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– Written by Yana Miladinova – July 25, 2023

D&T Association Vision Paper: Tackling the UK skills gap at grassroots

The Design & Technology Association launches ‘Vision Paper’ in collaboration with teachers nationwide proposing new interventions to prevent design and technology in schools from entering curriculum obscurity

In an era where innovation, creativity, and problem-solving are paramount, the decline of Design & Technology (D&T) in the UK’s education system demands urgent attention. The Design & Technology Association, backed by prominent figures such as Sir Jony Ive KBE, Will Butler‑Adams OBE​ and Yewande Akinola MBE, has this week released its Vision Paper for 2023, calling for the revitalisation of D&T education in schools.

The State of D&T Education: A Looming Extinction

Design & Technology in schools is in a state of national neglect. In 2003, there were 430,000 GCSE entries and over 20,000 A Level entries, compared to a mere 78,000 and just over 10,000, respectively, today. Equally, the number of trained and qualified teachers have dwindled. Yet the design, technology and innovation sectors alone contributed £97bn to the UK’s GDP last year and employed approximately 1 in every 10 workers. There are concerns that a lack of investment in Design & Technology will stifle economic growth and widen the educational and skills chasm between well-off and socially disadvantaged students. 

Without decisive action, D&T subjects are approximately four years away from fading into curriculum obscurity. Notably, regions with higher levels of poverty face an even greater risk of losing D&T education, exacerbating the gap between the privileged and deprived.

To mitigate the threat of curricular extinction, the D&T Association, in consultation with hundreds of teachers nationwide, are proposing new interventions set forth in the launch of a Vision Paper that was unveiled at an exclusive event earlier this week at the V&A Museum, London.

Design & Technology Education

D&T as the Great “Social Leveller”

Tony Ryan, CEO of the Design & Technology Association, shares his personal journey of transformation through D&T education. A working-class boy with academic struggles, he found purpose and relevance in the subject, which led him to become a teacher and ultimately the CEO of the association. D&T, as Tony emphasises, is the great equaliser, providing relevant skills and alternative gateways to academic and professional success.

The Vision Paper titled “Reimagining D&T” outlines essential recommendations and actions to revitalise D&T education. These proposals include increasing the Initial Teacher Training (ITT) bursary, incentivising industry professionals to transition into teaching D&T, and allowing businesses to donate unspent apprenticeship levy to local schools for teacher development.

Furthermore, the Vision Paper emphasises curriculum development at primary and Key Stage 3 levels, incorporating sustainability, energy conservation, design thinking, empathetic design, teamwork, and presentation skills. Additionally, it seeks to expand additive manufacturing initiatives in primary education through funding.

The D&T Association aims to secure sponsorship to support the required budget for Key Stage 3 contextual work and develop 20 contextual projects. These initiatives will be accessible to teachers free of charge, promoting widespread adoption and implementation.

The Vision Paper calls for collaboration from the government, educational institutions, and industry leaders to recognise the significance of D&T education. By rejuvenating the subject and fostering a new wave of innovative minds, the UK can secure its place in an increasingly tech-enabled world while tackling urgent issues like the climate crisis and the circular economy. Together, we can bridge the educational gap, build a brighter future, and empower students to become creators and problem solvers of tomorrow.