Design and technology classes 'out of date' - Ofsted

Robotics created at Osaka University Some countries emphasise the study of robotics in design and technology classes

Too many design and technology teachers in England are failing to keep pace with global technological advances, education inspectors have said.

An Ofsted report on the teaching of the subject said too little use was made of modern technology in a third of the schools it surveyed.

Schools in China and France emphasise the study of robotics, electronics and computer-aided design, it added.

The government said it was increasing the number of specialist teachers.

Inspectors visited 89 primaries, 89 secondaries and two special schools over three years between 2007 and 2010.

'Keep pace'

The report said achievement in D&T was good or outstanding in just over three fifths of the primary schools and just under half of the secondary schools visited. It was unsatisfactory in none of them.

Where the subject was being taught well, the teaching was challenging, tasks were interesting and relevant and pupils benefited from the use of up-to-date ICT (information and communication technology) and other technologies.

But in just over a quarter of the primary schools and about a half of the secondary schools visited, there were not enough opportunities for pupils to develop knowledge of electronics, systems and control, and computer-aided design and manufacture.

"This is a key weakness at a time of rapid technological advance," said the report.

Ofsted chief inspector Christine Gilbert said pupils needed to learn about new materials and technologies and to investigate practically how and why products work.

"This is fundamental to the improvements that need to be made."

'More specialists'

She added: "Most pupils in the schools visited enjoyed designing and making products, solving real problems for people in their communities and further afield, and seeing their ideas taking shape.

"This was vitally important to them. Achievement and provision in D&T was best where up-to-date technologies were used and explained accurately.

"But the variation between the best and weakest provision is unacceptably wide."

More specialist knowledge and subject specific training was required, the report said.

'Positive news'

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: "We need to keep pace with employers' demands for high quality, up-to-date technical education - so businesses can thrive at home and we can compete abroad.

"We are strengthening recruitment and training to attract the brightest and best into the profession and increase the number of specialist teachers.

"The Budget set out a big expansion of technical colleges - to provide high quality vocational education alongside academic classes, to thousands more pupils."

The Design and Technology Association said in a statement that the Ofsted report also contained very positive news about the performance of pupils and teachers in this essential and rapidly changing subject area.

"We believe that the success of D&T teaching in both primary and secondary deserve to be celebrated."

But it added that it agreed with the report's findings that ongoing high-quality training was essential for the effective teaching of design and technology.

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