Government must better support professional development of STEM teachers, report shows

With T Levels beginning in 2020, it may be more important than ever to ensure STEM teachers can access the training and resources they need. According to a new report, the government needs to focus far more on the professional development of these teachers

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers was recently a leading contributor to a newly-launched report: ‘Engineering Skills for the Future – the 2013 Perkins review revisited’.

The report revisits the landmark 2013 ‘Review of Engineering Skills’ by Professor John Perkins FREng, which reviewed engineering education from primary to professional, and sets out a roadmap for government and the engineering community that identifies urgent priorities for action.

Peter Finegold, head of education at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and a key contributor to the new reports, gives his view on three of the key areas that government and other stakeholders must focus on:

“Since it was issued five years ago, Professor John Perkins’ report has set the agenda for attempts to ensure that the UK has a sustainable supply of engineering talent for the future.

“Unfortunately, despite everyone’s best intentions there has not been a huge amount of meaningful progress and I hope that this new report will have greater impact on government, industry and the education sector to ensure much-needed change is pushed through.

“First, there is an urgent need for government to do more to support teachers’ professional development – many STEM teachers do not know about engineering and this is in turn restricts pupil’s exposure to the sector.

“Government should be ensuring that teachers of mathematics, science, design and technology and computing have a protected entitlement of 40 hours of subject specific continuing professional development every year, with ring-fenced funding.

“The STEM Insight programme provides an excellent blueprint for this approach, which we and the IET have committed over £200,000 to and which has delivered over 230 teacher placements in industry over the last four years.

“This gives teachers immersive access to engineering firms to understand the sector and the varied routes into engineering careers. Teachers bring this professionally life-changing experience back to school to inspire their colleagues and students.

“Second, there are deep-rooted cultural prejudices that mean children are often encouraged to favour academic over technical education. A profound shift in attitudes is required to achieve greater parity and if employers are to help with this they must be given greater flexibility in the use of the Apprenticeship Levy and more say in how their resources are spent in order to achieve this goal.

“Finally, we would advocate a review of academic pathways after 16 – employers are telling us that future jobs will require a broad base of creative and technical skill, alongside skills such as complex problem solving and critical thinking.

“However, the education system across the UK remains resolutely subject-focused, driving a wedge between science and arts subjects. As a result many young people who have the potential to have a fantastic career in engineering are being pushed down a different path before they’ve had a chance to properly explore the opportunities available to them.”

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