Journal of Technology Education

Journal of Technology Education

Current Editor: Chris Merrill,
Previous Editors: Mark Sanders 1989-1997; James LaPorte: 1997-2010

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Volume 2, Number 1
Fall 1990

Design and Technology in the United Kingdom
                       Stephanie Atkinson
                     HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
               "Handicraft" was a recognized subject in
          the national education system of the United
          Kingdom (UK) almost a century ago.  But it is
          only in the past sixty years that the curric-
          ulum area we in the UK now call "Design and
          Technology" has progressed from single mate-
          rial, craft-skill based courses for the less
          able to a thinking, feeling, doing activity
          drawing on and linking with a wide range of
          subject bases for all pupils of compulsory
          school age.  In comparison to many subjects
          in the current school curriculum, Design and
          Technology is still in its infancy.
               Unfortunately the English language has
          no single word like "literacy" or "numeracy"
          which might denote the activities which go on
          in Design and Technology.  Over the years,
          this has had unfortunate consequences for
          those trying to establish and build up this
          important subject.
               The subject which started out as
          Handicraft has over the years developed and
          evolved to encompass a growing range of ac-
          tivities.  Early Handicraft teachers were
          usually classroom teachers who became
          craftsmen, or practicing craftsmen who, by
          taking a short course, obtained a qualifica-
          tion to teach only that subject.  Its very
          name has altered from "Handicraft," to
          "Woodwork," "Metalwork," "Manual Training,"
          "Craft," "Technical Subjects," "Design,"
          "Craft, Design and Technology" (CDT), and now
          "Design and Technology." Its status and its
          place in the overall school curriculum has
          also changed as a result of these develop-
               To many, the pace of development has ap-
          peared to be slow.  For the first fifty
          years, courses in manual training were pro-
          vided in certain schools for less academ-
          ically able boys, while girls were allowed to
          study Domestic Science and Sewing, with lit-
          tle or no alteration as to how or what was
               The changes that took place in the UK
          economy after World War II required a sub-
          stantial increase in the skilled labor force.
          This, in turn, led to an increase in the
          craft and technical training that was pro-
          vided for the less academic in secondary
          schools, albeit essentially for male pupils.
               The lack of curriculum development in
          school based Craft Education was recognized
          in 1959 by C.P.  Snow, who argued that the
          traditional values of literary culture were
          dominating education at the expense of sci-
          ence and technology.  He argued that the UK
          would decline as a world power if the balance
          was not redressed (Snow, 1964; Weiner, 1986;
          McCulloch, Jenkins, & Layton, 1986).
               It was not until the 1970s that changes
          in society became so marked that they brought
          inescapable pressure upon those responsible
          for the pattern of education in the UK to de-
          velop a new philosophy with regard to the ed-
          ucation of future generations.  One of the
          main thrusts of those taking an interest in
          education at this time was towards the need
          for pupils to possess a greater understanding
          and awareness of technology, its future im-
          plications, its potential, and its exploita-
          tion.  Therefore, it is not surprising that
          the technical subjects were among the curric-
          ulum areas to be scrutinized nationally by
               It became increasingly understood by Her
          Majesty's Inspectorate (HMI), industrialists,
          the Design Council, educationists and forward
          thinking teachers that a change in what was
          provided in technical subjects was essential
          (Aylward, 1973; Design Council, 1980; Arnold,
          1975).  There was also considerable agreement
          among them that this aspect of education
          should be accessible for all pupils.
               It was at this time that changes to this
          area of the curriculum at last became appar-
          ent (Hargreaves, 1984).  The name of the sub-
          ject changed.  Instead of being called
          Woodwork, Metalwork, Engineering Practice,
          etc., there was a merger of the more resist-
          ant materials (wood, metal and plastics) into
          Craft, Design and Technology (Breckon &
          Prest, 1983).  The content of courses changed
          too (Kimbell, 1986; Department of Education &
          Science, 1980; Inspectorate of Schools,
          Craft, Design & Technology, 1983).  No longer
          were pupils taught only craft skills; they
          were also encouraged to design whatever they
          made (Harahan, 1978).  At the same time, ac-
          cess to the subject in lower secondary
          schools (ages11-14) was improved.  Pupils of
          all ability were scheduled to participate in
          the new courses (Kimbell, 1982; Royal College
          of Art, Department of Design Research, 1976).
