Leaving design & technology out of the new accountability measures could prove a costly mistake, warns Martyn R Hale
We’re now well into 2017 and over the past few years the nation has witnessed its worst global recession since the 2nd World War, despite efforts by the coalition Government to nurse the economy back to a credible level so we can afford the best health, education and welfare systems available.
As a nation Britain punches well above its weight in the global market for innovation, research and creativity, and to maintain an increase in the world we need the labour to deliver the results. For example, currently we have two of the most efficient car engine manufacturing plants in the world, but do we have the skill sets within the UK to deliver the end product, rather than rely on globally imported labour to subsidise our efforts?
The wrong priorities?
Launched in September 2016, Progress 8 is our English secondary school accountability system. It measures a pupil’s progress during their education and is designed to encourage schools to offer a broad and balanced curriculum at KS4. Schools choose five core subjects from nine disciplines: mathematics, English, a foreign language, history, geography, science, physics, chemistry and computer science. Design & technology, however, is not included as a ‘core’ subject. This needs to be addressed urgently; we need engineers of all levels, from technicians through to graduates, in order to compete on a national stage.
“We rely on a steady stream of young engineers, should this flow be stopped the implications on our industry would be extremely detrimental,” observes Adrian Newey OBE, Chief Technical Officer of Red Bull Racing. “The thought of Britain being anywhere but at the cutting edge of scientific and technological development doesn’t bear thinking about.”
Saudi Arabia soars ahead
One place in particular which has used its initiative, implemented vocational education across the board and is now reaping the rewards is The World Academy in ‘King Abdullah’s Economic City’. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia The Educational Zone is part of a plan to bring the Saudis’ capabilities and aspirations in technology to compete globally. It has been planned to consist of a multi-university campus flanked by two research and development parks. The campus is designed to accommodate 18,000 students, and 7,500 faculty and staff members.
Students in the academy are educated to the highest standards of an enriched international curriculum - and this includes design and technology, which enables them to develop innovative and creative thinking skills. These are already contributing to the creation of a huge economic increase and will subsequently help Saudi Arabia trade with surrounding areas.
A core subject
In her report looking at vocational education in secondary school, Professor Alison Wolf said: “Our society believes in equality of opportunity for all its citizens. This means equipping young people for a world in which their education makes a critical difference to their future lives, and for an economy undergoing constant and largely unpredictable change. We need to ensure that vocational education for 14-19 year olds really does serve the purpose of creating and maintaining opportunities for all young people.”
Known as the ‘making subject’, design & technology is the platform from where tomorrow’s makers are launched to become technicians or graduate engineers, making it arguably the most important option for the future of the British economy.
In September 2017 the KS4 GCSE curriculum will introduce a rigorous new learning programme. No longer a ‘soft’ subject, design & technology is the only course of study that covers science, technology, engineering and mathematics – as such, it should be moved to the core of the curriculum, for the benefit of students, and our nation as a whole.
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