Schools “squeezing the life” from manufacturing

Posted on 21 Aug 2014 by Victoria Fitzgerald

Despite the amount of young people gaining A*- C grades in GCSE exams increasing for the first time in three years, a decline in the uptake of design and technology, as well as marginalisation of practical subjects could spell trouble for the manufacturing talent pool.

This year’s high quality GCSE D&T results demonstrate the potential of young people in designing and using hand, machine and computer-aided manufacturing technologies.

However, Richard Green, CEO of the Design & Technology Association is concerned about the future of the subject and the position of other practical disciplines in the national curriculum.

Green fears that the continued drop in the uptake of D&T at GCSE and A-level may undermine Britain’s solid manufacturing reputation.

Commenting, Mr green said: “A three per cent drop in students taking design and technology at GCSE – 6,302 fewer in total – paints a dire picture for the subject, but the reality is likely to get far, far worse.

“The English Baccalaureate (EBacc), which schools are now judged on, marginalises creative and practical subjects in favour of a very narrow set of academic measures.

“The manufacturing industry makes a vital contribution to the UK economy, but the constraints EBacc places on schools is squeezing the life out of the very subjects upon which Britain’s future as a global powerhouse is built.

“Twenty-five years ago Britain became the first country in the world to enshrine design and technology in the National Curriculum.

“Today, as booming economies in the Far East look to copy the model Britain pioneered, we face the very real prospect that design and technology could disappear entirely from many schools within the next five years.”

The drop in uptake of students embarking on GCSE D&T follows last week’s reports of the decline in young people taking the subject at A-level.

In addition, the number of entries for 15 year olds taking science has dropped by 35%, driven by changes to school accountability measures whereby the first result a student gets for any exam is counted towards the school performance league tables.

There were also substantial reductions to the number of entries for 16 year olds to biology, which fell by 18%, chemistry dropped 6% and physics decreased by 14%.

21,000 students took further additional science and entries for science has increased 24%.

The total number of entries for 16 year olds taking science of all forms has stayed relatively stable, up 0.7% from last year, despite the overall cohort size reducing 2.1%.

CaSE assistant director Naomi Weir said: “Congratulations to all young people receiving their GCSE results today.

“Science and maths provide a great grounding for all sorts of careers, from becoming a scientist or engineer to marketing, finance or starting a business.

“Whether it’s a love of being inquisitive, solving problems or exploring the world around us, we encourage all students to continue and enjoy studying science at A-level and beyond.

“We want to see all schools offering high quality options for studying Biology, Chemistry and Physics to all young people up to 16.

“That will require sufficient resources for labs and practicals, specialist teachers with up-to-date subject knowledge and some stability in the system.

“We want to see stability that enables teachers to focus on equipping our young people to explore the micro and macro wonders of the natural world rather than navigating complex new system changes.”

Just over 68.8% of exam entries were within the A*to C bracket, a boost of 0.7 % points on last summer. Maths results were significantly higher and English results saw a small rise.

Once again, girls were ahead in the pass rate at grade C and above, with 73.1% of girls’ entries scoring A*- C compared with 64.3% of boys’.