Last week a new report was published by the Education Policy Institute 'A spotlight on Design and Technology study in England'. It tells us the glum picture of D&T entries at 16 and 18, plus some more about the pupils and where they are located. These are my thoughts on the the data, my analysis and thoughts about what we can do next.
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This week, I'm sharing some of my thoughts and analysis about a new report that's come out, called a spotlight on design and technology study in England, trends in subject take up on the teacher workforce. It's been compiled by Sam takut, from the Education Policy Institute and has been funded by a number of different organisations. I'm not going to go through all who they are. But it's quite interesting to see who's funded this and who hasn't taken part in funding this. I think it's a worthwhile report to talk about, because although in some ways, it doesn't tell us anything that we don't know, it is quite a depressing report, if you're involved in designing the technology in England. I think there's some things to question about the report, not to undermine the quality of the research, but just to explore, and also some things to think about what's next and and what didn't this report tell us. So rather than seeing this report as a full stop, or potentially even a dead end for design and technology, if we want to be really doom and gloom for don't want to be, then we need to think about well, what's next. So first of all, some of the headlines. First of all, some of the headlines. These were on page six of the report, I'm going to put a link to the report in the in the show notes. So don't think you've got to kind of follow this and take notes as you're going along, assuming people do take notes of my podcast. Anyway. So the executive summary gives some stats about the decline in the number of young people entering design and technology qualifications at the end of key stage four. So if you're listening, and you're overseas, that means there's 16 Normally, and that seen a decline from 44.2% of the school population in 2009, to 21.8%. So in percentage terms, it's more than half in in real terms, it's also sort of I'm gonna say real terms in numbers, is dropped from over 280,000 to just over 136,000. So it's a it's a significant drop. Not surprising, I've reported on this before, as have many others. Interestingly, they This report also talks about post 16 study. So that 16 to 19 study, and talks about and I've been discussing this recently, with colleagues in product designer from Nottingham Trent, there's a decline in the number of young people being entered for a D&T a level. And that's dropped from 22,000 to over 22,000 to just over 10,000. That's a huge drop. Okay. And in terms of vocational engineering students, I'm going to talk about the fact that this paper focuses on engineering, later on in the episode has increased from just under 4000 to just over 11,000. Okay. Now, there's some caveats around that, that the report talks about that there has been an increase in the number of people studying in that 16 to 19 cohort because of policy change in England, where people were required to stay in education and training to at least the age of 17. So some of that has come about through policy change, and people being compelled, rather than people making choices where they would have maybe gone into work in the past. Then the next point, I think, is really interesting. And I want to come back to this is that sponsored academies and free schools were less likely to enter pupils for design and technology GCSE than the other main provider types. I think, I think that's really interesting. And I wonder if that's got something to do with some of the other data where Sam talks about where the young people are, that are studying GCSE design and technology. So that's the first note, unsurprisingly 16 to 19. There's more young people percentage wise in independent schools, private schools, interesting how they call them independent, whereas I would call them private, but there we go. It's all about a marketing term to me, is about there's been an increase, and as a high level 4.2% It's not ginormous, but it's it's 4.2%. In private schools, in comparison to state schools, and further education, there's not a lot of a level design and technology entry happening there. But unsurprisingly, there's a lot there's a higher number of young people entering level three vocational engineering qualifications in FE not surprising because Fe is primarily and historically around vocational qualifications that that's its history. And that's been its main focus. So that's kind of not not surprising. So thinking about locations where there are numbers of young people, higher percentages, and lower percentages of young people been entered in London, North East Yorkshire and the Humber for about 18% of pupils at the end of key stage four, enter for GCSE d and t, contrasting with rates over 20%. Particularly notably in the southwest, East Midlands, East of England and the Southeast. Gonna talk a little bit later about speculation, speculation about why I think that might be. And then, in terms of, and this is an unsurprising stat, but it's good to have the stats is that people, young pupils, who did not enter a GCSE d and t, were very unlikely to continue into post 16 study. Not surprising, okay. And then, this is a sad note for me in terms of working in teacher education, that the number of design and technology teachers in secondary schools has been declining since 2011. Such that in 2020, the D&T workforce only accounted for 3% of all teachers nationally in England. And that postgraduate initial teacher recruitment has continually fallen short for the D&T targets, with us only meeting 23% of the target