Design is shared within the curriculum by two subjects which both embrace aspects of design, but without clear delineation in the scope of their teaching of specialist knowledge and of process.
- The study of design and technology seeks to prepare students to participate confidently and successfully in an increasingly technological world; and be aware of, and learn from, wider influences on design and technology, including historical, social/cultural, environmental and economic factors.
- This contrasts with the approach to design taken in art and design, where we are far more concerned with the aesthetic, the style, appearance and the concept behind a creative product.
- Following the introduction of the national curriculum in England and the Regions in the late 80's and early 90's, we have shifted our interpretation of design in art and design, alongside the increasing development of design within Technology and then the D&T curriculum. This may have resulted in a decreasing focus on ‘design’ per-se, replaced by greater emphasis on sketchbooks and more ‘fine-art’ associated language of sketching, mark-making and expressive approaches. This occurred alongside an increased focus on looking at the work of artists in preference to designers, architects, bespoke design products and crafts.
- Teachers may want to Audit their art and design curriculum and reconsider the breath and balance of their provision, their learning activities, media and the experiences they provide.
Download the Expert Subject Advisory Group Art and Design Audit Tool here (PDF)
- When designing, for example, an installation, a mural for a staircase, a piece of sculpture for a landscape, a surface pattern for fabric, wallpaper or decorative products etc, artists use design to enable them to find creative solutions to practical, material and aesthetic problems. Young artists and designers may choose to emphasise environmental and sustainable approaches through, for example, the selection of recycled materials, but in examinations in art and design, they will not be tested and assessed against the technical knowledge assessment expectations, as defined within the D&T examination specifications. Each subject, therefore, has a unique contribution to children’s learning.
Design in the Curriculum following the introduction of the National Curriculum
Changes in the design content or emphasis within the art and design curriculum, suggest a steady reduction in the focus on design since the introduction of the national curriculum at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s. Up to this point, there had been a range of national design education initiatives within art and design, along with positive moves to increase the scope of design education as part of a national approach to future careers and prosperity.
- The introduction of the Technology curriculum seemed to infer the movement of some of the design related content from the art and design curriculum into what would become the D&T curriculum, including particular approaches to graphic design and textile design. This was made more evident in those schools that explored both carousel and themed approaches to the teaching of art and design alongside the introduction of the new new Technology curriculum and prior to the Art curriculum being published. The publication of the art and design national curriculum in 1992 coincided with many teachers of art and design welcoming the opportunity to focus exclusively on planning and teaching for art, craft and design, without having to incorporate faculty specified themes.
- When the national curriculum for Art was introduced in 1992, the D&T curriculum was already becoming well-established. Although this published guidance set out a broad art, craft and design curriculum (exemplified in publications by very broad areas of experience), many teachers were challenged to deliver on this, because of falling budgets and a belief in schools that there was no longer a requirement to continue to teach some areas of specialist experience now perceived as being covered by D&T, such as three-dimensional design, graphic communications and textiles.
- These beliefs were further reinforced by the title of the subject as 'Art', which coincided with the shorthand terms used by D&T teachers to describe Graphical Products and Textiles Technology GCSEs as 'Graphics' and 'Textiles'. Terms also used in art, craft and design to describe similar areas of experience and Endorsed GCSE specifications. This also led to a withdrawal of some art and design teachers from feeling any necessity to cover these experiences in KS3, accelerated by tightening budgets and contributing to a perception that these areas of design were now more associated with D&T, than with Art (in art, craft and design activities).
- Within the last quarter century or so, we have seen some reduction in the emphasis placed on Design in art and design, this is despite career progression into the creative and design industries continuing to operate predominantly through art and design. This curriculum narrowing is particularly seen in those schools seeking to appoint art and design teachers within a more limited range of specialist experience. We only need to reflect on how few schools have advertised for a ceramicist, sculptor or textile designer in recent decades, further defining the scope of the subject towards fine art and painting as a first priority. Such actions have also been taken in response to the falling subject budgets, where a narrower curriculum has enabled subject leaders to provide high quality experience, but in a more limited breadth of provision.
- Over the same period, the emphasis on sustaining or raising GCSE outcome results has resulted in many subject leaders defaulting to a narrower secondary curriculum designed to result in reliable outcomes that an art and design department could afford to teach and would guarantee a strong likelihood of success.
- It is no surprise, therefore, that Headteachers have inevitably been confused and have reduced provision or subject breadth in both subjects in an attempt to financially rationalise GCSE choice for their pupils.