GCSE Results 2016: STEM Subjects Still Suffering

STEM subject uptake at A-level is set to fall short of national expectations, as GCSE passes at grades A* - C fall across the board today.

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STEM subject neglect could lead to a shortage of engineers

The results awarded to school leavers today show a fall in the number of pupils achieving a GCSE at grades A* - C in Design & Technology, and there is also a drop in those passing their Physics GCSE.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has called upon the government, schools and colleges to encourage more pupils to study Physics and Design & Technology – the crucial engineering gateway subjects.  

The IET is concerned that there is still not enough young people studying Physics and Design & Technology at GCSE level, which is exacerbating the UK’s engineering and technology skills shortage. These fears are compounded by pressure for schools to move towards the English Baccalaureate – and could effectively mean that schools drop ‘non-core’ subjects such as Design & Technology from the syllabus.

Stephanie Fernandes, IET Principal Policy Advisor of Education & Skills, said: “It’s not good news that fewer young people are achieving pass grades in these crucial subjects at GCSE. The EBacc has the potential to effectively drive out subjects like Design & Technology (DT), as well as creative and artistic subjects, from schools.

“Given engineering currently accounts for 27% our total GDP, and we are expecting a shortfall of 1.82 million new engineers over the next decade, removing subjects like D&T from the curriculum is incredibly short sighted.”

STEM subjects lead to a variety of diverse career options: Energy, transport, manufacturing, information and communications and the built environment are all covered by the IET, which has over 167,000 members in 150 countries.

As passes in STEM subjects decline, Fernandes explained why at this crucial time for the economy it is more important than ever to promote engineering subjects: “DT is vital for engaging young people in the creative and problem fixing side of engineering. If they don’t have this opportunity at school, it is inevitable we will produce fewer engineers, which represents a genuine risk to our economy.

“We are calling for the government to reconsider their plans to ensure the introduction of the EBacc doesn’t result in a reduction in the number of engineers in the UK.”

The news comes after a recent push to encourage more young women to take up STEM subjects, with the annual Women in STEM campaign. In terms of young women leaving school, the AllAboutSchoolLeavers database shows a real disparity in the STEM subjects they’re interested in pursuing. Science is the sixth most popular industry overall out of 24.

Then there is a big gap until other STEM subjects are prioritised by young women: Engineering is 18th and IT & Technology 21st. Male school leavers place Engineering as their most popular industry out of 24, and all STEM subjects are in their Top 10. This is reflected when they leave school: men outnumber women by 25 to one on engineering apprenticeships, for example.

The Royal Academy of Engineering says the UK needs 100,000 new graduates in STEM subjects every year until 2020 just to maintain current employment numbers. If we want women to have jobs in the future, more need to be encouraged into STEM when making career choices.

“We are calling for the government to reconsider their plans to ensure the introduction of the EBacc doesn’t result in a reduction in the number of engineers in the UK.”

The news comes after a recent push to encourage more young women to take up STEM subjects, with the annual Women in STEM campaign. In terms of young women leaving school, the AllAboutSchoolLeavers database shows a real disparity in the STEM subjects they’re interested in pursuing. Science is the sixth most popular industry overall out of 24.

Then there is a big gap until other STEM subjects are prioritised by young women: Engineering is 18th and IT & Technology 21st. Male school leavers place Engineering as their most popular industry out of 24, and all STEM subjects are in their Top 10. This is reflected when they leave school: men outnumber women by 25 to one on engineering apprenticeships, for example.

The Royal Academy of Engineering says the UK needs 100,000 new graduates in STEM subjects every year until 2020 just to maintain current employment numbers. If we want women to have jobs in the future, more need to be encouraged into STEM when making career choices.

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