Design and technology ‘marginalised’, teachers say

The BBC is reporting from the Great British Make Off competition – designed to boost D&T in schools – and highlights concerns from teachers over the future of the subject…

…Richard Green, chief executive of the Design and Technology Association, which represents the subject’s teachers, said the competition aimed to boost D&T in schools “because it’s the only place in the curriculum where practical problem-solving takes place”.

Still one of the most popular GCSEs, it was being marginalised by government changes and, without intervention from ministers, may even cease to exist within five years, he added…

D&T became part of the national curriculum in 1989, compulsory for five- to 16-year-olds.

The design element was what made it different from the craft skills previously taught in schools, Mr Green said.

“It is not woodwork, not metalwork, not needlework, and it is not cookery,” he said in his speech congratulating the winners.

Pupils worked with the latest materials and technologies – with computer-aided design and manufacturing techniques such as 3D printers, laser cutters and robotics available in some schools, he said.

Ramneek, from Beal High School, in Essex, chose to embed a GPS chip into bike handlebars and design a computer app to track it in case it was lost or stolen.

Her teacher, Lucy Joseph, said Ramneek had really understood the design brief and thought about it carefully…

Mr Green said the emphasis on D&T in schools since 1989 had contributed in no small part to the UK’s international success in design, a sector employing some two million people and contributing more than £70bn a year to the UK economy…

D&T is not included in the government’s English Baccalaureate (EBacc) school-performance measure of good grades in a set of key subjects…

D&T had been retained in the new national curriculum but only just, Mr Green said.

At one point there had been fears it might be left out entirely. And now, instead of being compulsory from five to 16, as it had been in the old curriculum, it was mandatory only until the age of 14, he said.

Understandably teachers had been put off specialising in the subject in their initial training, so there was now a shortfall in their numbers of about 1,200, Mr Green said.

Some head teachers still misunderstood the subject, he added, confusing it with the old-fashioned craft subjects it had replaced and had reacted to teacher shortages by cutting teaching time.

The upshot is numbers taking D&T GCSE have dropped from about 450,000 10 years ago to just over 230,000 now.

This is despite skills education being singled out by ministers as vital to our economic future…

More at: Design and technology ‘marginalised’, teachers say


The skills involved in D&T seem to be the kind industry is calling out for so is it potentially a bit of an own-goal for the subject to be fearing for its viability in schools? Please tell us how you see it in the comments or via Twitter…


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  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Politicians seem hell bent on getting every young person into university meaning that practical subjects/careers disappear

  2. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Practical subjects aren’t done at university so MPs not interested. Tradespeople will be a rarity in a decade or two

  3. PrincesBold

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove Absolutely right, having left the poor academy they arrive at college without Maths and English GCSEs #DoOne

  4. andylutwyche

    kitandrew1 SchoolsImprove Agreed! The marginalisation of practical subjects will come back to bite the nation at some point

  5. kitandrew1

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove but it’s ok as long as immigrants fill the skills gaps…apparently…unless we close borders UKIP style.

  6. andylutwyche

    kitandrew1 SchoolsImprove We’ll have a load of unemployed British people with degrees & loads of skilled tradespeople from other countries

  7. andylutwyche

    kitandrew1 SchoolsImprove The incumbents of Westminster have no idea what their actions are building to and all will suffer

  8. andylutwyche

    “kitandrew1: andylutwyche SchoolsImprove *hopes sarcasm was evident in last tweet…and no one thinks I was serious…” I realised!

  9. andylutwyche

    kitandrew1 SchoolsImprove Indeed – story of bricklayers flown in from Portugal on £1000 per week last week I think

  10. Janet2

    Watched BBC’s ‘Canterbury Cathedral’ – featured apprentice gardener designing the Easter Garden and a young stonemason who could recognise the column he’d carved by his marks.  But jobs such as these are not valued by politicians – uni is the only worthwhile goal.


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