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An impending crisis: a shortage of D&T teachers

Discussion in 'Design and technology' started by Andy Mitchell, Jun 3, 2014.

  1. Reading the comments here is both inspiring and also depressing. Particularly when I hear comments that nothing is happening in depts. that might inspire students (from a few people way down the list in the blog).

    I trained as a proper teacher in 1982-86 from a building engineering background. Still teach (currently Product Design in NZ). I teach product design and we manufacture mechanical games (Yr 11) amplified radios with Yr 12, mini-motor bikes with a 50cc engine ready to race to a Yr 12 Engineering group and a Yr 13 group (their own project choice). Product design is the biggest option subject in Tech suite in the senior school here. Seems the kids like it then!

    Yes the design process has becoming formulaic. That is not down to the design curriculum but rather the imposition of league tables.

    As soon as they came along creativity was fighting an uphill battle hence most teachers now look to make sure they 'make' the pass rate. That is nothing to do at all with the curriculum but all about control from central govt. What depresses me is when I look at younger teachers in the UK they have inadequate training for the style of teaching that I recognise as being really beneficial. What they (our newer colleagues) are good at is reading documents and finding the most effective way of seeing their students pass. Good on them for that too.

    But in my view that is not 'education' however as a profession we have lost so many good people who argued against the view that passing assessments is good education. As such our voice is quieter now and is more easily ignored. Teaching has increasingly become 'just a job' (Academies and the increasing use of 'local' agreements has seen to that). It never was 'just a job' and still is not that as far as I am concerned.

    As I reach the end of my career I look back with much affection on the fun the subject has given me and my students. It is worthwhile, it is practical too. It can appeal to academics and those of a more practical disposition. It is what links all areas of the curriculum.

    I have been employed by 9 separate head teachers across three countries. My depts. have never had an issue with numbers and if they did I would look to lesson content first. There are always ways to subvert the system and still do the right thing!

    But that is tiring and may be why I am here now!

    When Tech became a core subject and all students had to chose a technology that was the zenith. We smashed all other subjects. Why because we knew how to deal with difficult kids and we were also brilliant at what with did with the not so difficult ones i.e. the so-called academics. It was really interesting to see many subjects who had never had to do that e.g. teach more challenging kids because their subjects were too difficult for them, handle the change. Basically, they did not handle it at all.

    But that has all gone and that is because we focus totally on numeracy and literacy and are driven by league tables. That has nothing to do with the curriculum but is all about the loss of autonomy of the teacher. Yes some of the content might be bland but in the past that could be manipulated. Not so anymore!

    When we have well qualified people entering the profession, for whom the role of teaching is more than a job and have been schooled in the Arts of teaching via a dedicated teacher training course. We may reverse the current trend.

    Who knows, me might see an increase in those wanting to teach our wonderful subject of Design Technology. The best subject by far!

    But my voice is half a world away.

    I wonder if anyone can hear it?
  2. modelmaker

    modelmaker Lead commenter

    I believe your voice is being heard, artj, just as the other contributors are that prompted your own post.

    Design Technology is what makes the world turn. i can't think of any aspect of life that doesn't involve it. The fact that we are communicating with each other is one instance, but all those finance industries that are so highly prized would be unable to exist without technology. Politicians wouldn't be able to fight wars without it. The ebola crisis can't be overcome without it and if people needed to remain back in the days when housework involved hanging the carpets on the line and beating the dust out of them, washing clothes by hand and wringing them out with a mangle, we'd never have time to enjoy the fine arts.

    Technology drives everything and will ultimately be the thing that saves the planet. It's absurd that it is treated as the poor boy of education and delivered by people who are better equipped at understanding how to get good grades from an inadequate curriculum than having a clue about technology itself.

    It's been festering for a long time and this thread which began with the question of why schools are struggling to recruit technology teachers has highlighted the fact that virtually no technology is being taught these days and we haven't been training teachers in technology. Just in how to get grades. The subject has been manipulated by idiots to steer everyone away from the stuff that really matters.

    We didn't ought to be surprised by this.

    Although it's a harsh criticism that "Those who can do and those who can't, teach" There is an element of truth in it. I don't personally believe a teacher who knows his stuff couldn't "do" it as well, but we've reached a stage where frankly schools have being employing teachers with precious little idea what is involved in real technology. and those who can't even do that have been promoted to set the curriculum.

    Technology is the stuff kids use behind the teachers' backs in lessons, when they fiddle with their phones. It's the stuff that is used to find ways to cure cancer and every other ailment. The stuff that makes planes fly and allow politicians to make soundbites that are immediately spread around the world. You can't walk into you house without tripping over it. Fair enough, you might fancy a pizza for dinner and remember what you suggested the kids learn how to cook and package, but what are you going to do without an oven to cook it in? Where in Heavens name did that come from? Who knows what's involved in making the cardboard for the wonderful packaging projects or the ink used in printing them out?

