GCSE D&T Option Survey Results

Published 3rd December 2015

Following numerous comments in February from members regarding their experiences of this year’s annual GCSE options process, it appeared that in many schools the opportunities to study D&T were being restricted and many D&T departments were finding that their overall numbers taking the subject in September 2015 would be significantly reduced. To try and quantify the scale of the problem, the D&T Association conducted a short survey via the website and the results of are reported below.

In total, 1,300 responses were recorded. This response rate equates approximately to a third of all secondary schools. We believe that the sheer numbers of responses alone is evidence of the concern that is being felt in D&T departments and that teachers are deeply concerned about what is happening to the subject in their schools.  As well as the quantitative data supplied in response to the 5 questions, we also provided  the opportunity with a free text box for respondents to provide further commentary  on the questions and specific detail they felt appropriate.  Over 500 comments were made, the vast majority of which portray very worrying situations and ones which clearly indicate that the subject is being undervalued compared with Ebacc subjects. In the worst cases, respondents reported students being actively discouraged from opting for D&T or effectively prevented from doing so through the restricted choices that were made available.  There are also many comments about more able students in particular being discouraged from opting for D&T in favour of additional Ebacc subjects.

If this situation is allowed to go unchecked, the number of students who study the subject at GCSE and, as a consequence, those who will be then in a position to continue their study at A level or via related FE courses, will continue to decline. The very future of the subject in some schools is at stake – indeed we have received reports that  suggest some schools, applying their own strategies to securing school league table positions, have gone so far as to abolish D&T completely beyond Key Stage 3. 

The subject has benefited recently from the introduction of new National Curriculum programmes of study and we are sitting on the brink of new GCSE specifications being developed for first teaching in 2017. Both of these, when fully implemented, will significantly modernise the D&T experience students receive and ensure that their interests, and those of further and higher education and employers, are fully met.  The reverse is also true – if schools fail to honour this entitlement to study a broad and balanced range of subjects matched to the individual needs of students, then the only interest being met is that of school league table accountability.

The Association has shared the survey results with DfE and urged them to commit to developing high quality Design and Technology in all schools as a vital subject in a broad and balanced curriculum; for Ministers to actively value the contribution of D&T by referring to the subject in speeches and publications and to take urgent action to stop the marginalisation of D&T in many secondary schools.

Survey results summary

  • 89% agreed that Progress 8 and Ebacc measures are influencing option choices and resulting in lower D&T numbers.
  • 83% agreed that changes in curriculum time allocation and numbers taught are likely to reduce D&T staffing levels in my department.
  • 76% indicated that the number of students that are opting for GCSE D&T subjects starting in September 2015 is decreasing.
  • 35% indicated that compared with last year, D&T curriculum time at Key Stage 3 will be reduced from September 2015.
  • 30% indicated that compared with last year, curriculum time made available to study D&T GCSE courses will be reduced.

Sample comments from respondents

Pushing all children down the same route is damaging, not only for them but also for our creative economy. I have several students who are incredibly talented designers but they will not be studying any D&T subjects because they are being pushed (against their desires) into additional sciences and Ebacc subjects in which they have no interest. We are losing at least one member of staff due to decrease in KS3 time and that will also have a knock on effect when those students reach GCSE and have had a much more limited experience of D&T! Harmful, shameful waste of talent and potential future creatives!

Progress 8 and Ebacc have had a massive effect. I have a student who wants to be a product designer, has looked and post 16 and further education options for this to be told taking history or geography would be a better choice for her and to keep her career pathways open. This is just one example of many.




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