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Press release

GCSEs: More students need to choose Physics and Design & Technology

20 August 2015


The publication of today’s GCSE results in England, Wales and Northern Ireland reveals a decline in the number of young people studying Physics and Design & Technology, two of the crucial engineering gateway subjects.

Figures released by the Joint Council for Qualifications show decreases in entries to Physics (down 2.64 per cent to 133,610 candidates) and Design & Technology (down 4.14 per cent to 204,788 candidates). However, there was an increase in students studying ICT (up 15 per cent to 111,934 candidates) and Computing (up 111 per cent to 35,414 candidates). The results also showed increases in the number of students studying Maths (up 3 per cent to 761,230 candidates) and Science (up 5 per cent to 395,484 candidates).

Alison Carr, Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Director of Policy, said: “This year’s results show a welcome increase in students studying ICT and Computing but there has been a worrying decline in the number of young people opting for Physics and Design & Technology. 

“We need to have more young people studying all of the engineering gateway subjects to ensure that they are not shutting the door on an exciting, creative career in engineering.

“There is huge demand for engineers so it is important that young people have the opportunity to continue their studies. The country needs more people studying science and engineering subjects and taking up apprenticeships.

“We are at risk of stifling economic growth if we do not encourage more students to study STEM subjects which are crucial to ensuring a healthy and balanced economy.”

Research from the IET shows that there is a growing need to change perceptions of what modern engineering is and what it can offer young people, particularly girls, in terms of a career. The key to doing this is by changing the perceptions of parents who are highly influential in their child’s decision making processes and showing them that engineering doesn’t have to be a messy, mechanical or physically demanding career choice.

There is huge demand for engineers.  The IET’s most recent Skills & Demand in Industry Report showed that 59 per cent of companies indicated concerns that shortage of engineers would be a threat to their business.

Media enquiries to:

Hannah Kellett
External Communications Manager

Tel: +44 (0)1438 767336
Mob: +44 (0)7738 602426
Email: HKellett@theiet.org

Notes to editors:

  • Interview opportunities are available with IET spokespeople from a broad range of engineering and technology disciplines including cyber-security, energy, engineering skills, innovation, manufacturing, technology, transport and women in engineering.
  • The IET is one of the world’s largest engineering institutions with over 163,000 members in 127 countries. It is also the most interdisciplinary – to reflect the increasingly diverse nature of engineering in the 21st century. Energy, transport, manufacturing, information and communications, and the built environment: the IET covers them all.
  • The IET is working to engineer a better world by inspiring, informing and influencing our members, engineers and technicians, and all those who are touched by, or touch, the work of engineers.
  • We want to build the profile of engineering and change outdated perceptions about engineering in order to tackle the skills gap. This includes encouraging more women to become engineers and growing the number of engineering apprentices.