    It isn't about finding new ways to make jewellery out of cardboard or whatever material school budgets next impose. It's about bleedin' technology. Wash your eyes out and read that again.

    I read the posts on this forum that ask the simplest of questions. Ones I could have answered as a school kid. My fear is that the teachers that could neither do nor teach got promoted and now set the curriculum.

    i'd love to hear from any of them brave enough to challenge my assertion to see what they have to tell me about all that I've contributed so far, and I'll give them a fair wind in their replies before I start to seriously challenge them. Who's up for it?
  3. There is NO shortage of DT teachers and there will be even less of a shortage when the new GCSEs come into being and there are NO specialisms!

    What there is, is a shortage of GOOD DT teachers. Teachers who can offer more than fancy starters and plenaries and think a moodboard is designing. The skill and notion of being able to MAKE is being devalued and lost, with or without a laser cutter, demanding or otherwise.

    Lets face it, teacher training, least the PGCE route does not prepare you with the practical skills required for the classroom, it never has done, BUT the PGCE student believes it does and so thinks they are skilled when they are not.

    The other problem is, the quality of teachers who some how get in positions to influence and change things nationally. More who hate / cant make!

    The fact is, someone at the DFE simply wants to put a big red line through our subject once and for all. They are currently in WH Smiths buying a new pen!
  4. Rather than continue with this discussion, let's put some positives out there. I am one of those PGCEers who don't have enough training. I specialised in food when there was a bursary for it and a shortage. So I have zero training in other design and technology subjects. I have just been made head of the department. I am very interested with these inspirational ideas in this group and fully agree the people who are basically asking "what the hell happened to design and technology." When are students ever going to use a laser cutter to make a clock and when will they ever need the skills again? But why are we using this technology when we have cutting edge technology at our fingertips like 3d printers that are coming down in price. I work in an area where university applicants are low. We have a lot of pupils going to college to train to become plumbers, electricians. I have no experience in technology other than the stuff I use on a day to day basis, I have a nutrition degree. I would absolutely love to hear more suggestions of what to teach in key stage 3 that would actually be meaningful! The first thing I thought was, b and q actually do simple plumbing and DIY workshops, why can't we do that in schools and give it a design twist to ensure we are meeting the curriculum. Yes it takes work but I totally up for inspiring kids and leaving them with essential skills. The idea of the spirometer I love. What other inspiration can you give me?
  5. modelmaker

    modelmaker Lead commenter

    The issue here really is that 3D printers are all well and good for evaluating design concepts, but they take too long and are too expensive in materials to seriously be used as a means of manufacture at this point in time.

    As for laser cutters, industry does use them, but in nowhere near the numbers you'd imagine them to be used if you looked at what schools teach. They have one virtue in a school, in my opinion, and that is to meet a part of the curriculum that although put in with the best intentions, was misguided. The part that says kids must learn about CAD/CAM. I don't have an objection to this per se, but the problem was that when it was introduced, it was never properly funded. If I live to be a thousand, I don't believe it's possible to teach a kid how to use a CNC milling or turning machine before they've acquired the skills to use a manual lathe or mill. CNC is the future, of course, but to be able to do it successfully, you need proper machinery, but that's far too expensive for schools to afford.

    So companies saw this as an opportunity to make Mickey Mouse CNC equipment that schools could afford, but the truth is that although schools saw impressive samples that had been claimed were produced on these machines, in practice they were either to complicated for teachers to learn in the limited time allowed for training, far to underpowered to make anything quickly and had impractical ways of holding the work in place while it was being machined. Let's be clear here, if some joker tells you it's possible to reliably hold a piece of material in place with double-sided adhesive while it's being machined, they are lying.

    But they sold the dream, schools didn't ask the right questions and as a consequence, schools have these machines gathering dust. The problem of meeting the CNC requirement didn't go away though until someone saw a laser cutter and worked out that it would. It's the speed of production and simplicity of use that's it main virtue. That it can produce things that need no finishing as an additional asset. That it's essentially limited to 2D projects of limited value is a major downside. But it ticks the CNC box, so that's all that matters. There will be very few students who ever get to use a laser cutter after they leave school, and those who do won't be pushing back the frontiers of technology.

    I mentioned spirometers because I know a bit about them and believe that at a basic level it's a project kids could do. The sort of project that might make kids ask how things work. I wasn't suggesting it as something all schools should take up, just something that's more interesting and valuable in the bigger scheme of things than making an ipod holder nobody would ever buy.

