Should Design & Technology remain part of the UK National Curriculum? | PDD

Should Design & Technology remain part of the UK National Curriculum?


on April 17 2012

The UK Government has launched a National Curriculum  Review  to consult on major changes it wants to make to the primary and secondary school National Curriculum in England.

Will removing Design & Technology classes undermine the country’s economic prospects now and in the future? Who would make in Britain, create in Britain, design in Britain or invent in Britain?

From supporting academic growth to enriching economic growth, here PDD argues that removing D&T from the national curriculum for Key Stage 3 is a grave mistake.


Graham Lacy
Technical Director at PDD, has examined design  courses  at several leading UK universities, advised school inspectors on D&T and visits local schools to give students a real-world view on D&T and their work.

“It was a year ago that UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne stated“We want the words; made in Britain, created in Britain, designed in Britain, invented in Britain’ to drive our nation forward.”  This announcement was welcomed by those still striving to compete in our secondary industry, despite the views of past governments that our prosperity wouldn’t need this sector. I discussed the potential consequence of this statement in a speech to the IMechE Manufacturing Group last June. Would it echo emptily? Or could it have as much effect as Wilson’s “White Heat of Technology” speech in the 1970’s that gave rise to our science parks?

A year on, the government’s review of whether Design & Technology should remain on the National Curriculum is still on the agenda. D&T is a more costly course to deliver than many; needing equipment, materials and Health & Safety management. Cost-cutting is no doubt an underlying motivation for this review, but how does this affect the government’s very own long-term plans to rebalance our economy? Cutting D&T isn’t manufacturing economy, it’s a false economy surely!

It is true that many who go into design, engineering and technology take academic subjects through later schooling (me included) but at present they will still have studied D&T and acquired valuable learning in earlier, formative years. And for those that don’t take such a career – they will still have gained valuable insight and the life skills to avoid DIY disasters and even  personal injury .

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When my career took a turn into Product Design 7 years after my school D&T, I was surprised to find I felt pre-wired for the role, and I can only credit this to having designed and made some truly dreadful gifts and tableware at the age of 12! But I learnt a lot from my experience in the subject and the critical factor though, was that had I not enjoyed and established some affinity with D&T – designing, making and innovating all those years earlier – the thought of becoming a product designer would not have occurred to me.

Problem-solving, creativity bounded by constraints and combined with hands-on practical manufacture are the fundamental skills of an industrial economy. What other school subject develops these in such important, formative years?”

Georgina Rogers
Engineering Design Consultant at PDD

“Another Osborn (Alex F.) began developing methods for creative problem solving in 1939, specifically brainstorming.

Everybody who studied D&T will know that all good projects  start  with a brainstorm. Two of A.F. Osborn’s methods were

1)      Withhold criticism

2)      Welcome unusual ideas

With this theme of freedom and expression running throughout, is it any wonder that D&T is one of the most popular GCSE subjects?

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D&T is a child’s first taster of professional life. It is the only subject where you are given a brief then told to ‘go fly’. It is totally open to a person’s own experience of life which is, in my opinion, why children of a broad spectrum have the ability to enjoy it and perform well.

The surreptitious assignment of responsibility in the form of a D&T project brings with it a sense of owning and steering your work in the direction you would like it to go –  the end result is all the more satisfying.

So what would happen if D&T’s status in the curriculum were demoted? After all, we’re not saying it would be removed completely. Would less time per week be enough? How long does a design project take compared to a module in a text book? What should our priority be?

It is true to say that a person will struggle in life without competency in the more classical subjects. However the relationship between these subjects and D&T is not one of reliance but one of support. D&T encompasses many subjects and brings them to life. Maths, English, Art, Psychology, Humanities, Science – all play a part in design. This helps a child to appreciate how applying their education can achieve wonderful results. In my clearly very biased opinion, this notion is priceless.”