in 2122. I think there's all sorts of factors, some of which can be controlled by government, some of which are due to economy, and some of which are due to accessibility of courses. But, you know, that's, that's an another reason. But if you've changed the structure and the format of teacher training, which the government has, that there has been a decline in universities involvement in teacher education, and notably in design and technology, education. And it's happening more at a local level, where it's ones and twos in schools, if you've got fewer dn T teachers, and you've got fewer opportunities in schools to actually mentor support and run programmes. And these things are time consuming, and involve a lot of work. So I'm kind of not surprised at those figures saddened, but not surprised. So those are the headlines, really, from the executive summary that I wanted to draw on. There's a couple of things that I kind of want to explore, I sat and read this report in detail yesterday, and made some notes and I've kind of moved over it. These are just initial thoughts, and other people will have other thoughts. And so the picture is dire. But it's not surprising. I think those of us who've been involved in design and technology for a period, are unsurprised by this, but it's really good to have this report to have something that has a rigour and a thoroughness to it. What I really like about this report is that it does explain the parameters. I don't like all of the parameters in terms of how they have made some decisions. But I understand why those decisions have been made, particularly in light of who's been involved in funding the paper for certain funding the study. So what do I mean by that? When I talk about the parameters and concerns or questions that I have about this, you'll have to excuse the rustling of paper, because I've got the report on the table. I've made some notes, but I'm going to want to flick back and forth. So first of all, one of the things that I want to pick out from this report, which I think, again, it's not surprising that this is the angle that the study has taken, but when they've had to make decisions about looking at vocational qualifications, and making decisions about which vocational qualifications to include in terms of trying to find the numbers of pupils entered, they have focused on engineering, okay. Now, I can understand why and it is quite difficult when we may look at other material areas and other disciplines within design and technology to identify post 16 qualifications that relate to design and technology. But I think it is disappointing that that angles been taken, because that sends to me messages out about the worth that people involved in this type of policy discussion, see around textiles, fashion, architecture, and food technology. So as I said, I understand the pragmatic decisions, but I think it's a disappointment and So some aspects of this have to be approached with caution when we're looking at the vocational figures. That's one, that's one thing to look at. I'm really pleased to see in this report that they attempt to look at the numbers of children who are from socially deprived backgrounds to look at look at their rent requirements. This is something that I think is really important, because I think there's all sorts of implicit messages that are sent around subjects like design and technology, and around GCSE, and vocational subjects around assumptions that we might make that children from low socioeconomic backgrounds, poorer backgrounds, more challenging backgrounds, special needs, is also looked at in this, that they're not suited to GCSE design and technology. Well, as people might have picked up a bit in previous podcast episodes, you know, I really am a believer in the value of design and technology as a key component of general education for all children, up to the age of key stage three, up to the age of 14, and I'm really clear that it's 14, not 13. Okay. But this report understandably doesn't focus on that pre 14 age, it's focusing on gcss. However, they do use the measure of free school meals to begin to look at the percentage of children who have free school meals have been claimed free school meals, how many of those have been entered for GCSE design and technology, and it is lower than pupils who are not claiming free school meals. Now, there might be all sorts of reasons for them. But I suppose I kind of sit here with a health warning. That is that saying that, as a community, we don't feel that GCSE design and technology, which I believe is part of a general education or vocational education is suited to pupils who are claiming free school meals. Now, there's lots of reasons why children are on or entered for GCSE is it's not just about the classroom teacher and the way the classroom teachers talk to different pupils in their classrooms. There's parental context is school context. There's accessibility. There's all sorts of different factors. So this is not me saying that this is this reason for this gap between the percentage of pupils claiming free school meals been lower than the percentage of all of the people who don't claim free school meals entered for GCSE is due to teachers. It's not it's not it's not all due to the classroom situation. But I think it is something that should be thought about within d&c departments and within schools. And in the way, Parents are encouraged to think about the benefits of a GCSE and design and technology as a route. And as a basis for a general education. I've said it before. And I'll say it again, if we focus on the vocational aspects of GC, of design and technology, then there's a significant number of pupils, who, therefore are excluded from the subject both ways in terms of, they're encouraged on the vocational route. So they lose the