Building Collaboration

Using online networks to support collaboration

As I returned to work as a Subject Leader for Design and Technology after a year on maternity leave, I was struck by the changes and challenges my subject was faced with. With the English Baccalaureate and the Progress 8 upon us, budget cuts and a reduction in staffing, we, as subject leaders, must fight our corner to keep our space on the timetable, to keep our students, and keep our jobs! So what can we do as teachers ‘on the ground’ to keep our vital subjects from being lost?

As the only Design and Technology teacher in a department in a small secondary school, I have made it my mission to raise the profile of the subject, both in school and externally. Pupils have always been drawn to the subject because of the chance to solve real-world problems through innovative and imaginative design, to create their own products from a range of materials and processes, and to get hands-on with new and emerging technologies. However, the problem is that if we don’t help parents and school management see the importance and value of the subject then we are fighting a losing battle.

Many parents I have met in my eight years of teaching have no real understanding of what the subject is really about, with only their own dated experience to reflect upon. Design and Technology as a subject have evolved and is no longer the woodwork and metalwork lessons of old. This perception must change if we are to stand a chance as pupils make their limited subject choices on Options Evening.

My aim is simple, I want all pupils, parents and senior leaders, both in my school and across the country, to see the true value of my subject and have a real understanding of the importance of Design and Technology in the wider world. I want my pupils to participate in school, local and national competitions. I want pupils to work alongside professionals of the industry in ‘live’ projects. I want other subject departments to collaborate on schemes of work that allow pupils to see their subjects holistically. I want successful engineers and designers to give talks to my pupils about their career paths. I want my pupils to have the opportunity to see Design and Technology in action out in the big wide world. But most importantly, I want to deliver exciting, engaging and outstanding lessons in my classroom.

CPD budgets are being cut and the cost of cover is being scrutinised, so where can we get help and inspiration? The answer has to be from the amazing teachers that we have around us, every teacher has something to contribute that can improve, develop or expand the knowledge of their fellow educator, but we need to have a way of facilitating this sharing that is straightforward and not daunting.

So where to begin?

With the support of my colleague Andy Lewis @iTeachRE, organiser of The London RE Hub conference (see, I have used social media to begin my mammoth task, joining Design & Technology teacher groups on Facebook, reading any and every article I could find on why my beloved subject is so important in producing creative, innovative adults of the future, and I’ve finally learned how powerful a hashtag is on Twitter.

I have by no means mastered the use of social media, but in the short time, I have had an active online presence my knowledge and passion for my subject has blossomed. I have also been blown away by the generosity of other fellow teachers who have been willing to share their ideas, their amazing resources and their knowledge for free. James Bleach @jambledandt has been a particular inspiration to me. He is a Head of Department in a secondary school, he has a website that offers a whole host of resources for teachers of Design and Technology and beyond. He has also created several Facebook groups to allow teachers both nationally and internationally to network and share great practices and resources. This dedication to the subject by James and other practitioners like him gives me hope for Design and Technology and to keep it as a vital subject on the curriculum.

What’s next?

With the support of my colleagues, I have decided to set up an event for Design and Technology teachers from both primary and secondary schools in my local area. With over 70 schools just in the borough of Havering, we have so many great teachers who collectively could support, share and improve the way Design and Technology are delivered to our pupils. Hopefully, with the success of this first event, we can build a fantastic network for Design and Technology teachers all over Havering and beyond.

This article was originally printed in the October 2015 edition of UKEdMagazine

Click here to freely read the full version online

Lee Parish is subject Leader for Design & Technology at Sacred Heart of Mary Girls’ School in Upminister, and creator of DT Hub London. Find her on Twitter at @MissParishDT

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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