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Design Cast 28 - James Bleach - JambleD&T


James Bleach: Head of Design and Technology at

Originally from the UK, first post abroad, designing the department as well as the curriculum as a new subject to the school... Started teaching in Leeds, West Yorkshire, as classroom teacher then head of resistant materials. Moved to Suffolk to become head of D&T then Head of Creative Arts.
Started sharing my resources online through dropbox, quickly became too big to handle and placed all resources on with a dedicated Facebook network group. Instagram, Twitter etc to support.

Can you elaborate on your experiences that lead up to you becoming a teacher?

Both parents are/were Teachers and I had no intention of following! I spent a month in Virginia, USA when I finished high school and decorated a local primary school’s Nurses office and reception area with Disney characters (king Louis with the fluey etc). Returned to UK wanting to work in a primary school, trained as a primary teacher with D&T, switched to secondary after completing a placement in a high school so completed my PGCE after my degree.

Describe your school situation RE: Design program:

Phased introduction of programme here, I turned an old canteen into a huge workshop, featuring a ‘shed’ prep area, design room, workshop, CAD and CAM areas. We started by delivering to Y9, then 9&10, increasing each year and now years 9-12. We teach GCSE and A level and have just merged with Science faculty.
First teacher started with me last year. Designing phase 2 at the moment which is a fitness suite conversion which will allow us to go down into Y7 and 8. Also working with juniors and infants and aligning D&T progression framework so that skills are taught from Nursery all the way through.

What has been easy for implementation regarding Design? Where have you found resources?

I create a lot of resources as have always been an ‘idea generator’, I’m inspired very easily but also had the bonus of working with some fantastic people across the years too. Trained Teachers for Cambridge Uni so Bill Nichol influenced my approach. Great believer in designing to help others as opposed to some of the more traditional approaches of allowing students to design for themselves.
I love to network, have some fantastic Teachers I communicate regularly with around the world. Some wonderful resources out there like the ‘Big life fix’, the more you share these ideas, the more the associations etc get on board and encourage industry links, LinkedIn has been awesome as so many out there want to get in touch and help out. We are also located in the STEM centre of Singapore. Kids, parents and teachers are pretty much on board here, takes a little work but when they see so much creativity and opportunity, enthusiasm etc, who wouldn’t love it!

What have been some challenges? How have you addressed these challenges?

Really smooth transition here as it has been years on the planning, incredibly positive working environment and also the senior management have been amazing, it makes such a difference. The biggest challenges in creating a new subject is that it has to replace something else, this has been a learning curve but generally understood and accepted.
Other challenges can be the change in culture, lack of DIY ethos, ease at which you can get resources compared to the UK. This is also where the network of D&T Teachers is important, we all help each other out. I suppose one fear/challenge I had to get used to is that everyone is on a 2 year contract here, so nothing is set in stone for the long term, you have to remember that and make sure that the purpose and value of the subject is there.

What is your vision for the Design programme at your school?

I initially planned out a series of phases.
1, introduce D&T and a multi-discipline workshop.
2, develop a strong GCSE and A-level/IB uptake.
3, expand the staffing and design a full department.
4, align our integrated technology teams at infants and juniors with senior D&T to have a powerful curriculum that maps through from Nursery to Y13.

What are you really excited about at the moment?

Everything! I just love all aspects of my job/career. I get excited in individual lessons to ideas/new directions for future projects, collaborating with other schools and companies, taking part in networking and consultancy, welcoming guests to the department, showing anyone and everyone that walks through our doors what we’re about. Even looking at a space and coming up with a new resource or plan for it.
What is one EdTech Tool you cannot live without?
Too many to say really, best but of tech for the last few years is my iPad Pro, I try not to take it for granted because just having new computers and decent internet is the game changer, fusion 360, the ability to design and make in minutes through CAD/CAM, MS Teams and OneNote, exploring digital portfolios and developing live policies and handbooks.
What book would you recommend that everyone read right now?
I have lots for reference on designers and eras. I like;
‘Universal principles of design’ by William Lidwell,
Phaidon’s ‘Dieter Rams: As little design as possible’,
I also love the magazines you get though like Dezeen, Cubes, coolhunting etc for inspiration.
Who do we need to follow on Twitter at the moment?
My pal @TopBrum, collaborated with Dave Bausor for many years, full of ideas too,
@kerry_truman has probably inspired me the most over the years, based as a lead technician at Nottingham Trent Uni but will always try what you can’t and give you feedback, helps Teachers and students throughout the country! Loads on my twitter account, too many to mention!
Best YouTube channel for educators?
Jude Pullen is my favourite at the moment, check out his lockdown lectures and ‘laterally speaking’ series
Where do you go to get inspiration?
People: those mentioned above, my Facebook group too as a really positive environment. Definitely my team (Conor, Eric and other staff) and pupils at Tanglin Trust School as they are the ones who I kick around ideas with the most. My pal John Zobrist at UWC East, really knows his stuff, I met him at the conference in Dubai and he was a huge factor in me being up for relocating to Singapore. My wife Jemma and my parents as they have always encouraged me to share and develop what I do. In general, anywhere I suppose, I just keep my phone handy as always taking pictures of things that spark ideas! Loving the podcasts at the mo, didn’t really listen to them before lockdown but now regularly tune in to yours, Dr Alison Hardy’s ‘talking D&T’ and the D&T association have started ‘Designed for life’

How can people connect with you?

Twitter: @jambledandt @EDU_jbleach
Instagram: jambledandt
Website or Blog:
Facebook Page: JambleD&T group
YouTube Channel: as above but not used a great deal

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