The Sustainable Design Award
James Pitt

Report by Sarah Codrington

The aims of the Sustainable Design Award (SDA) are to improve the profile of sustainable design amongst key professionals within specific and appropriate areas of curricula in England and Wales, and to enable effective delivery and take-up of sustainable design as an integral part of the curriculum.

Through the SDA resources were developed by Practical Action, the Centre for Alternative Technology and the University of Loughborough for teaching sustainable technology.  There were workshops for teachers and in-school student support. In addition, curriculum policy makers were lobbied. The approach recruits teachers into sustainable design framework and provides avenues for those converted to the idea.

The University of York did an evaluation of the SDA. We found that there were three different types of teacher involved.  The need for sustainability has little impact on ‘surfers’ who are looking for the next new thing to sustain interest.  The ‘seekers’ are prepared to take an interest and change their practice – they are looking for a coherent way to teach design and sustainability provides it.   ‘Devotees’ are keen already on sustainability. The key finding is that CPD needs to be tailored accordingly. This supports the findings of Harland and Kinder who stress the importance of ‘values congruence’ in effective CPD.

The DCSF is encouraging sustainable schools, but heads are too busy to have heard of this joined-up thinking. At the same time there is a big drive towards linking subjects through STEM. Nineteenth-century subject boundaries are about power rather than students’ learning. Science, maths and technology need to come together. Let’s blur the boundaries and provide help with developing thinking skills. Linking STEM and sustainability is a way of doing this.

We need a better understanding of sustainability: at present it is acceptable to leave carbon dioxide behind but not sweet wrappers!


In discussion the following points were made.

Head-teachers are going to have to take notice of sustainability because it will be in the SEF next year. In future 30% of the D&T GCSE will be about sustainability.

There is plenty of maths in sustainability – for instance recycling aluminium cans does not work because a proportion is lost each time.