opportunity to think about the general benefit from a democratic utility, economic, cultural, societal benefit design and technology. And then those who are here the message that d and t is a vocational subject, but they don't want to go down that route. Then they're thinking, well, this subject isn't for me, and therefore, also by nature, they're missing out on, you know, gaining those democratic, utilitarian, cultural, societal, and so on benefits of design and technology. So I kind of say that with that, that thought about what are the what is that things that we have control over as teachers, leaders, researchers, people involved in design and technology about how we communicate these messages to the different types of pupils that are within schools. And it's a similar situation when we look at ethnicity within this report. So again, we'll have to do some flicking over the pages. This is on page 17. highest percentage proportion of which entered at least one GS GCSE design and technology. White British, lowest black African. Okay, next lowest gypsy Roma. What do we say and what are the implicit messages that are being sent out? about design and technology that either are affecting the way children of different ethnicities feel is their place in design and technology, or that society or education more broadly a saying about the benefit of design and technology to children of different ethnicities. Okay, so I think that's something that's something to think about. Another aspect is going back to this point, in the executive summary, about sponsored candidates had Emmys and free schools, and less likely to enter pupils for design and technology, they have more control over their curriculum. So maybe their senior leaders don't see the value of design and technology as part of a general education. So maybe there's something there for to be addressed. Maybe it's because these academies and free schools are, are more closely managing their budgets, I don't know in a different way, setting up in a different way. D&T is an expensive subject, potentially expensive subject to set up and run. And also historically, in the subject, the results haven't been great in terms of the national picture and the value added. So maybe they've made some strategic decisions. So that's, those are some of the reasons why that might have happened. There might be other reasons as well. And which people might want to come back at me with, which is absolutely fine. These are my, just my thoughts at this stage. Then the other one was around where there is the higher percentage of pupils studying GCSE design and technology. And so those were southwest, East Midlands, East of England and the Southeast. So I started speculate, but why would this be? Why might this be it might be for all sorts of reasons. Painting to see if there's any statistics on the numbers of teachers in those schools. Okay, so, you know, you would expect there to be a greater percentage of teachers potentially in there. And then why would there be a greater percentage of teachers? Well, that might be and this is me, in my mind, looking at this from a higher education perspective, I might kind of be missing different perspectives. Here is where the where's the initial teacher education, there's, there's quite a bit of initial teacher education in the Midlands for design and technology, in terms of larger centres, where it's not one or two teachers, or student teachers, it's actually some larger groups, for example, at Trent, where I am Sheffield Hallam and other places, you know, Birmingham City University, who are doing design and technology education have and have sort of reasonably significant cohorts not significant as we used to have, but significant. And, and I would imagine that if you are a student, dn T teacher, and there is a group of you together, then you're more likely to stay on the course, because you've got others who are going through similar experiences. Whereas be interesting to see what the retention rates are when it's a small cohort of D&T teachers or students and teachers or an or an individual within an academy chain. It's been as an aside, it's been interesting that myself and Matt McLean have been running this year, an online programme webinars for student teachers, and running to us, you know, with the learning to teach the entire book. And, and the majority of people who've joined the course, are studying to become a D&T teacher as part of a multi Academy trust. So they're the only ones so by joining our group, they're part of a bigger group. And there's been a couple of others who are early career teachers, and they're the only D and T teacher in the department. So that kind of says to me a little bit about this idea about isolation and needing to be part of a community. And Sarah Davis has talked about this in her research around, you know, how did e and t teachers are on their own, develop and deal with some of these challenges around curriculum status, recruitment, and GCSE entry so so building those networks is a potential solution. I mean, Design Technology Association do do a lot around that as well. But you know, we need we need multiple networks rather than, than single networks. And then finally, I'm kind of like really curious about what's happening in Cumbria, Herefordshire, and Dorset, because Cumbria and Cumbria has a high percentage of I'm going to have to get look at my look at the stats here because there's quite a number going on. high percentage of entries, both to a level and to vocation. no qualifications. Okay, so Cumbria has the highest rate of entries for Level Three vocational engineering, Qualls and design and technology level, we featured in both the charts on page 32. If you're interested, we're not talking big numbers, we're talking 4.7% for the vocational and 4.4 for