I was fortunate to be on a course, about 15 years ago, about the future of Design and Technology. The itinerary was littered with a plethora of well-versed public speakers, all with their own political, environmental or professional agendas; which I guess drove my mind set at from the outset of the course, in that I would take the small parts of the day that were useful and leave the rest.
However, a non-assuming chap, not dressed a flashy suit or particularly well spoken for that matter stood in front of the 30 or so delegates and engaged me with his opening statement:
“Design and Technology has to move, otherwise the subject will carry little relevance for the future and its sole focus will be that of a subject for both the hobbyist and enthusiast.”
In an instant, that statement, although a little controversial, resonated with me and altered my perspective and vision for Technology.
Fast forward to the present day and that statement could not be any more relevant with the squeeze on the open subjects from the English Baccalaureate. It is then reassuring that OCR have clearly had their fingers on the pulse and been intuitive to not just the changes in educational reform, but also how society, particularly in the field of Technology has developed at an expediential rate.
The previous Headteacher at my school initiated a curriculum review some three years ago to coincide with a restructure, due to the financial restrictions that were imposed on all public services. In a chance conversation with Martin Webber from OCR, Martin suggested that I looked in some detail at the Cambridge National suite of qualifications. Another defining moment!
As a team, we threw the curriculum plans up in the air, from key stage 3 to key stage 5, ripped up what we had and asked ourselves the difficult questions. We knew the new Design and Technology specification was on the way and we knew Cambridge Nationals were accredited. We are based in the fastest developing county outside of London, with a heavy bias on Engineering. Considering all factors as a team we knew a more technical curriculum in the Technologies Faculty had to be developed.
The implementation of Cambridge Nationals is now at the heart of our Technology curriculum, not just at key stage 4, but the pathway from Year 7 through to 13. Through a gradual process and evolution of courses, we have developed four Level 2 Cambridge Nationals courses and the first Level 3 course will run from September 2018, with the second to come online September 2019. The delivery of the key stage 3 Technology curriculum is heavily laden with supporting modules on a rotation system to provide the prior learning necessary to access these qualifications.
Naturally, we have GCSE subjects within the faculty, the new OCR Design and Technology specification for one, but there is a monumental shift from the seven GCSE subjects and four BTEC courses offered by the faculty some five years ago as opposed to where we are now. It is no coincidence that despite the students having limited option choices because of the squeeze created by the EBACC and changes to Government agenda, we are still retaining students in the subject area. In particular, the Cambridge Nationals in Engineering Manufacture (63) and Health and Social Care (44) are areas of significant growth for September 2018.
Within our school we have found that since their introduction some three years ago, the Cambridge Nationals qualifications have benefited from both popularity and success, largely because the modular approach is relevant to the students. This relevance to industry, to careers, to processes, to interpretation of information etc. gets an immediate buy-in from the students who opt in; the cohorts we have are self-motivated, want to be successful and want to achieve. The students enjoy being independent and innovative, but most importantly they enjoy undertaking activities they can see have an immediate value and link to the world of work; in short they ‘just get it’.
The beauty of Technology as a subject area is that it has the unique ability to have societal relevance; be this the students manipulating image files, programming a CNC machine, developing a manufacture plan or studying the life stages. This relevance has been uniquely tapped into by OCR who have developed a suite of courses that the staff are enthusiastic towards and enjoy delivering to students who are switched on and self-motivated.
We are now embarking on the next phase of the vision, to develop the Level 3 Cambridge Technicals qualifications to provide a distinct and well thought out vocational route for our students that runs through the school curriculum. The future of Technology is bright...
Barry Croft - Director of Technologies
Barry has been Director of Technologies since 2007 and has been part of the Extended Leadership Team at John Port Spencer Academy since July 2017. He is responsible for the strategic direction of Technology at the largest secondary school in Derbyshire.