Last month the Lords Education for 11-16 Year Olds Committee published its long-awaited report on the education system for secondary school-age children. And the overall message is clear – change is needed.
The report, titled ‘Requiring Improvement’, bemoans the undue focus on academic learning and written exams in English secondary schools. It argues this is limiting opportunities for pupils to study a broad and balanced curriculum and to develop core skills. With our focus on the need to grow the number and diversity of young people pursuing engineering and technology careers, to ensure that the UK has the skilled workforce it needs to meet future challenges, we at EngineeringUK would agree with a lot of what is being said.
In our recently published inquiry report looking at apprenticeships in England, developed in partnership and led by Lord Willetts and Lord Knight, we outline similar concerns – and in fact, come to similar conclusions. Hands- on- learning, offered in subjects such as Design & Technology, has been on the decline for some time.
This is leaving a lot of young people with little to no opportunity to make the connections between theoretical knowledge and, as some would say, is taking out all the fun that is meant to be part of learning. This, our report argues, has an impact on how different post-16 routes are perceived, standing in the way of true parity of esteem between academic routes and more vocational pathways.
The recommendations are clear – young people need to be enabled to make connections between their learning and the world that surrounds them. To achieve this, the Lords’ report, in line with our report, recommend for example that the EBACC system needs to be revisited and the Progress 8 Scoring system reviewed, to ensure a greater breadth of subjects being available for young people to study. They also need to be able to access careers information, advice and guidance that truly values vocational and technical pathways, alongside the academic route. In light of this, we welcome the reference in the report in relation to the importance of meaningful engagement between schools and employers.
Transforming Education for Future Careers
At EngineeringUK, we work with employers and education providers across the country to ensure that young people are able to make the connections between classroom learning and modern engineering and technology careers. We lead collaborative efforts to improve the impact of all engineering and tech inspiration and careers activities for young people through Tomorrow’s Engineers and managing The Tomorrow’s Engineers Code. Through our engagement programmes, such as The Big Bang, Energy Quest and our new Climate Schools Programme, we aim to ignite a passion for STEM among young people from all backgrounds. We also share careers resources and help teachers bring STEM curriculum to life through real-world engineering and tech via Neon.
However, there is so much more that needs to be done to reach young people across the country and to give them the opportunity to learn about the different jobs as well as the varied career pathways into critical industries such as engineering and technology.
The government is due to respond to the report mid-February and there are many of us who would urge the government to listen carefully to the united voices on these issues. The education system has to move with the times and it needs to enable all young people to succeed and to access the many future employment opportunities that this country can offer.
Young people in the main want to learn, they want to know about the world. It is a government’s task to ensure that the systems in place allow them to do this. Now is the time to honestly look at what needs to change and to have the courage to do so.
By Beatrice Barleon, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at EngineeringUK
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