The report is the first study to examine trends in the subject in the last decade and shows a worrying drop off in students taking D&T at GCSE level, alongside a decline of students at A level.
The research was supported by the ERA Foundation alongside The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), The Design and Technology Association, The James Dyson Foundation and Foster + Partners.
The key finding of the reports are –
- The number of students entering D&T qualifications has declined considerably in recent years: just 22% of GCSE students had at least one D&T entry in 2020, compared to 44% in 2009.
- In 2009, there were 280,000 total GCSE D&T subject entries – but by 2020 this had fallen to 136,000.
- Entries at 16-19 study have also declined by 2020 – around 2% of students entered a Design and Technology A level or a level 3 vocational engineering qualification.
The report highlights that as more students now opt for vocational engineering qualifications there is a drop-off in D&T uptake, and also found that GCSE students attending free schools and sponsored academies are less likely to enter D&T, while at A level, students in independent schools are most likely to enter the subject.
The research found significant local and regional variation in D&T take up. Nearly 40% of pupils took D&T at GCSE in Herefordshire, compared to only 4% of pupils in Middlesbrough.
Andrew Everett, CEO and Executive Secretary of the ERA Foundation, said that “the ERA Foundation is pleased to have supported this report. We acknowledge the concern related to the decline in young people undertaking Design and Technology qualifications and in particular the decline in D&T teachers, as teachers are known to be key influencers in young people’s career pathway decision making”.
“D&T is a key subject that provides young people with skills and techniques useful for careers in engineering. As the report states, England has a strong reputation in engineering and design and the study of relevant subjects such as D&T is critical if young people are to progress into engineering and manufacturing career pathways necessary to support these sectors and to bridge the growing skills gap.”
The new findings on the state of D&T come as the government continues to roll out a series of major reforms to vocational education in England, including the introduction of T levels, apprenticeship reforms, and Institutes of Technology. The continued decline in GCSE Design and Technology entries is cause for great concern. While the government is investing the number of young adults qualified in areas related to design, technology and engineering, the current strategy runs counter to this ambition and neglects these subjects at GCSE age, meaning entry numbers will continue to fall.