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An improved school curriculum could really help get more young people – and especially girls - interested in science, technology and engineering careers. That was the reaction of Mid Worcestershire MP Peter Luff to the outcome of a debate held in the House of Commons yesterday (Wednesday).

Peter had secured the debate on the Government’s proposed new National Curriculum for Design and Technology. The draft had received a very critical reception from industrialists and academics for not addressing the exciting realities of modern engineering and also for placing too great an emphasis on cooking.

Speaking after the debate, Peter commented,

“I really was delighted by what Liz Truss, the minister, said in this debate and I couldn’t have asked for more. It is so important that the Government gets this right because we have a desperate shortage of engineers and technicians in the UK and the D&T curriculum is one of the best long-term ways of addressing that shortage.”

In his speech Peter said,

“The two greatest avoidable threats to our prosperity and security are the deficit and science, technology, engineering and maths, STEM, skill shortages. A good Design and Technology Curriculum can make a major contribution to addressing this second issue.

“However, as the minister will be aware, great concern about the draft D&T curriculum is being expressed by academics and teachers. But this is no plea of simple self-interest from producer groups. Industry - the end user of the skills provided to our children at school - is deeply concerned too.”

Peter went on to say,

“My principal concern, though, is that the whole draft curriculum is written in a way that retreats from the combination of rigour and inspiration that the department is rightly seeking in other areas of study. The curriculum should be encouraging creativity in its students, offering them choice over how to approach problems and giving them as much autonomy as possible in their approach.

“Students need to experience the reality of STEM in the modern world to understand it. And for this they need real project work and real industry partners to bring it all to life. Making design and technology fun, relevant and stimulating. Instead the draft curriculum prepares its students for a low technology past, not a high technology present and future.”

He concluded by saying,

“The Prime Minister rightly says we are in a global race – and he didn’t mean a pancake race.

“To win that race we need to foster our creativity and innovation. To extend the metaphor, our young people must not just to learn how to cook pancakes but rather constantly to search for better pancake ingredients and recipes and design and build better stoves to cook them on.”

In her response Liz Truss, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Children said,

“I agree with much of what my hon. Friend said. Design and technology is an extremely important subject, which builds on this country’s long history of leading the world in design, innovation, engineering, manufacturing and architecture.

“It was not a deliberate act on our part to give food and cooking a position of primacy in the curriculum. Indeed, improvements could certainly be made to the curriculum, and I take on board my hon. Friend’s suggestions. I recently had a meeting with representatives from the Design and Technology Association, who said that they will come back with further suggestions on how we might improve the language and make the subject as aspirational and as rigorous as possible while not losing the breadth and the flexibility that we are trying to give teachers.

“I agree that we need to make it clear that the subject is both rigorous and important. We want young people to study it and be inspired by it.”

After the debate Peter commented,

“A good D&T curriculum helps students to appreciate the uses of Maths and Physics and will inspire many young people – and, I suspect, especially girls – to pursue careers in science, technology and engineering.

“My constituent, Sue Wood-Griffiths, who is a lecturer at Worcester University and drew this to my attention in first place, sums up the importance of providing children with a good D&T education saying,

“We should acknowledge that we are educating children today for a world that they will live in in the future and not the one we used to live in.”

“It is clear that the Department for Education recognise the changes that need to be made to their draft D&T Curriculum and I look forward to working with the minister to ensure that the new version reflects the exciting reality of modern science, engineering and technology.”


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