Transcripts on government websites of speeches by politicians and officials are usually accompanied by the speaker’s mugshot. But this wasn’t the case when Ofsted published the speech by Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman at the V&A yesterday.
Spielman was discussing Design and Technology in English schools. What better to illustrate the theme than a knitted doll of the Ofsted chief.
The National Curriculum for Key Stages One and Two, Spielman said, requires children ‘to critique, evaluate and test ideas and products and the work of others.’ Let’s apply this to the knitted amanda spielman.
Design: Spielman’s nose was rather big. Her tiny red mouth was barely visible over the chunky scarf. All the better to muffle her, perhaps. And the hair! Oh, dear, the hair. Spielman is always elegantly coiffed. This mannequin had an unruly mop of yellow tendrils more reminiscent of a well-known politician with prime ministerial ambitions. The ‘pearl’ earrings were a nice touch.
Purpose: There was no doubt about what the crocheted model of Michael Gove was to be used for. It was a pin cushion. But there’s no suggestion that the Spielman doll is for this purpose. Voodoo, perhaps? No – the doll looks more like a no-nonsense granny than something to be used in black magic. It could be used as a toy if the earrings and buttons were removed.
Execution: Skilfully knitted with even tension and no holes. Except for the hair. Poor choice of splitting thread didn’t capture Spielman’s sleek bob.
Testing: This is important. As Spielman said, if testing is left out then children ‘don’t learn to refine and develop their first ideas into something that worked.’ How then, do we test the doll? It depends on the purpose, of course. Ornament or toy?
Purpose One: Ornament. Unlikely to stand or sit upright on desk. Would need propping up. Refine design by supporting doll on stand or inserting pipe cleaners up the legs.
Purpose Two: Toy. This could be tested in several ways:
1 Give to several toddlers. Take note of reaction.
2 Give to pet dog. See if it will withstand shaking and pulling.
3 Make several prototypes. Subject each one to a different cleaning programme (eg hand or machine wash, air or tumble dry). Record consequences.
4 Refine design according to results.
Could the idea be extended for different models? The answer is yes. We’ve already seen how crochet can be used for satire. But let’s consider a wider purpose. Pictures of similar artefacts could be used to illustrate all transcripts and announcements on government websites. Wooden carvings, perhaps. Lego models. Sculptures made of discarded plastic. Ice statues (melt when heat applied). Origami (would suit paper tigers). A gateau (all icing but no cake).
I’ll leave readers to decide which material would be most appropriate for a given politician.
Schools Week reports Spielman’s speech here.
UPDATE 18 july 13.55: A response to Spielman's speech has been posted on Nottingham Institute of Education blog. It argues that Spielman appears to treat D&T as if it were solely a vocational subject rather than a creative one. As such, the author argues, it will always be seen as inferior to academic GCSEs.