          In many instances these courses were organ-
          ized into modules which pupils took on a ro-
          tational basis.  These courses were nicknamed
          "roundabouts" or "circuses." As well as al-
          lowing each pupil to experience as wide a va-
          riety of materials and skills as the school
          could provide,  these courses forced girls to
          have access to 'boys' subjects and boys to
          have access to 'girls' subjects.  It was
          hoped that this would have the effect of en-
          couraging more girls to study technological
          subjects at the option stage when pupils were
          allowed to choose between subjects.
               The pity was that two different "camps"
          formed among educationists (Baynes, 1976;
          Cross, Naughton, & Walker, 1986; Cross,
          1986).  Those who saw creative designing as
          the necessary route forward, and those who
          believed in a need for hard technology and a
          sound knowledge base.  The two polarized
          factions were not ready to cope with the con-
          cept of these two important facets of the
          curriculum being amalgamated into one.  Nor
          could they easily accept that what went on in
          the Home Economics and Dressmaking areas of
          the curriculum might also have a part to play
          in Design and Technology education.  As CDT
          was not representing "the whole" of design in
          this sense, it failed to present the united
          front necessary to persuade academics,
          educationists, or industrialists that it was
          essential to have this area of the curriculum
          as a core subject for all pupils.
               During the 1970s and early part of the
          1980s, this lack of clarity of message by HMI
          and prominent educationists continued to pre-
          vent CDT from securing a major role in the
          academic core of the school curriculum. This
          was further accentuated at a grass roots
          level by the teaching staff of CDT, Technol-
          ogy, Art, and Design attempting to protect
          what they perceived to be their individual
          subject boundaries.  Conflicting pictures of
          the rank importance of CDT, hard technology,
          craft skills, design skills, the place of
          scientific knowledge, etc., prevented devel-
          opment of the subject (Cross & McCormick,
               There continued to be educational oppo-
          sition from senior members of staff in
          schools towards CDT, as it was still equated
          with vocational  training for the academ-
          ically less able.  The Senior Management
          Teams within the schools, who were mainly
          made up of academics, with beliefs based on
          their own school experience, still saw intel-
          lectual work as of high status and manual
          work as of low status.  Science Departments
          were also concerned with CDT's expectation of
          equal status.  At this time, activities in
          many CDT departments were rightfully seen as
          secondary to, and dependant upon, basic sci-
          ence (Woolnough, 1986).
               Other factors which affected this area
          of the curriculum were costs for necessary
          hardware, materials, and the staff and pupil
          related scheduling costs.  These continue to
          be significant issues today as Local Finan-
          cial Management of schools comes into
          effect.(1) Difficulties with assessment, low
          accreditation value, shortage of well trained
          teachers, and the fact that this area of the
          curriculum was offered under more labels at
          examination level than any other subject in
          the curriculum were additional aspects that
          caused concern.  And yet it was against this
          backcloth that a positive change in attitude
          towards Design and Technology education
          started to emerge (Assessment of Performance
          Unit, 1981).
               A debate regarding education in general
          was beginning to come to the front; up to
          1   Local Financial Management is part of Lo-
              cal Management Structure (LMS).  It is
              being implemented in all state schools in
              the UK.  At school level, it marks a
              change from local administration manage-
              ment to local management delegation by
              Local Education Authorities.
          this moment in time, education within schools
          had not been related to the outside world
          (Department of Education and Science, 1980;
          TRIST, 1987a; TRIST, 1987b).  In fact, de-
          spite attempts, it appeared that there had
          been a failure to recognize the necessity to
          do so.  Many believe that the UK lives by
          trade therefore they must succeed by trade.
          The continuing economic decline of the UK
          added strength to the educational movement,
          which supported curriculum development.  Ad-
          ditional impetus came from industrialists
          with influence and/or the ability to inject
          money into the system.  The Technical and Vo-
          cational Educational Initiative (TVEI), new
          examination systems, the National Curriculum,
          Local Financial Management (Department of Ed-
          ucation and Science, 1988) and Equal Opportu-
          nities are just a few of the recent
          initiatives that have proved that, although
          AD HOC subject-based curriculum models devel-
          oped by grass root teachers are an important
          process, large scale national intervention
          can cause mountains to be moved quickly.  Al-
          most too quickly for some!
