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Government set to scrap engineering exams in schools

Engineering exams are to be axed from English schools under proposals announced today.

Pupils will no longer be able to take GCSEs or A Levels in engineering after 2017 if plans to scrap a total of 43 qualifications unveiled by examination regulator Ofqual go through.

GCSEs in manufacturing and electronics will also be scrapped under the proposals, although related design and technology qualifications will still allow students to design and make electronic and mechanical components.

The Royal Academy of Engineering’s director of engineering and education, Dr Rhys Morgan, said the decision was regrettable.

‘However, the Royal Academy of Engineering has already driven forward challenging and rigorous new GCSE-equivalent vocational qualifications in engineering, for first teaching in September 2014.

‘If, as is proposed, the Design and Technology GCSE replaces the Engineering and Manufacturing GCSEs then it is vital that the reformed design and technology qualifications include an explicit requirement for students to be assessed on rigorous engineering content.’

He added: ‘The success of the proposed reform will depend on securing the right teaching and facilities for design and technology, to ensure young people have the best chance of success and progression to technical careers.’

Paul Davies, head of policy at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), was more sceptical about the move.

‘If the engineering GCSE and A Level are to be dropped, how will young people know about engineering and then go on and study the subject?’ he said.

‘The Government must recognise that qualifications such as the GCSE and A Level in engineering will be at the heart of achieving improvements to the economy and supporting a pipeline of future apprentices, technicians and engineers.’

A total of 1,816 pupils sat the GCSE in engineering in 2012, 1,046 took electronics and 105 took manufacturing. At A Level, 225 pupils studied engineering.

Other GCSEs facing the axe include digital communication, expressive arts, electronics, film studies, humanities, applied science and environmental science.

Readers' comments (22)

  • I cannot believe that Engineering Examinations at A level are being stopped. It is hard enough to get youngsters into Engineering jobs

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  • I’m a bit surprised that the head of policy at the IET thinks that engineering GCSCs and A levels are the way to get young people to know about engineering. If that is the way the establishment thinks young people will become enthused about engineering then we really do have a major problem.
    The reality is that young people need to be engaged with and enthused about engineering long before GCSCs. And if they are enthused then good physics and maths GCSCs and A levels will get them a good start in engineering.

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  • It might seem counter intuitive to remove the applied/Engineering sciences but there is good logic in doing so.

    To do engineering at a higher level its vital to have a good understanding of the pure sciences with A levels in physics, chemistry and maths essential. Adding Biology wouldn't do any harm either!

    For those wanting to study engineering below degree level, then they need these subjects at GCSE's .

    A building is only as good as its foundations!

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  • @John Jones/Anonymous
    These are only the subjects to be studied as an Exam. There is no reason why other subjects such as Engineering can't be included in the curriculum throughout the school. Exams need to ensure a good fundamental understanding of science and maths everything else is built on this.

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  • I'm a bit surprised to hear they actually exist!! I completed my GCSEs in 2000 and wasn't even aware of any of the subjects being dropped that are mentioned in the above article.

    GCSEs available at my school at the time were:

    English, Math, Double Science, Business Studies, Design and Technology, Design and Technology with Business Studies, Cooking, Textiles, Art, German, French, History, Geography, PE, Dance, Drama, Music.

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  • I am not surprised by this. It seems politicians who make these decisions are rarely from STEM subjects and really don't understand the importance of these subjects. They bang on about the importance of English, classics, philosophy humanities and similar, but these subjects do not build the future. They hark back to the past, and while there is merit in learning from what has gone before, you cannot innovate if you are not looking forward.

    A very sad day indeed.

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  • Taking Engineering, law and other vocational qualifications at GCSE level I beleive puts students at a disadvantage to those with good qualifications in Maths, Physics, Chemistry, English language, Biology etc. Good scientists and engineers come from having a good foundation in core subjects. The specialisms in the broad church of engineering should only start at University when studying an engineering degree. After all one wouldnt teach medicine at GCSE and excpect the student to be a doctor, why expect it from engineering.

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  • 52 years ago, we had Woodwork and Metalwork GCE's and the practical and theoretical aspects of the Metalwork course has been invaluable all my life. Although I went on to study Mechanical Engineering I still treasure the copper bowl I beat to shape, planished and embellished at 15 years old. It is an almost perfect parabolic reflector.

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  • Engineering is a practical application of science, so a good grounding in physics, chemistry and maths has to come first. An appreciation of materials technology then has to be a close second.

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  • "Engineers do for 10p what any fool can do for £1." [Nevil Shute Norway-Engineer turned author] And I join other correspondents/ bloggers in agreeing that that such approaches start at school, via hands-on practical effort with hand-tools (co-ordination) and continue through apprenticeship/University and training and practice throughout life. Heavens, at my age I am so experienced as an Engineer that it costs me less and less each day to live! Soon I will be making a profit from my pension!
    Mike B

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