How to lead Design and technology with confidence

Design and technology is an inspiring and technically challenging subject, and can be easily misunderstood. This blog will provide Design and technology subject leaders with top tips to help manage time effectively, bring all staff on board and support preparation for the big ‘O’ word.

You might be a subject specialist or simply have fallen into managing your school’s Design and technology scheme – either way, it can feel like a daunting prospect. 

It’s crucial to remember that the aim of your role is, first and foremost, to improve the standard of your school’s Design and technology teaching and learning. Keeping this objective in mind will help you to recognise when and where tasks need to be prioritised; for example, you might need to rethink the timings and schedules for extra-curricular activities in order to concentrate more on Design and technology. 

If possible, organise a meeting with the previous subject leader to discuss current Design and technology arrangements in your school and determine their most recent priorities and achievements for the subject over the last academic year. If this is not possible, ask where you can find any previous subject leader files so that you can read through them. 

Once you have an idea of how Design and technology operates in your school, carry out a subject audit to analyse the current provision and create an action plan for your next steps. Consider and question your current scheme’s national curriculum coverage: Are you really delivering Design and technology? Are you satisfied with the level of coverage? Are there any clear gaps in the curriculum, and how straightforward would these be to address? Our national curriculum mapping document for our Design and technology scheme will indicate which units and lessons build on the various objectives and will support you in developing a watertight scheme for your school.

Review the current assessment methods for Design and technology, and consider:

  • How is assessment carried out and evidenced?
  • How effective is the assessment? 
  • How are progress and attainment measured?
  • How are gaps in learning identified and addressed?
  • How does assessment support teaching and learning?
  • How does the school support struggling children, and what interventions are implemented as a result?

Check if your staff are equipped with the necessary resources and skills to effectively cover the national curriculum, and use this knowledge to feed into CPD opportunities. As with many specialist subjects, resources can be expensive and difficult to monitor and maintain. We’ve written a blog that provides creative ideas for switching up the delivery of units in order to reduce costs and introduce different production methods. 

Design and technology can feel very unnerving for staff who do not have much experience with practical techniques and processes or who lack subject-specific knowledge. This lack of knowledge and experience can make staff uncomfortable when supporting pupils in their practical and written work; therefore, it is essential that you understand how staff feel about the subject and identify training needs. 

Arrange to meet with staff – and teaching assistants, if possible – who are involved in teaching Design and technology, and ask questions such as:

  • How confident do you feel about teaching Design and technology?
  • Do you feel adequately equipped to deliver Design and technology?
  • Are there any key skills or processes you want to know more about?
  • Have you identified any common problem areas for your pupils in Design and technology lessons?

Including teaching assistants in the meeting and as part of the training process, especially in a hands-on subject, will enable your class team to better support pupils. Also, they will then be aware of how to rotate tasks effectively between groups when one-to-one staff supervision is required with tools or equipment. 

After the meeting, take some time to see Design and technology lessons in action across the school and at different key stages. Explain to staff that these are supportive visits, rather than observations. Their purpose is to get a feel for how Design and technology lessons are delivered across the school, and to listen to the staff and pupil voice to inform future improvements to the subject.

Once needs are identified, you can deliver and plan future CPD sessions to address any subject-specific knowledge gaps and raise the team’s confidence. Kapow Primary’s short Design and technology teacher videos can help bridge the gap in knowledge and confidence.

There are several ways to develop confidence among staff:

  • Co-teach Design and technology lessons.
  • Use our short teacher and pupil videos, which cover essential teaching skills and processes.
  • Host annual Design and technology celebration days. 
  • Hold project demonstrations during staff meetings – they will help staff identify any possible issues before delivering a project to their class and act as hands-on CPD.
  • Review and assess work together.
  • Invite staff to observe your or others’ Design and technology lessons.

Remove the surprise of an Ofsted visit by preparing all essential information and documentation in one place – your Design and technology subject leader file. You can find all ancillary documents for Design and technology across our Essential subject material (D&T) page. We have various long-term plans and accompanying documents to support those schools following an alternative delivery method, including condensed (delivered in a shorter timeframe), mixed-age (KS1, LKS2, UKS2), and those that cycle between Art and design and Design and technology


Get an intent, implementation and impact document for Design and technology in our free subject leader toolkit

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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.