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Richard Green

Designed and made in Britain?

Campaign aims to stop decline in students taking design and tech subjects at A-level

Posted by Stephanie Broad | October 20, 2015 | Teaching

The “Designed and Made in Britain…?” campaign, launched at the RSA in London, is designed to draw urgent attention to education sector’s drive for league table success and Ofsted approval that is pushing Design & Technology and other creative subjects into an academic backwater.

Since 2004, the UK has seen the numbers of students taking D&T GCSEs drop by more than half, yet at the same time politicians are demanding more great British design to bolster British manufacturing and, in turn, balance the economy.

The “Designed and Made in Britain…?” campaign is being promoted by the Design and Technology Association, the UK’s only professional association for all those involved in D&T education, and is supported by elite industry names including Sir James Dyson, Lord Bamford and Williams F1.

Richard Green, CEO of the Design & Technology Association, said: “Much work is taking place in schools to raise standards. However, the Government’s focus on traditional academic subjects, via the Ebacc accountability measure, means that creative and technical subjects are fighting for curriculum survival and, as a result, we risk throwing the innovation baby out with the education bathwater.”

Design and Technology (D&T) is both a creative and technical subject. Yet, it is suffering a serious decline in schools and under-recruitment of teachers applying to train to teach it. Examples of this decline include:

  • A 50% reduction in D&T GCSE entries since 2004
  • A 2,000 shortfall in recruitment of D&T teachers over the last three years, resulting in
  • Two in every three schools being short of a D&T teacher by this time next year

Speaking at the campaign launch, Dr Rhys Morgan commented: “D&T is a key subject in drawing the next generation towards engineering. It makes a critical link between science, mathematics and provides the real-world contexts in which these subjects are applied through design. With the UK facing critical shortages of engineers over the next five years, it is imperative that we do all we can to provide as many learning opportunities for students to develop skills in design & engineering and also to see the immense variety of exciting, creative opportunities that design, engineering and technology careers can bring.

“However, D&T is not just about future engineers. It is the only subject in the curriculum where young people can learn about the world they live in – not the natural world – but the ‘made’ world, with which they interact far more frequently.

“By teaching D&T, we are ensuring that all children are not just passive bystanders in our increasingly technology-driven world, but are informed citizens who understand how design impacts on their quality of life and how technology can be used for the benefit of mankind.”

As part of its campaign, the Design & Technology Association is calling on the Government to recruit more D&T teachers. The Association also wants the Government to change the accountability measures by which schools are judged to include a creative and technical subject so that students leave school with skills that will not just get them a job but, in many cases, provide a lucrative career path, given the skill shortages in the sector.

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