                     NATIONAL INTERVENTIONS
          ATIVE (TVEI)
               TVEI influenced the whole curriculum of
          many secondary schools.  It was set up as a
          pilot scheme in 1983 with 14 Local Education
          Authorities (LEA's) taking part. Its purpose
          was to help prepare pupils aged 14-18 for the
          demands of working life.  In 1986, the gov-
          ernment, supported by industry, announced its
          intention to offer funds to all LEA's to take
          part in the Initiative.  The exact nature and
          content of plans were determined by LEA's and
          took into account their own needs and circum-
          stances.  The National Aims of TVEI sought to
          encourage close collaboration between LEA's
          and industry/commerce/public services etc.,
          so that the school curriculum gained the con-
          fidence of industrialists (TVEI, 1987;
          Leicestershire County Council, 1987).
               TVEI still in effect supports the aim
          that pupils in school need to:
          o   gain the qualifications which will be of
              direct value to them at work;
          o   become better equipped to enter the world
              of employment;
          o   acquire an appreciation of the practical
              application of the qualifications for
              which they are working;
          o   become accustomed to using their skills
              and knowledge to solve real-world prob-
              lems; and
          o   develop initiative, motivation and enter-
          NOLOGY.  One effect of TVEI upon Design and
          Technology education has been the injection
          of money from industry enabling change to
          take place. This has provided much needed
          hardware, often in the form of computers, at
          limited cost to schools.  TVEI has also pro-
          moted a holistic approach to the design proc-
          ess carried out by pupils, encouraging
          business awareness and industrial links.
          This, in turn, has brought its rewards to the
          schools concerned, often in the form of ex-
          pertise and equipment.
          TION (GCSE).  Until 1987, pupils in the UK
          were examined in two separate systems at the
          age of sixteen:  the General Certificate of
          Education (GCE) and the Certificate of Sec-
          ondary Education (CSE) examinations. GCE was
          for the top 20% of pupils while CSE was de-
          signed to cater to the next 60% of pupils.
          In fact CSE was usually attempted by the ma-
          jority of the pupils who did not take exam-
          inations at GCE level.  (SCUE, SCDC, SEC &
          CNA, 1987; Department of Education and Sci-
          ence, 1985)
               After 1987, these two examination sys-
          tems were replaced by GCSE, operated as a
          single system and open to all.  It was intro-
          duced after many trials of new approaches to
          tackle weaknesses in the GCE/CSE two-tiered
               In addition to this form of academic
          discrimination, there had been many inadequa-
          cies in the old two-tier examination system,
          other than this including:
          o   the difficulty in changing from one sys-
              tem to another
          o   the fact that two years work was assessed
              in one or two examination papers which
              gave a bias towards teaching that could
              be examined in timed written papers; and
          o   syllabi called for learning facts at the
              expense of understanding or using infor-
          These latter two points were felt to be par-
          ticularly important by teachers who wrote ex-
          aminations for Design and Technology because
          of the very nature of the activities in-
          volved.  In addition, employers of those
          leaving school and those pupils who changed
          schools during courses found that examina-
          tions with the same title did not necessarily
          include the same content, levels of achieve-
          ment, or expectations of the pupils.
               There was also a serious mismatch be-
          tween employers and teachers in terms of ac-
          ceptability.  Employers, the majority of whom
          had left school long before CSE examinations
          had been established, never accepted top CSE
          qualifications as equal to GCE.  However,
          many teachers preferred CSE as they were pro-
          fessionally involved in the development of
          these examinations, and consequently were
          able to tailor them to their requirements.
               The introduction of the new single exam-
          ination system, however, caused many prob-
          lems.  The new system had to be 'marketed' to
          staff, pupils, parents and future employers
          who all remembered the difficulties with the
          acceptance of CSE.  The new philosophy of
          GCSE and the new approaches to assessment re-
          quired a great deal of in-service training
          for teachers in order to manage a curriculum
          to support a single subject examination sys-
               In preparation for GCSE, National Crite-
          ria were established for all subjects to give
          a uniform framework for examinations and
          syllabi.  This was a major step forward in
          the UK examination system.  The published
          list of National Criteria aims and objectives
          explained what students studying courses in
          all curriculum areas should seek to achieve.
