GCSE results bring to light 10% drop in students taking D&T

The continued decline in uptake is expected to continue, as the EBacc qualification becomes compulsory at GCSE-level this year.


Mid adult Hispanic woman is teaching middle school or junior high school class about audio engineering. Teacher is using electronic or robotic parts to help students create speakers. Preteen Indian and Caucasian girls are smiling while studying STEM. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math are focus of private school class.

There has been a 10% decrease in the number of students taking Design & Technology as a GCSE subject, according to figures released by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) to coincide with today’s GCSE results.

The figures show one of the most significant drops in the subject’s history at GCSE level, with a UK wide decrease of 9.5% from 204,788 in 2015 to 185,279 this year.

In England, the number of students taking D&T at GCSE has also dropped by 9.7% from 192,183 to 173,532.

Continued decline since 2004

The figures signal the subject’s continued decline at GCSE level, as UK-wide uptake has decreased from 440,000 in 2004 to less than 190,000 this year.

Design and Technology Association chief executive Richard Green, says: “This decline started with the removal of the requirement for all pupils to study D&T GCSE in 2004 and has continued, particularly over the last four years, as the Government has prioritised traditional, English Baccalaureate (Ebacc), subjects over creative, artistic and technical subjects.”

This downward trend revealed by today’s figures is likely to continue further, as the EBacc qualification, first introduced in 2010, becomes compulsory this year.

EBacc “devalues” art and design subjects

The EBacc will force GCSE students to study English, Maths, Science, a language and a humanity, and has come under scrutiny from politicians and creative leaders saying the move will “devalue” art and design subjects.

In recognition of Design and Technology’s importance to industry, Michelle Donelan MP is campaigning to have D&T included within the Ebacc school league table measure, with the support of designers including Sir James Dyson.

“It is imperative that Government prevents this pivotally important subject from being side-lined by declaring, now, that the reformed D&T GCSE will be an Ebacc subject,” says Dyson.

“This is the only way to send a clear signal that all young people – including the best and brightest – should be encouraged to pursue D&T.”

D&T’s role in success at University level

Today’s figures come as a new study by the University of Bath shows that studying D&T is one of the top three factors underpinning success at University level engineering disciplines.

Compiled by Paul McCombie, admissions tutor and deputy department head of architecture and civil engineering at University of Bath, the figures are based on an internal analysis of 200 graduates of Civil Engineering, 2013 to 2016, and correlate A-level subjects to degree performance.

Today’s figures also show a decline in uptake of Art and Design at GCSE level across the UK, with a 5.9% drop from 194,637 last year to 183,085 this year.

Discover more

More students taking on design at university, A-Level results reveal


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