds, from art & design to science and geography. One that could be delivered in a standard classroom rather than a studio or workshop (this accepting that we need to continue the debate on the D&T workspace of the future) and, in our opinion, risks losing much of the technical rigour, practical skills, and depth that D&T currently delivers. These aspects of work provide knowledge, skills and the development of personal attributes so valued by industry and necessary societally that cannot be easily gained elsewhere on the curriculum.

Pearson’s current proposals strongly emphasise discussion and analysis and appear, to date, to place considerably less emphasis on material science, technical expertise, problem-solving and design iteration.

Whilst there are elements of Pearson’s proposal that the Association wholeheartedly welcomes, we are focused on consulting with our 33,000 members, industry supporters and wider stakeholders this year to create an inspiring, exciting, and future-relevant version of our subject that can help create the next generation of problem solvers, thinkers, innovators, designers, and makers. Our subject is under-threat but is arguably more relevant to today’s curriculum than it has ever been. We must be careful to retain the crucial elements of D&T that are as important for the future of individuals as they are for the future of business, industry, and the UK economy.

Tony Ryan

Chief Executive Officer

Design and Technology Association


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