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I would like to start this blog by wishing you all a very happy new year! 2014 is looking like an exciting year for the design team here at the RSA – it’s the 90th birthday of the brilliant RSA Student Design Awards.

The RSA Student Design Awards is a global curriculum and annual competition that challenges students and recent graduates to think differently about design, through tackling briefs focused on real-world problems. We work closely with universities to help them implement the curriculum and support participants through workshops and mentoring. Winners are rewarded with cash prizes, paid industry placements and complementary RSA Fellowship to kick-start their careers.

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We’re driven by our mission to enable, support and reward design that positively impacts the world, and we are looking to build on a hugely successful 90 years of working with students by launching a brand new project in 2014. The ARC Design team are teaming up with the Education team to pilot the Pupil Design Awards. We want to introduce a version of the RSA Student Design Awards to about sixty teenage pupils aged 14-19 in three RSA Academies. If the model is successful, we will expand this into a national competition for all schools in the UK.

Why now? Design Technology education is on the decline. In 2013’s A-Levels there was an 8.56% drop in those taking the subject from the previous year, and D&T has seen a steady decline in those taking the subject as a GCSE – from 5.6% in 2009 to just 4% last year. This has seen it fall from number 6 to number 9 in GCSE popularity tables. This needs to change. With the Design Council telling us that every £1 spent on design gives you over £20 in increased revenue, £4 increased profit and £5 in increased exports, and that the UK spends £33 billion on design every year, we can’t afford to let this subject slip at a young age.

Design and Technology was introduced to the curriculum in 1988 to “prepare pupils to meet the needs of the 21st Century; to stimulate originality, enterprise, practical capability in designing and making and the adaptability needed to cope with a rapidly changing society”. Now 14 years into said 21st Century, these words ring truer than ever. The Pupil Design Awards will not just teach the students to learn to ‘cope’ with a rapidly changing society, instead they will be given the chance to design how that new society will look. Challenges will look at topics around collaborative consumption (asking pupils to design a product or service that gets better or more useful the more people use it), how to design out waste and how to use design to bring generations together, thus helping to tackle isolation in the elderly.

We know that the RSA Student Design Awards is a successful model which makes a huge difference to how young designers think about and use their craft, and past winners have told us they think it would benefit younger pupils. 2012 winner Richard Watters commented “If I had done this award when I was younger, it would have inspired me to think about the world differently and how design can help society as a whole”.

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We need your help to make the Pupil Design Awards happen. We are raising money using Kickstarter to fund the pilot project - the first ARC project to do so. We have some brilliant rewards up for grabs including framed prints of winning entries and being a named sponsor on one of the briefs. We have two weeks left on our campaign, and are passionate about making the Pupil Design Awards happen this year.

Please donate, tweet, share and help to spread the word and support the Pupil Design Awards.

Happy New Year :)

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