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Peter Finegold: “We need to consider ideas like scrapping early specialisation”

UK: Peter Finegold, IMechE education head, has welcomed Labour party calls for a cross-party review on school exams and the curriculum.

According to the BBC, shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt is calling for long-term changes to England’s exams and curriculum for 14 to 19-year-olds. This includes updating the GCSE system to include academic and vocational subjects.

In response, Peter Finegold of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers said: “This motion is a welcome proposal. As the new Government beds in, now is the moment to take stock and evaluate exactly what we need from our education sector, and specifically science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education.

“We need political consensus and to move away from the short-term policy and structural changes to our education system subject driven by the electoral cycle and political meddling.”

Despite STEM education being seen as the linchpin to developing a high-skills economy and building the UK’s economic growth, Finegold says there are still not enough people choosing to study engineering.

“We need to consider ideas like scrapping early specialisation, which channels young people down arts- or science-dominated routes at a very early age and ask questions like why do we spend so much time teaching about the natural world yet devote so little to the manufactured world – even though most students experience far more of the latter?

“This is not about rushing in with new policies,” he maintains. “The UK education system does need to change but these changes need to be based on evidence, analysis and consultation with teachers and the wider education community.”