Design and technology education “is at crisis point”

The Design & Technology Association is launching a campaign to head off what it calls a “catastrophic” decline in D&T education in the UK.

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Design and technology education in the UK is at “crisis point”, according to an industry body which is pushing for wide-ranging reforms to save the subject.

The Design & Technology Association is launching the Designed and Made in Britain campaign to push for changes to ensure that D&T remains a key part of British education.

Speaking at the campaign launch, D&T Association chief executive Richard Green says the subject is currently at “crisis point” at primary and secondary level.

“Two-tier” system

Green says a “two-tier” system has developed in teaching, with D&T marginalised in favour of “top tier” subjects such as English and mathematics.

Green says: “At primary level for example, 50% of teaching will be dedicated to English and maths. D&T – if it is lucky – will get about 5% of teaching time.”

As well as this marginalisation, the D&T Association points to figures that show a severe drop in both numbers of D&T teachers and numbers of pupils studying the subject.

Teacher recruitment 50% below target

The association’s research shows that recruitment into D&T initial teacher training has been 50% below target for the past two years, and claims that there at least 1,200 fewer D&T teachers in the system than are needed.

Moreover, the number of pupils taking D&T GCSE fell by 50% between 2003 and 2014.

The D&T Association points to discrepancies in bursary incentives as well as a general lack of commitment from government to design education.

Not valued by senior managers

While a trainee maths teacher will receive a bursary incentive of £30,000, a trainee D&T teacher will receive £12,000.

Research released last year by the National Society for Art and Education in Design shows that just 32% of teachers believe art, craft and design is highly valued by managers.

Central to the D&T Association’s campaign is the claim that lack of investment in D&T education will lead to a future skills shortage in key areas such as engineering and design.

Skills shortage

The association claims that the UK will need 1.82 million new engineers in the decade up to 2022 and 1 million people to fill new creative jobs by 2030.

SeymourPowell co-founder Dick Powell, show spoke at the campaign launch, said that focusing on the skills shortage was a key way of getting government to take notice of the campaign.

Powell says: “The rise of the creative industries mirrors the rise of D&T in schools [it became part of the National Curriculum in 1989].

“If D&T is cut I don’t think government realises how bad the crisis is going to be.”

What should be done?

To address the decline of D&T teaching, the D&T Association is calling for:

  • A creative and/or technical subject to be made compulsory at Key Stage 4;
  • Bursary incentive for trainee D&T teacher to be increased to encourage more to join;
  • Giving D&T GCSE and GCE qualifications credibility in universities;
  • Promoting a wider understanding and appreciation of D&T and its career paths; and
  • Requiring Ofsted to acknowledge D&T’s contribution to young people’s learning.

Green says: “D&T is now facing a perfect storm of challenges.

“We believe this is catastrophic, both for individual pupils who are missing out on an education that prepares them to live and work in our designed, made and increasingly technical world, but also for the UK economy, which depends on a supply of creative, innovative, technically proficient young people.”

Discover more:

• More able pupils ‘discouraged’ from studying design, teachers say

• Education reforms “could force creative subjects out of schools”

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