    You can get your inspiration just by looking at stuff around you and asking yourself "I wonder what was actually involved in making that?" One of the ladies I employed in my engineering business mentioned to me she had no idea before working for me how anything was actually made. It opened her eyes and fascinated her. Prior to working for me, she'd assumed there was probably a machine that churned products out and another that made something else.

    The trick to inspire kids with the subject in my opinion, is to forget all the fancy stuff like 3D printing and CNC and concentrate on the basics of how simple stuff is made properly. Stuff that teachers might have missed out on but can learn without too much sweat. We don't teach kids how to read by plonking a copy of Shakespeare in front of them in primary school, do we? We don't pretend they will ever read War and Peace from cover to cover and understand what it was all about until we've taught them how to read simple stuff.

    So why pretend a kid will ever be able to learn about technology if we focus on ***** like telling him that all he needs to do is draw something and the 3D printer does the rest? Why pretend that the skills being taught in using them has any value in later life? Or let me put it another way by asking how many teachers have the low priced 3D printers at home and find them invaluable? Which types of businesses are there that actually use them and what chances are there of the kids in your class ever working for those businesses if 3D printing skill is all they have to bring to the table? Sure, Rolls Royce and Dyson will be using 3D printers, but they'll be expecting recruits to have a hell of a lot of other useful skills before they'd get as far as being allowed to use one in the company. Kids are being fobbed off and cheated out of a proper education in technology, and cheated out of seeing it as the most enjoyable and creative career there is.

    Of course, cupcake121, you are caught up in the madness of box ticking to meet the deluded curriculum requirements as everyone else is, so I hope you or others feel my comments are a criticism of teachers themselves. My criticism is with the idiocy of the way things have panned out when the plot was lost by those who decide on the curriculum requirements and both government and school management that imagine there is a virtue in continuing with things as they stand.

    One of the earliest projects I did at school was to make a teaspoon. This was in the days before they invented the tea bag so the spoon was intended to be left in the tea caddy to measure out how much tea needed to go in the tea pot. Everyone in the class was given a square of copper and instructions how to mark it out, then cut out the shape with a pair of Gilbows. Having done that, we were given planishing hammers and stakes to beat it into a spoon shape. I won't pretend I had the best mark in the class for my effort, but when I took it home, my mum made me feel proud, said it was just what she needed and to the day she got converted to tea bags used it. When the school asked us to bring them back to show at the open day, she told me to tell them to get stuffed in case she ended up losing it.

    Without wishing to make too much of this simple project, what it did was help me believe I could acquire the simple skills needed to make something worth having. I went on to have a thoroughly fulfilling career in technology, one that these days I'd struggle to expect many kids would consider.

    My brother initially took a job in a jeweller's shop when he was sixteen and for his Christmas present to my mum, he made her a pair of earings out of a couple of ha'penny pieces, the ones that had sailing ships on the back. He cut around the ships with a piercing saw, did some filing and polishing, soldered on a loop then had them silver plated. Our mum wore them with pride every time she went somewhere posh.

    None of this is rocket science, just the application of the basic skills that kids aren't being taught these days. I think that if teachers looked at the output they are getting from kids, stand back from judging how well the kid met the target that was set and ask the simple question of whether it's something they'd personally find useful, say a piece of jewellery they would wear without embarrassment or a clock they'd honestly put up on their own wall, we might begin to see what needs to be done. And if you think that kids don't know how naff the stuff they get to make is, think again. They've all got eyes in their heads.

    Teach kids how to do something they will find useful and all the rest falls into place naturally. Have technology lessons that are long enough to engage kids and allow them to get their heads round the bits where they went wrong. And for goodness sake ditch the design part until kids know how to make stuff. Talk about putting the cart before the horse... What planet do these jokers come from?
  6. hrswingler

    hrswingler New commenter

    Do people still feel that this is the case for 2015?

    I'm graduating a B Ed this summer and desperately searching for a school that would be a 'good fit'.

    Currently I'm resorting to applying for positions that are 2nd in department (with no real hope of getting them on a 90% time table)

    Are we really thinking there is a shortage of DT teachers? I'm not seeing much evidence of it in the West Midlands!
  7. heidiyoung86

    heidiyoung86 New commenter

    This is quite an old thread now - I wondered if you had an update on these issues after the new changes to specs? I'm only just getting my head around the idea of how different DT is going to be from now on compared to what I've been teaching for the past 7 years and what I was taught at school in the 90s/00s. I've still got major staffing issues (school isn't willing to advertise cos the Head says we won't find anyone) and am worried about the budget. Having read this thread and a few others all the way through, the main theme above all those other issues is that SLT don't know what we do or what we need to do it. How can we change this?

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