               One important and very positive aspect
          of GCSE was to establish the philosophy that
          all syllabi must help pupils in schools to
          understand a subject's relationship to other
          areas of the curriculum and its relevance to
          their own lives and responsibilities.  Also,
          in GCSE, assessment was no longer to be by
          examination alone.  At least 20% of candi-
          dates' marks were to come from coursework,
          either in the form of project work or by con-
          tinuous assessment of pupils' regular class-
          room activities.  In the past, examinations
          had tended to record what candidates could
          not do rather than what they could do.  GCSE
          aimed to assess positive achievement.
          NOLOGY.  GCSE allowed the development of ex-
          amination courses that were far more suitable
          for assessing Design and Technology capabil-
          ity than the traditional mode of examination
          could ever hope to achieve.  Some examina-
          tions [eg. Midlands Examining Group (MEG) De-
          sign](2) were purely an assessment of
          coursework.  Others had a balance between
          coursework and written examinations.  GCSE
          allowed schools to continue, during the exam-
          ination years, with the type of work done in
          the lower secondary (age 11-14) Design and
          Technology curriculum.  This is also similar
          to the philosophy advocated in the new Na-
          tional Curriculum.
               One of the most important changes in ed-
          ucation brought about by the Government's Ed-
          ucation Reform Act of 1988 was the
          introduction of a National Curriculum for
          children aged 5-16 in all state schools in
          England and Wales (National Curriculum Coun-
          cil, 1989; Department of Education and Sci-
          ence, 1985, 1987a, 1987b).  The purpose of
          the National Curriculum is to ensure that all
          children study essential subjects, thus pro-
          viding a better all around education.  It is
          designed to ensure that children cannot opt
          out of subjects too early, and thereby close
          doors to future job opportunities and per-
          sonal development.  Progression from the Pri-
          mary phase to Secondary should offer much
          more continuity for pupils in terms of style,
          structure and content of education.  It
          2   England, Wales, and Northern Ireland are
              divided into 6 regional examination
              groups.  These groups are responsible to
              the Secondary Examination Advisory Coun-
              cil (SEAC) for the organization and as-
              sessment of GCSE Examinations (Scotland
              has its own educational and examination
          should also make it easier for children to
          move from one school to another.
               The National Curriculum consists of 10
          subjects which all children must study at
          school: English, Mathematics, Science, Tech-
          nology,(3) History, Geography, Music, Art,
          Physical Education, and a modern language
          from ages 11-16. For each subject there are
          objectives or goals outlining what children
          should know and be able to do at each stage
          of their schooling.  These objectives are
          called "attainment targets."  For each sub-
          ject there are also descriptors and programs
          of study detailing what children should be
          taught in order to help them achieve the at-
          tainment targets set.  At ages 7, 11, 14, and
          16 students are assessed with regard to the
          attainment targets.  Their performance is
          measured on a ten point scale.
               There are 4 stages for different educa-
          tional age groups, known as "key stages."
          These should help pupils, parents, and staff
          to know what each child should learn at vari-
          ous ages.  The key stages are:
               o   Key Stage 1 - from age 5 to 7
               o   Key Stage 2 - from age 7 to 11
               o   Key Stage 3 - from age 11 to 14
               o   Key Stage 4 - from age 14 to 16
               The National curriculum is not the total
          curriculum for the child, but rather a funda-
          mental framework. It is for each school to
          decide mechanisms for delivery and additional
          subjects they wish to provide.  By law each
          school in the public sector must provide the
          National Curriculum.
          DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY. The government's Stat-
          utory Orders concerning  Design and Technol-
          ogy, were published in April 1990.  They must
          by law be taught from September 1990 starting
          with Key Stage 1.
