“Made in Britain, created in Britain, designed in Britain, invented in Britain…………..”

Designed and made from start to finish in two days by a 13 year old pupil

I cannot imagine a more stirring quotation for anyone involved in Design Technology education at any level.  “So this is our plan for growth.  We want the words:  ‘Made in Britain’, Created in Britain’, Designed in Britain’, ‘Invented in Britain’, to drive our nation forward.  A Britain carried aloft by the march of the makers.  That is how we will create jobs and support families.  We have put fuel into the tank of the British economy.”  It is a sobering thought that these words formed a part of the recent budget speech by our current chancellor of the exchequer.  If taken at face value they indicate a government intent on harnessing the power of design and technology to regenerate and re-balance our economy.  There is some reason for believing that this might be a successful strategy, for several years Cornwall has been given Objective 1 status by the European Union, an indicator that the area is among the most economically deprived in Europe.  The funding provided has been invested in digital infrastructure and used to develop higher education which in turn has seen itself as a vehicle for local development and has gone out of its way to support small business growth.  Result, a rate of new business start up only slightly below national average and a three year survival rate for these same business well above the national average.  (in Design Council Magazine Winter 2009)

Well if we can do it in Cornwall, which is geographically remote from the rest of England, never mind the rest of the world, then it could be a national model.  Because of the isolated nature of the county great emphasis has been placed on connectivity, innovation, design, creativity and sustainability.  This all sounds really good, doesn’t it?  A model for economic growth which almost exactly parallels the government’s vision as articulated by the chancellor.  Ahh, but then there is the problem of a lack of connectivity in the government.  Remember those four words; made, created, designed,invented?  Words which fit exactly the sort of education provided by high quality deign and technology teaching in our schools.  The subject which has just seen the biggest national setback of all time because of the education policy of the current government.  I would suggest that the very subjects which do the most to promote, teach, inspire and encourage the magic four ideas are the very ones which have suffered most because of the introduction of the dreaded EB.  Lets see, if you want designers, makers, creators and innovators perhaps you had better make these central aspects of the curriculum.  Or do you suppose that the best way to encourage these abilities in our pupils is to make it compulsory for all to study a foreign language, one of which is Biblical Hebrew?

As I have said before this is not an argument against any subject, it is an impassioned plea for Design Technology.  If you want to do a bit of research try this.  Go to the National Curriculum website and for each subject look up the examples of how creativity can be used.  Judge for yourself which subjects are most likely to teach this in a genuine form to pupils up to the age of 16.  If you are in a school ask the pupils what they think.  In previous posts I written about the differences in the way that designers think, the ways in which they tackle problems.  If we are to harness the power of creativity in our young people we desperately need to focus teaching and learning on these issues.  If you want to engage young people in these activities you need to make sure that they are experiencing the reality of what it is to design, create, make.  You need to make sure that they feel the intrapersonal rewards of doing this kind of activity so that they want it for themselves in their lives.  Of course not everyone will be a designer, but wouldn’t it be great if everyone at least understood design so that they could make informed decisions about it as responsible consumers, as leaders, as politicians?

Michael Gove suggests that schools have been promoting courses which have little value in order to gain points.  He suggests that schools have focused too much on these points, points which add to the schools success in league tables but are of little educational value.  He may be right.   It is hard to blame schools for doing exactly what the government rewards them for doing.  You might think that he would therefore be very careful about what he puts in place as the next set of measurements for school success, that he realises the controlling nature of any success criteria.  It would seem that he understands that by declaring the EB as the measure of success he will coerce schools into doing exactly what he wants them to.   One would hope that he would take great care in formulating criteria that would encourage schools to work towards the best interests of their pupils and their country.  One would hope that the cabinet might have agreed these principles before acting.

We are left with the hope that the curriculum review will do the joined up thinking that appears to have eluded the government and that Michael Gove will be able to do the reflective thinking, the evaluation, the revision and the development that characterise design technology.  A state that provides a free  education system is entitled to expect something for it’s investment; the desire to raise up a generation of creative and innovative designers and makers is a laudable ambition.  On the other hand our children are entitled to a carefully formulated education policy that has their best interest at heart.


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