2015 GCSE Results Announced

Published 3rd December 2015

The D&T Association is delighted to be able to congratulate all the successful D&T students, and their teachers, following this morning’s GCSE announcements.  We know the hard work that goes into achieving these results and we are also aware of the many high quality designed and made products that emanate from the students’ hard work, as part of the D&T courses they complete.

The overall A*-C pass rate has remained the same at just under 61%, but once again, the gap between boys (54%) and girls (72%) continues to be 18%. This remains a serious concern.

Even more serious is the continued decline in the size of the overall UK entry for the subject. Reflecting the ongoing drop in status and marginalization that D&T is experiencing currently, resulting in the main from changes being made to school performance measures, once again there has been a further 4% drop in the total entry number.  This follows a drop of 3% last year – a trend that started 10 years ago. This means a mere 30% of the 680,000 students in the cohort take study of the National Curriculum subject D&T through to GCSE level.  (This is turn has an impact on the numbers going on to study D&T at A level, which we commented on last week). This represents a far cry from 2003, when over a half (56%) of the cohort followed D&T examination courses and before the removal of the requirement to study National Curriculum D&T at key stage 4.

We know that D&T remains a very popular GCSE with students.  But we also know how it is under-valued by some of those who bring influence to bear on students, typically aged 13 or 14 years, making GCSE option choices. Pre-EBacc, and any talk of Progress 8 measures, D&T was always the most popular non-statutory GCSE subject.  It is obvious that the continued decline is linked to the changes being made in performance measures – albeit an unintended consequence and this must be addressed.

Equally concerning, is the failure of the system to accommodate the needs and interests of young people. Andy Mitchell (Assistant Chief Executive) said:

‘We have evidence that in some schools, students are being counselled out of following D&T routes in favour of what are being referred to as ‘academic’ subjects. We are even hearing of schools that are cutting completely the opportunity to study D&T beyond key stage 3. It is morally wrong. There will always be young people just like I was, who need access to the type and range of educational facilities and opportunities that only D&T can offer, in order that their potential can be fulfilled’.

The current review of GCSE and GCE A level examinations provides an opportunity to address this. The new GCSE that should emerge for first teaching in 2017 could offer a modern, relevant and appealing GCSE D&T qualification, that will contribute to the education of young people, and the roles they will go on to fulfill in developing the culture, wealth and well being of the nation. But if any reversal of the trend is going to gain any traction and the enormous potential the subject has to offer realised, it must be acknowledged at all levels, up to and including Government and by its ministers.

Todays’ press release by the Department for Education is quick to point out a tiny increase in the number of students entered for art and design and music thereby acknowledging the value of creative subjects of which D&T is one. But it fails to make any mention of the position facing D&T.  Indeed, its reference to STEM:

‘new figures showed entries into valuable STEM subjects including maths, science and engineering have jumped by more than 78,000 in a year,’

once again fails to recognize the opportunity being missed through not promoting D&T and the contribution it can make towards developing this all important concept. Although the number of entries for GCSE Engineering has increased, the total at 6900 is still tiny and combined with the total of 204,788 for D&T does not generate sufficient numbers to encourage Awarding Organisations to make available a discrete ‘high tech’ A level systems and control engineering route beyond 2018. 

In September, the Association will launch its latest campaign ‘Designed and made in Britain…? This will set out both the issues facing the subject and what needs to be done to address them. It will contain clear messages for Government, Awarding Organisations, D&T related employers and the D&T community.

As always, the D&T Association would be delighted to hear of any stories from schools where achievement has been high in D&T, or where an individual student has gained particular success.

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