               Design and Technology has been made one
          of the two "profile components" of the foun-
          dation subject area Technology.  The other
          3   Technology in the National Curriculum is
              composed of two areas of study, Design
              and Technology and Information Technol-
          profile component is Information Technology
          (IT).(4) It is intended that these components
          are not seen as discrete subjects, but more a
          set of attainment targets that will need to
          be serviced by a wide variety of curriculum
               One of the most far reaching effects of
          the NC is the fact that all pupils from 5-16
          will have to be taught the necessary informa-
          tion and skills, with the emphasis on process
          rather than content, to be able to achieve
          the appropriate attainment targets.  In the
          case of Design and Technology, schools will
          not  be able to decide that they do not wish
          to provide this area of the curriculum.  De-
          sign and Technology, is required by law for
          all pupils of all abilities, ages and inter-
          ests.   No longer will it be taught just to
          those who choose the subject because they are
          interested in it, or to those who see its
          relevance to their future occupations. Design
          and Technology will become something quite
          different from that Design and Technology to
          offered in the past, as its content must now
          be relevant to all.  It must have broadly
          based transferable skills making it a prepa-
          ration for life, not for a vocation.
               To meet the legal requirements of the
          Orders, Design and Technology will not be
          able to be the province of a single depart-
          ment, let alone the province of a single sub-
          ject.  A number of WORKING PARTY REPORTS were
          published for consultation before the Statu-
          tory Orders were finally written (National
          Curriculum Design and Technology Working
          Group, 1988; Department of Education and Sci-
          ence, 1989; National Curriculum Council,
          1989).  One of these reports, the INTERIM RE-
          PORT, set out to explain the new philosophy.
          It established that in order to deliver the
          NC the curriculum areas of CDT, Home Econom-
          ics, Art and Design, Business Studies and In-
          4   IT capability in the NC is cross curric-
              ula.  Pupils will use IT to; communicate
              and handle information; design, develop,
              explore and evaluate models of real or
              imaginary situations; measure and control
              physical variables and movement; and be
              able to make informed judgements with re-
              gard to applications and their effect on
          formation Technology all have to work
          together as a team being aware of and build-
          ing upon knowledge gained in other curriculum
          areas such as Sciences, Mathematics, and Hu-
          manities.   Cross-curricula activities and
          links will be essential to achieve many of
          the Design and Technology programs of study.
          This is going to require teachers who are
          willing to work as part of teams and teachers
          who are able to work in partnership alongside
          teachers who possess differing skills and ex-
               Information Technology (IT) has a spe-
          cial role to play in Design and Technology,
          but it is not its only role.  The STATUTORY
          ORDERS FOR TECHNOLOGY explain that like De-
          sign and Technology, Information Technology
          is not a discrete subject.  The aim is to use
          IT as a tool in whatever context it is
          needed.  All graduates should be unafraid of
          computers and be able to cope with whatever
          computer technology comes their way in the
          envisaged that industrial links established
          through TVEI will be strengthened and that
          the good practice established under this
          scheme will filter into all Design and Tech-
          nology activity even in the primary sector
          (age 5 - 11). The NC's inclusion of Business
          Studies into Design and Technology activities
          allows the design process to be more
          NC suggests learning strategies that require
          pupils to carry out a needs-driven design ac-
          tivity.  There is an emphasis on process and
          on HOW pupils will learn as well as WHAT they
          will learn.  Design and Technology is to be
          an activity subject, designing, making and
          evaluating, systems, environments and pro-
          ducts. Projects are to be set in a number of
          different contexts that are relevant to all
          pupils. Pupils will need to work in a variety
          of ways; as individuals, as part of teams on
          one project, and as part of groups on indi-
          vidual tasks.  The skills that will be re-
          quired for a pupil to achieve a task will be
          on a "need to use basis." This is where the
          teacher with single subject expertise will be
          an essential "commodity." Pupils will learn
          that Design and Technology is all about opti-
          mization and opportunities and that not ev-
          erything is a problem to be solved.
          the NC subjects, progression is an important
          issue. It is hoped that  pupils will not re-
          peat aspects of work in a variety of curric-
          ulum areas nor if they change schools.  It is
          also hoped that the NC will prevent pupils
          missing vital areas of knowledge or experi-
          ence either because they have not been in-
          cluded in a subject area or because a school
          chooses not to tackle them.  It is envisaged
          that knowledge gained in other curriculum
          areas, particularly in Science and Maths,
          will be put into context in Design and Tech-
          ULUM FOR STAFF DEVELOPMENT.  The implications
          for training for teachers is tremendous.
