All Party Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group debates Ebacc’s impact on design, making and creative skills

Published 21st March 2016

Richard Green, Chief Executive of the Design and Technology Association sat on the panel of an All Party Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group (APDIG) event on 17th March 2016.

The discussion event, chaired by John Pugh MP and held in the Atlee Suite, Portcullis House in the House of Commons, considered the impact of the Department for Education’s English Baccalaureate (Ebacc) on design education in schools and colleges.  The panel and guests also debated the opportunities created by the new GCSE and GCE D&T examinations and the concerns expressed by universities about incoming students demonstrating a lack of tactile and/or technical skills. 

“The “Designed and Made in Britain” event highlighted the unintentional devaluing of D&T’s curriculum currency by the DfE,” explains Richard Green.  “Until 2004 D&T was a compulsory GCSE subject, but the loss of statutory status and current accountability measures have resulted in a 50% fall in D&T GCSE entries between 2003 and 2014. This has been compounded by uncertainty about the future of D&T during the national curriculum review, which discouraged potential secondary D&T teachers from applying for Initial Teacher Training (ITT) courses. Come September 2016, there will be at least 2,000 fewer teachers than are needed – a vacancy in two in three secondary schools – that can only be exacerbated by the disparity in bursaries for trainee teachers, i.e £30,000 for maths and physics but £12,500 for D&T.  

“All this is at a time when there is a shortage of skills which is seeing manufacturing and engineering employers crying out for personnel with appropriate mind and skill sets. This situation will neither support the Government achieve its objectives of producing three million apprentices nor a re-balanced economy.”

Other speakers on the panel with Richard were Dr Elies Dekonink, Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath and Julia Bennett, Head of Policy at the Crafts Council.  Invitees to the event included, MPs, Lords and representatives from the Design Council, RIBA, the Royal College of Art, the Institute of Export, the Government Digital Service, the Creative Industries Federation, the Commonwealth Association of Science, Technology and Mathematics Educators, the London College of Fashion, the Science Museum and a number of universities.

“I should just like to thank Naomi Turner, Policy Connect Head of Group Manufacturing, Design and Innovation for organising this event in conjunction with APDIG and The Design Commission.  I enjoyed the contributions of the other speakers on the panel and the lively discussion,” continues Richard.

“It was clear from all present that there is a common view, namely that the Department for Education is inadvertently undermining the Department of Business Innovation and Skill’s ambitions for apprentices by making head teachers focus on Ebacc results, thus reducing the opportunity for D&T to feature in the school timetable. The law of unintended consequences if you will, that is damaging the pipeline for future engineers and designers.  There was also consensus that D&T helped put subjects like maths and physics into real world contexts and also made for pupils with a more-rounded education.”

Richard believes there needs to be a three-pronged solution to resolve the issues facing D&T and the skills’ shortage.

The 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
  • promote wider understanding of D&T, its contribution to STEM and to career paths in engineering and the creative industries

The examination bodies must:

  • ensure that the new D&T GCSE and A level qualifications are rigorous and challenging to increase the credibility of the subject

Employers should consider:

  • collaborating in developing real-life and relevant D&T activities and resources
  • helping D&T teachers engage with professional practice through work experience, internships and apprenticeships
  • helping to highlight D&T’s value to Government departments through their companies and professional institutions

Our  Designed and Made in Britain …?” campaign highlights the importance of D&T in a 21st century curriculum. It is supported by elite industry names from the “Best of British”, including Dyson, JCB, Williams F1, Brompton and a host of other household names.  They are all at the pinnacle of their respective industries and are crying out for the next generation of school leavers who will be capable of problem-solving and delivering innovative skills. 

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