When I joined Durlston Court in 2013, design and technology was considered a bolt-on to the art department and had seen little investment over the years. I was therefore thrilled when I heard that design and technology was to feature as a priority in the school’s development plan, with significant investment available. I believe passionately that design and technology has a major role to play in preparing the current generation of children for the world of work. I practise architecture outside of school so I understand the importance of practical skills and the understanding of design disciplines in society. I also understand the relevance of new technology to industry, having 20 years’ experience of using CAD in a design office and of watching new technologies employed in the construction industry. Durlston Court had recognised that we need to equip our pupils to participate in a workforce in an era of rapid technological change and were taking steps to address this.
It was clear that the initial need within the department was one of additional space and the decision was taken to upgrade a redundant assembly hall. The design of the building was as important as the equipment. Our new design and technology centre is a large, light and airy space with high ceilings, painted brick walls and exposed roof trusses which convey its construction to the children. The environment itself has made a huge difference to the delivery of the design and technology curriculum and children love to inhabit the space.
The use of CAD CAM was central to the upgrading of facilities here. It has allowed Durlston pupils to experience the skills of industry and to experience the real wonder of producing a machine-made product, for which, via CAD, they are able to have design input. It is our intent that the department becomes a microcosm of industry and that our pupils leave Durlston with a broad knowledge of how design disciplines work and of how they apply CAD CAM.
The department now features a lot of exciting equipment, including 3D printers and a laser cutter, which supports various areas of the design and technology curriculum. Children use sewing machines from year five and into year six and they are now able to laser cut panels to sew. They solder components into Pickaxe PCB boards and have been able to 3D print components to use in other projects, such as our recent construction of a water tunnel.
We have incorporated the use of computers into the department and we have a strong STEM programme. We teach programming and coding and the children are demonstrating such a thirst for the subject.
The centre was officially opened by Professor Maggs, executive dean at the faculty of science and technology at Bournemouth University, and after the official cutting of the ribbon, guests were invited inside the centre to try out some of the activities and see the pupils in action. The guests, including parents, were amazed by the advances in technology and especially the ease with which the pupils used the equipment and demonstrated their understanding. It’s great to see a tangible display of excitement from the pupils.
It is our intention at Durlston Court that the children here are prepared for work in industry by employing a well-resourced, exciting STEM curriculum which appeals in equal measure to girls and boys. Our new centre is the start and in this rapidly changing world who knows where it will lead us?
Faye Lawrence is head of design and technology at Durlston Court Preparatory School W: www.durlstoncourt.co.uk