Research identifies D&T shortfall

Design and technology are not a priority for many secondary schools despite increasing student interest, says a new report

Research published by the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) has found that nearly half of all teachers surveyed are not prioritising design and technology (D&T), despite the government’s push towards STEM subjects.

Consulting D&T leaders from 202 academy and authority-maintained secondary schools in the UK, the ‘Design and Technology Resourcing in English Secondary Schools’ research reveals that only 8.6 percent of schools surveyed said they prioritise D&T over other non-core subjects, although this is forecast to increase by an average of 10 percent once the new GCSE is first taught in 2017.

While D&T was not regarded an immediate priority for a large proportion of the schools, more positive findings came from students’ interest in the subject, with 30 percent of schools stating that this has increased.

The rise in students’ interest in D&T may partly be due to a focus on practical learning. 68 percent of schools said that using equipment and software, such as CAD/CAM and 3D printing, has a significant impact on their students’ motivation and engagement. Although on average more than half of lessons included practical activities (approximately 71 percent of lessons), the majority of teachers expressed a desire to focus even more on the practical element of the subject, accepting that students often prefer to learn this way.

In terms of expenditure the view is polarised, with 49 percent of schools stating that curriculum change is likely to increase their investment in resources to support the teaching of D&T, leaving 51 percent confirming that their expenditure will either stay the same or decrease. Product design and resistant materials, electronics and food technology are forecast to benefit most.

Caroline Wright, BESA director, said: “This report shows that D&T is not a priority for the majority of schools at the moment, which is, of course, a concern considering the current skills divide in STEM industries; 40 percent of companies looking for staff with STEM skills had difficulty recruiting last year. Clearly, the UK needs more creative and technically minded individuals and getting more students interested in subjects such as D&T is essential for achieving this. However, there is good news on the horizon, as a large number of schools are hoping to increase their focus on D&T resources by 2017.”



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