the a level, but it's interesting that it features features in both. Hartley pool has 16.7% of their pupils excuse a dog in the background. And so for vocational engineering qualification, so what's what's happening here, what's, what's going on those places. So if you're part of it, you live in those places, you're part of those stats, then please do get in touch, I'm probably just going to have to pause in a moment, maybe go and deal with the dog. Right back, the dog has stopped barking, this is a dog that earlier this morning, was behaving like he was on death's door. So don't know what's going on there. Anyway. So locations are quite interesting in terms of these regional differences around the number of pupils doing GCSE and A levels and level three vocational engineering qualifications. There's, there's a converse, it's happening in London hole. And so where there isn't high recruitment, so again, you know, works us what's going well, we need to ask well, what's going on in other areas where recruitment isn't happening. So if you're in any of those areas, and you've got some ideas or some thoughts, then then please do get in touch, I'd be really interested to find out what your thoughts are. So that's kind of the analysis of what it says. But what about the other side? What didn't it tell us? As I've said, already, it didn't tell us anything about textiles in terms of vocation, vocational qualifications at level three, which I thought was a disappointment. And I thought it sends out further messages that some, maybe some parts of the didn't deity community don't see textiles. As part of the subject. I don't think that's really what's being said, I think there's a pragmatic decision there around identifying which qualifications to look out for vocational qualifications at level three. But I do think he's going to be really careful about what about what we're saying here. So I'm gonna reach out to some of my contacts in textiles, particularly higher education and sort of see see what their thoughts are, and and how they would respond to a report like this, and what qualifications they would put into that basket in terms of doing some analysis. Also, what it doesn't say, and quite rightly, why, why are we in this position? Now, there's been actually quite a lot written about this, David Spendlove, has written a fantastic chapter for the forthcoming debates in Design Technology Education, which is going to come out in sort of October time, about about why he thinks it's happened. And and I agree with David, I don't think this has happened. By by deliberate design, I think it's an unintended consequence of a perfect storm, unfortunately. And then, I think it doesn't also explore what impact this is having on post 18 recruitment in terms of vocational jobs, and recruitment into higher education courses related to design and technology. I've had some conversation with Jim Dale recently, from Product Design at NTU. Talking about recruitment. And they haven't got a clear picture at the moment. And it'd be interesting to see what other charities and organisations from the creative industries might be, might be seeing whether there is an impact. I think one of the premises that came out in the Schools Week article that Sam took it, who authored this report wrote the headline that schools have put out there is that this this is this is a dreadful situation, because it will have a negative impact on meeting the government's agenda about recruitment for STEM careers. I think that's a really dodgy speculation if we haven't got any data. All right. This report doesn't do that. And it doesn't set out to do that, but I think it's a very, I just want to be cautious about that for a number of reasons is that we haven't got clear evidence or unless we haven't I've not seen it please correct me if I'm wrong, that there is a causation between low numbers, GCSE and A Level D and T and vocational qualifications and stem recruitment. I haven't seen that. Okay, a correlation, not a causation. Okay. And then equally, if that is the drum that is being banged in response to this report, that again takes us down the road that gees design and technology is a vocational subject. And I've said my bit over it already about why I think we need to be very careful when we say those things. So that's my synopsis of what I think it didn't tell us. Maybe I'll go back to the report and pick out some more. I think what we have to think about is what's next? I think we have to accept two things. Right? If we want to kind of stop this change and reverse this decline, is we have to first of accept, first of all accept there will be no more money from the government. Right? There might be bits, but I don't think there's going to be anything significant. Why do I think that or yesterday, our Chancellor of the Exchequer checker gave his spring review. And it wasn't great. And there was no more money promised for schools, you know, who are going to be in more financial difficulty, due to the rising energy prices, I just don't see big pots of money coming to kind of resolve this, and I'm not even sure big pots of money will resolve this. I've spoken before in previous episodes about where with where there have been pots of money, and whether things have been sustainable. I'm not always convinced. And then the other thing, and this is my personal view, I have seen some communication from the Secretary of State for Education that says this as well. Design and Technology will not be added to the EBacc. I've written about why it wasn't involved in the back in the first place. And I And that hasn't changed those reasons for why D&T wasn't in the back haven't changed. And I'm just not convinced it's going to change. And I think we're potentially wasting our energy by trying to get that to happen. And I think