          Many teachers, both those who understand the
          new philosophy and those who do not, are go-
          ing to need a great deal of support.  All
          teachers will need to be facilitators rather
          than founts of knowledge.  Managers for both
          the curriculum and for teams of staff will be
          required.  Monitoring individual pupils'
          progress will require a new approach. Assess-
          ment of work carried out by pupils at all the
          Key Stages could cause many challenges and
               In-service requirements are going to
          come in two forms: those aspects which the
          school can deal with in-house, such as team
          management, learning to work together in
          teams, trusting one another and accepting
          that no one person can deliver Design and
          Technology, and in-service  supplied by out-
          side agencies (Technology Education Develop-
          ment Unit, 1990; LIST, 1990).  It will be
          necessary to develop an understanding of the
          new  Design and Technology philosophy in a
          wider than single school context.  In-service
          will be needed to help overcome many teach-
          ers' fears that they will not be able to cope
          with implementing the new Design and  Tech-
          nology curriculum.  There will also be an on
          going need for in-service from outside agen-
          cies to update teachers' expertise in areas
          of technology as yet unknown or missing from
          the individual school teams of Design and
          Technology teachers.
               Educational developments within curric-
          ulum areas cannot be seen in isolation.  The
          large scale intervention of Government and
          Industry into the UK educational system has
          brought about fast changes across the total
          curriculum, culminating in the sharp focus of
          the National Curriculum.
               Many valued, experienced teachers in the
          UK, not only of Design and Technology but
          across the total school curriculum, are feel-
          ing the pressures of these changes.  These
          feelings are understandable.  Teachers have
          recently become surrounded by a plethora of
          educational developments far beyond their
          curriculum area, which they must discuss, in-
          itiate, respond to, administer, and assess.
               The UK is at the beginning of a new era
          in education in which the National Curriculum
          will hopefully give all pupils equal
          entitlement to a better, all around educa-
          tion.  For Design and Technology, it is a
          time of major opportunity. Teachers will need
          to seize this opportunity to develop and de-
          liver this vital area of the curriculum in a
          coherent form that will be accepted by the
          whole of the educational fraternity.  They
          will need to capitalize on the good practice
          which already exists in schools.   The Na-
          tional Curriculum will not be something that
          can be implemented overnight. It was begun in
          the primary schools in September 1989 in Sci-
          ence, English and Mathematics.  In September
          1990, Technology (with its two profile compo-
          nents, Design and Technology and Information
          Technology) will begin to be taught.  But it
          will not be until the mid-1990s that the full
          National Curriculum is expected to be imple-
               Many teachers are afraid of the impend-
          ing changes.  A great deal of in-service work
          will be needed to help staff cope with the
          philosophy, management, assessment, and extra
          work load.  Teachers will need to be careful
          that they ensure that those specialists who
          feel vulnerable working within this new sys-
          tem understand the important contribution
          they are able to make.  It is likely that
          these vulnerable teachers will be those who
          were trained as Craft teachers and have al-
          ready struggled with differing degrees of
          success to become CDT teachers during the
          1970s and 1980s.  The profession will lose
          some of these teachers if they are made to
          feel that their skills are no longer rele-
          vant.  It will be important for teachers to
          see that although pupils will be working
          across the full spectrum of Design and Tech-
          nology, activity teachers with special exper-
          tise will be needed to prevent the subject
          becoming shallow and rigorless.  All teachers
          will need a generic grasp of technology.
          They will also need an understanding of the
          variety of methods of delivering Design and
          Technology that are envisaged in the NC pro-
               Teachers in the UK see the need for, and
          the advantages of the National Curriculum
          framework.  Design and Technology teachers
          understand the need for the changes that are
          envisaged, accepting  the challenges offered
          to them, and recognizing the important role
          of Design and Technology within a holistic
          context. The challenges and opportunities to
          teachers and pupils alike are exciting.   De-
          sign and Technology can and will play a spe-
          cial role in preparing pupils for life,
          enabling them to cope with the technological
          uncertainties of the 21st century.  It will
          be during the next few years that teachers
          will need to develop and refine further mech-
          anisms to deliver and assess this vital area
          of the school curriculum.
          Stephanie Atkinson is Senior Lecturer, De-
          partment of Education, Sunderland
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          Permission is given to copy any
          article or graphic provided credit is given and
          the copies are not intended for sale.
Journal of Technology Education   Volume 2, Number 1       Fall 1990