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Bring real-world production methods to your class and take control of resources and cost.

Naturally, with Design and technology, the need for various materials, equipment and resources can be high. Key National Curriculum objectives focus on developing designing, making and cooking skills. However, it is not always essential to provide each pupil with their own set of resources; there are valuable lessons to be learned when forming part of a team, pair or assembly line.

 

Benefits of teamwork:

When working together, pupils get the opportunity to develop their:

  • Communication and listening skills.
  • Ability to make complex decisions and compromise.
  • Respect for others and self-confidence.
  • Problem-solving.
  • Resilience.

 

Below are three production methods that can be used to deliver Design and technology lessons with a difference and provide the teacher with more control to manage the cost and number of resources required to complete each unit.

 

Mass production

 

Limits resources to a set number of your choosing. Ensure there is still the opportunity for every child to complete various parts of the process in the assembly line.

Mass production is also known as flow or continuous production. Identical products are created continuously as part of an assembly line. Today most are put together by highly technical automated machinery controlled by pre-written programs, sensors and robotics. Humans are only required to fulfil specialist roles such as machine maintenance or to start the manufacturing process by loading the raw materials.


In this instance, we will step back in time when robotics and automation were less frequent and allow the pupils to fulfil the role of managing a station along an assembly line. Each pupil (or pair/group) will carry out one specific job contributing to the next stage in the process. An assembly line can apply to many units within Design and technology. It is particularly suited to projects that require multiple parts such as the Year 5 Automata or Year 6 Bridge unit, this is because it gives more pupils the opportunity to work on the same product. You will need to consider what each of the steps will be and how many assembly lines you will have. For example, you could have a five-stage process with three assembly lines and pairs on each station.


The mass production method will drive your class to work together and consider products that are required by them collectively or to fulfil the needs and wants of others. You may provide the class with ideas for this or set them a challenge to consider where a product may be helpful in the classroom or for upcoming events. For example, book sleeves for a storybook they all have access to. By switching the focus of the product to a collective goal, you are changing the mindset that the product will be for themselves or a friend or family member — something pupils are very used to in Design and technology. 

To differentiate this method, mix a range of abilities to work on stations in pairs or small groups—this way, the pupils can support and learn from each other.

Please refer to the Presentation: Mass production

Batch production

 

Limit the resources to a set number of groups or pairs.

Products are created in batches (groups) using an assembly line. When one batch is complete, the next batch will start — it might be similar but with some differences in colour, taste, or material. Each product within a batch is identical.

Batch production in the classroom allows you to organise the pupils into teams to create a different batch of the same product. Food products lend themselves particularly well to this method and you or the pupils can tweak the recipes for each team to complete. Another reason for this is quite often, a recipe will make more than one serving, and it is a way of avoiding pupils creating multiple servings each.

The batch production method will encourage your class to work together in teams and consider products that are required collectively or to fulfil the needs and wants of others. You may provide the class with ideas for this or set them a challenge to consider where a series of products may be helpful in the classroom or for upcoming events—for example, batches of savoury and sweet tarts where the base recipe is the same but the additional ingredients vary with each batch.

To differentiate this method, consider how each assembly line’s product outcome could provide stretch to those more able and allow pupils to practise essential skills for those requiring more support. For example, one batch may be more complex with additional details and another larger with fewer decorative elements.


Please refer to the Presentation: Batch production

Job production

 

Each pupil creates their own product.


Job production is also known as one-off or unique production. This method focuses on bespoke products that are made one at a time, for a specific user or set of criteria. Most of our Design and technology projects suggest providing pupils with the opportunity to create their own product across a unit.

This approach allows children to:

  • Extend their creativity to something that is wholly their own idea.
  • Explore and experiment with a variety of methods without relying on the skill and knowledge of others.
  • Enable pupils to develop their skills and knowledge as an individual.

Many industries rely on job production, especially those that cater to personalised events and customised sizes, such as special occasions and milestones. You could even consider landmarks such as Big Ben.

Please refer to the Presentation: Job production

 


Each pupil within a class or team must have the opportunity to complete various stages of an assembly line, even if you reduce the amount of time spent on each step, for example, by halving the load of measuring, marking out and sawing wood for products with multiples of the same parts. Pupils will still need to experience new and continue to develop existing practical skills, followed by time to reflect on their progress during and after each project. Evidence pupil progress, by taking photographs as they work together and on various stages of the product.


Demonstrate how materials and other resources can be recycled and reused in projects and touch upon the current sustainability problems that we face today. Encourage staff and pupils to collect and store unused materials and scraps from previous projects in a designated storage area or box. They can be beneficial when pupils decorate and finalise their designs, giving them plenty of options for creativity.

The Design and technology – Resources and costings sheet: 

DT Costings sample
Design and technology – Resources and costings sheet

Another considerable benefit of approaching the units in an alternative way (mass or batch) is to reduce the overall unit cost.

Resources will instead account for the number of products you decide for each production method to make, whether this is along an assembly line in mass production or as part of a batch. 

The Design and technology – Resources and costings sheet allows you to estimate the costs of equipment and resources required for each Design and technology unit. Using the yellow cells, you can amend some of the data to inform its formula to calculate estimated costs.  Adapt this spreadsheet to your pupils and classes (for example, considering any dietary requirements), or if you prefer to deliver a unit using the mass or batch production methods outlined above.

Please note: The information in this spreadsheet is estimated only and will depend on what is available from your chosen suppliers and within your local area. The remaining items from multiple-piece packs of equipment and resources can carry over into other year groups or classes.

Health and safety note:
To ensure the safety of your pupils and staff, consider using a signing in and out sheet for equipment that carries a higher risk, especially those for cutting and shaping. Establish class routines, health and safety rules and expectations before beginning any project that involves practical aspects. 

Refer to our Design and technology – Risk assessment for further guidance.

DT Risk assessment sample
DT Risk assessment guidance
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Written by:
Rebecca Walsh

Rebecca is a passionate Design and technology specialist with seven years of experience delivering and leading the subject. Rebecca has previously taught across all of the D&T curriculum strands, including STEM clubs and extra-curricular activities such as RAF Project X, to Keystages 1-4 and SEND classes. Rebecca believes in providing children with real-world scenarios and knowledge to inspire and instil an appreciation and love for product design.  Alongside her pedagogical background, Rebecca also holds a professional degree in Graphic design, with particular interests in illustration and communication.
Rebecca has created a range of units, including our Digital world series.