if you speak to people whose subjects are in the back, I'm not sure we want that poison Chalice, to be honest. So then what, what do I think is next? I think there needs to be a change that takes place at local level. And what I mean by local level, I don't necessarily mean by regional, local level, I mean, not policy level, I mean, at practitioners, getting involved in reshaping and redesigning design and technology, to make sure it is an inclusive subject responding to that data about free school meals and ethnicity. That is part of a general education. Now, yeah, I am potentially leading in here very nicely to the book that me and Eddie Norman did about redesigning design and technology to point the home. And with, you know, some fantastic ways of thinking about this. And why would you think about this from David Spendlove. We talk in that book about the fact that there have been top down attempts at changing things that have been unsuccessful. So maybe we need to think about a different way that this comes from a local level from a practitioner level. So again, I'm inviting people to, to to get hold of that book, be involved in those conversations. We're not We're not suggesting how it should be redesigned. We're saying, let's write a specification for the redesign of design and technology. He wants to know more about that. So what's my newsletter, I'll put some links in there where you can kind of keep in touch as we as we start to move on that project a bit more. We're hopefully gonna do some events. 2022 23 we're bringing practitioners together with ideas about what, you know, redesigning DLT could look like, I think one of the ways we could look at it is, again, what David Spendlove talks about, about design thinking. And I had a great conversation this week with Derek Jones Maupin University talking about design thinking, and about what that means in relationship to design and technology. So I think that's that's, that's part of it is, is getting some clarity amongst the community. I don't think we'll ever get an agreement, but we'll get clarity about it. And then I also think that we need to continue the debates and demonstrate what we understand the by design knowledge. So one of the ways that that didn t departments are kind of under attack, is that there is a greater direction, whether we like it or not about knowledge rich, and knowledge led curriculum. And, and we don't talk about this sufficiently, I think in design and technology, I'm having conversations with people about what this looks like. And I'm going to be producing some podcasts in the next couple of months about this. But I think we need to have conversations within the community about what this is what design knowledge means for D and T, not taking what an interpretation is from history, or geography, or modern foreign languages and trying to make D&T fit to that. Okay, so I think there's some things that we need to own about our subject as practitioners, and that teachers can own about that which is about design thinking and design knowledge and what the essence of the subject is. Okay. And you know, I'm deliberately moving away from that vacation and focus on an inclusive general education. I think we also clearly need to articulate the value of the subject and demonstrate the value of the subject. Okay, I've banged my usual drum about the, the, the potential negatives of focusing on the vocational aspect of the subject. And I think when you think about how we demonstrate that visually, I've taught in previous episodes about how we portray the subject visually on social media, and how we talk about it and how we present it. And so I think we need to really think and reflect as a community about what we do there. And finally, for those of you who are listening, don't just leave this to others. I'm not saying you do leave it to those people who are involved in the subject practitioners. You know, you have busy lives, you have the you are at the chalk face the coalface of the pressures of what schools are demanding, the way they're responding to national agenda. But there are ways to join and be involved in the conversation. And it's not me, it's not people. It's not people like me, like David spend level Eddie Norman, Matt McLean, Sarah, who are saying, This is what it should be like, I'm not claiming that at all. I don't know what it should be, like, I'm just saying, you know, join with us explore these conversations about what is design and technology? And how do we shape that in response to this decline, but also in what we believe to be the value of design and technology for an inclusive and general education. So thanks for listening. I've kind of covered a lot of ground there. And I'm sure people will agree and disagree with what I have to say, that's absolutely fine. That this is these are this is my analysis, my thoughts, my perception, I'm coming from a particular stance, I'm expecting that people will question and challenge, do read the report, you'll have different views about this and different thoughts about how we need to respond. I suppose I'm putting this out there, because I'm thinking we can't, I don't want to leave this to others. We need to be part of this together. In terms of developing the subject. If you do have thoughts, you can send me an email. Or you can find me on social media. I'll put links in the show notes. As usual. If you don't want to write, you can leave me a message on SpeakPipe. Again, there'll be a link in the show notes for that. We can just leave me a voicemail message and I'll check in with your first but I'll play that at a future episode and share your thoughts. And I'm always open to people coming on the podcasts and having discussions. So thanks taking the time to listen. And as ever, come back to me if you've got any thoughts or opinions