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  • Orleans House, Octagon Art Club. Ceramics workshop with Matthew Raw.

Studying Craft 16 Findings: Key Stages 4 - 5

Focus on Key Stages 4 and 5

Young people aged 14 to 18 in Key Stages 4 and 5 are making their first selection of the subjects that will shape their future study, training and career choices. Yet the evidence in Studying Craft 16 shows that the numbers taking craft-related courses are declining at an alarming rate, placing the pipeline of future makers at risk.

The number of students taking Design & Technology GCSEs fell 41% (to 106,930) between 2007/08 and 2014/15, with the greatest decline (48%) in Graphic Products GCSE. Participation in craft related courses at KS4 has declined at a faster rate than KS4 as a whole (23% compared with 6%). There has been a small growth in the number of KS4 learners studying Art & Design GCSE since 2011/12 but numbers in 2014/15 were still 5% lower than they were in 2007/08. This may reflect a trend in some schools of encouraging pupils to take Art & Design GCSE instead of Design & Technology, a subject which often requires more specialist and expensive equipment.

It seems likely that the increasing emphasis on performance measures, such as the 90% target for students taking the Ebacc, is weakening schools’ investment in creative subjects. It’s an alarming trend for the nurturing of young people’s creative skills, including the three dimensional work that is so important to making, engineering and problem solving.

The majority (56%) of craft learners at this level are girls and the gender gap has widened in recent years. The decline in numbers taking Resistant Materials Technology and Graphic Products GCSEs, which often attract more boys, may have contributed to this picture. In stark contrast, the number of male pupils at A level has risen to 60%. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) learners make up around 18% of crafts learners at KS4.

KS4 craft students have declined across all regions of England but the East Midlands and the North West have seen particularly steep declines (16% and 17% respectively).

At Key Stage 5, the number of craft learners in school sixth forms and 16-18 Further Education had declined. The proportion of all school sixth form learners who are studying craft courses declined from 16% to 12% between 2007/08 and 2014/15. Overall, numbers in school sixth forms have declined between 2007/08 and 2014/15, driven by a fall in learner numbers in Year 12.

The number of craft learners in Year 13 is slightly higher in 2014/15 than in 2007/08, but there has been a fall since a peak of 30,670 in 2009/10. Pupil numbers sitting A-levels have increased and this may indicate that fewer students are now giving up craft subjects after AS Levels. However, anecdotal evidence reaching us since we published Studying Craft 16 suggests that the decoupling of AS levels from A levels and the return to end of course assessment may now be leading to a decline in A level Art & Design entrants.

The proportion of BAME pupils studying craft A levels stands at around 16% and has been rising in recent years, but remains below the proportion of all school sixth form pupils (craft and non-craft) who are from BAME groups, which stands at 20%.

Most regions have seen a decline in craft pupils in school sixth forms, particularly the North East and Yorkshire & the Humber; however, the numbers of craft learners in the South East and South West numbers have increased since 2008/09.

Participation in 16-18 FE crafts courses has generally declined since 2007/08, however, there have been large fluctuations with participation falling between 2007/08 and 2010/11 and then rising to a peak in 2012/13 before falling again in recent years. The vast majority of participation at this level is in general craft, which has shown a 41% decline since 2007/08.

Key Stages 4 and 5 remain vital staging posts in the development of students’ skills and interest in craft and making. The decline in craft education that we are witnessing remains a course of deep concern. The evidence makes it all the more surprising that schools can be deemed outstanding by Ofsted, without reference to the standard and breadth of creative education on offer. We must see this reversed.

Julia Bennett, Head of Research and Policy

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