Made in Britain: design or decline!

Posted on 7 Oct 2015 by Jonny Williamson

From Brunel to Dyson, British design and manufacturing has a track record which is the envy of the world, but it now faces an unprecedented threat according to the Design & Technology Association.

The threat comes not from abroad, but as a consequence of neglect and error by Britain’s leaders.

Richard Green MA, Chief Executive of the Design & Technology Association
Richard Green MA, chief executive, Design & Technology Association.

Speaking today at the launch of the Design & Technology Association’s (D&TA) Designed and Made in Britain…? campaign, its chief executive, Richard Green will declare: “D&T is a widely misunderstood and misrepresented subject.

“For too many people, including ministers; employers; admissions tutors, and parents, it is still perceived as the subject they probably studied when they were at school – woodwork or metalwork.

“In reality it is the subject which can put the T and E into STEM and does it in curriculum time, not as part of extra-curricula, enhancement and enrichment activities. It is the subject that can help attract the next generation of designers and engineers.”

Green will continue: “We believe Government must change its accountability measures to include a creative/technical subject for all pupils at Key Stage 4; address D&T teacher shortages by equalising bursary incentives to attract the best entrants into ITT; and promote wider understanding of D&T, its contribution to STEM and to career paths in engineering, manufacturing and the creative industries.”

According to the D&TA, one of the very few things that politicians of all parties find themselves agreeing on is that this country needs a balanced economy. An economy that has progressed from an over-reliance on financial services and the City and, instead, focused much more on the design and manufacture of goods, new money for old as it were.

Much work is taking place in schools to raise standards. However, 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, the country risk’s “throwing the innovation baby out with the education bath water.”

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

  • 50% reduction in D&T GCSE entries since 2004
  • 2,000 shortfall in recruitment of D&T teachers over the last 3 years, resulting in
  • 2 in every 3 schools being short of a D&T teacher by this time next year

We urgently need to rectify this situation as D&T is widely recognised for providing a massive boost to students’ ability and awareness of careers in the creative, engineering and manufacturing sectors.

The nation’s political representatives cannot allow this situation to continue, says D&TA, if they are serious in their commitment to the goal of balancing the economy.

And, continuing as they are, how are they likely to motivate take up of the much vaunted apprenticeship schemes if the education system shows scant regard and respect for the creative and technical core skills that D&T teaches?

Designed and Made in Britain…?

Re-balancing the education system equals re-balancing the economy.

D&TA’s is hoping to bring together some of the brightest minds in British design and manufacture to join its campaign, including:

  • Dick Powell – founder, Seymourpowell
  • Will Butler-Adams – CEO, Brompton
  • Dinah Casson – founder,Casson Mann and RSA Royal Designer for Industry,
  • Rhys Morgan – director of engineering education, Royal Academy of Engineering
  • David Anderson – headteacher, Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School

At today’s launch event at the Royal Academy of Arts, D&TA will call on MPs from all parties to support the campaign and commit to restoring balance in the education system and ensuring quality development and monitoring of this key educational area.

For more information about the Designed and Made in Britain …? campaign, email: [email protected] or visit