Accessibility links


Our goal is to empower young students to use their ideas & design skills to solve real life social problems.

The competition challenges young minds to think differently about design and its potential beyond producing beautiful pieces of work by understanding its social role and how it can be used to improve the lives of others. It also encourages students to develop their faculties in critical thinking, learn how to delegate and work as a team, as well as pitching and presenting their work to others.

We work closely with students from five of our RSA academies as part of our ongoing commitment to looking at the role and purpose of design education. As the RSA and others have previously argued, Design and Technology (D&T) is a crucial tenet of a child’s education and yet in both primary and secondary schools its role is dwindling. The focus on ‘core’ subjects in primary schools and Ebacc subjects in secondary is leading to the marginalisation of D&T in many schools and, in some cases, its removal from the curriculum. As such, GCSE entries have fallen by 50% over the last 10 years.

The RSA Pupil Design Awards are centrally about the power of social design, but it is ultimately about helping pupils realise that they have the power look at the world and make things better. 

This is the second year of the RSA Pupil Design Awards following its pilot year in 2014, five of our RSA academies are taking part.

We have taken the learning from last year and applied it to the design of this year’s competition to refine the model further.  This includes reducing the number of briefs, giving students longer in class to work on their ideas and entries, and increasing the number of mentors and mentor visits by working closely with former RSA Student Design Award winners.

Students have been invited to respond to the following 3 briefs through a design thinking approach involving human research: Fair Play – design a sustainable toy and its packaging, Making Peace – design a peaceful way of resolving conflict and Tomorrow’s Workplace – design the future classroom.


Project 1: Fair Play – design a sustainable toy and/or its packaging

Toys can be useful, educational and fun. But often children can get bored of them quickly as they grow up or get interested in different things. As many toys are made from plastic it’s also often difficult to recycle them and most toys will end up at the tip. Also, most toys come in plastic packaging which simply gets thrown in the rubbish bin.

Britain produces 29 million tonnes of household waste every year. Around three million tonnes of rubbish will be created by households at Christmas alone. Much of this waste is created by toy packaging. What does this level of waste say about our attitudes towards sustainability and the environment?


Project 2: Making Peace – design a peaceful way of resolving conflict

Arguments can be difficult and awkward. When each side thinks that their point of view is correct, making progress can feel impossible.

Design encourages us to ask different questions and to look at the world differently. How could we use design as a tool to guide people through difficult conversations? What might help us to respectfully listen to someone else’s argument and see their point of view? How can we truly listen to one another?


Project 3: Tomorrow’s Classroom – design the classroom of the future

The classroom is the place where you spend most of your time at school. Your teachers, classmates and subjects may change, but the layout of your classroom quite often stays the same.

The kind of education we need is changing. We are becoming more aware that people learn in different ways. Some students learn better by having group discussions or looking at images over textbooks. Advances in technology, such as the internet, have the potential to connect us to different people and learning tools around the world. How then might we design a future classroom that creates greater opportunities for the different ways people learn? How can the classroom use technology to make learning more exciting and engaging? What would you change about your classroom and why?

Shortlisted entries will be judged on 10 February at Birmingham Open Media (BOM). We will also have Professor Simon Bolton, an RSA Fellow and internationally acclaimed designer and Associate Dean for Research and Enterprise at Birmingham City University giving a speech to the students about the future of design ahead of the prize announcement in the afternoon.


The RSA Pupil Design Award judges 2015-6 are:

  • Betty Jackson CBE, RDI, fashion designer
  • Angus Montgomery, Editor of Design Week
  • Kazz Morohashi, 2015 RSA Student Design Awards winner and this year’s winner of the Howarth Award
  • Sevra Davis, Director of Design and Challenges and the RSA Student Design Awards, RSA

If you would like to know more about the RSA Pupil Design Awards please contact Selina Nwulu.

You can also view a an article in the TES (Times Educational Supplement), 'RSA pupil awards aim to redefine how design is taught in schools', which describes the Pupil Design awards process in 2014.