Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the EEF (Engineering Employers' Federation) and EMTA (the National Training Organisation for Engineering Manufacture)

  The EEF is a nation-wide Federation of 13 regional Associations and ECIA (the Engineering Construction Industry Association) and operates in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as in the English regions. It has a growing membership of nearly 6,000 member companies of all sizes, employing 900,000 people from every sector of engineering, manufacturing, engineering construction and technology based industries.

  EMTA is the National Training Organisation for engineering manufacture. This sector consists of 1.8 million employees in over 60,000 establishments and includes the engineering sectors of aerospace, electrical engineering, electronics, mechanical engineering, motor vehicles, shipbuilding and repair.

  This paper is written from the point of view of the needs of engineering employers for a knowledgeable and skilled workforce. This is not to say that we subscribe to the view that education is only, or even primarily, about the needs of employment. Education is for life and for the development of well-rounded individuals. It should prepare young people both to be productive members of society and to discover their full potential in many areas. However, employment is a very significant part of life and it would not be a service to individual young people, nor to the economy, if the needs of employment were ignored.

  Knowledge and understanding of science and scientific principles are of vital importance to engineers of the future. Engineering and technology can be defined as the application of science and scientific principles to the solving of problems and the production of "artefacts". Thus, we believe that science is of prime importance in the education of young people, not only for the needs of employment, but also so that all young people have an appreciation and understanding of the workings of their environment and the world in which they live. Of increasing importance is a thorough understanding of improvements which science and technology can bring to both the planet and the people.

  It is a major concern that the number of young people choosing science options at "A" level continues to fall and that young people and their parents see the science curriculum as too theoretical and not relevant to their every day lives.


  The key to making science teaching relevant to young people of any age is to demonstrate the application of the particular scientific principles to situations, products and issues in every day life.

  There are a number of ways that this can be done. Using links with employment and visits to local companies is one way to demonstrate relevance and application. The move, for some learning, for some pupils at key stage 4 to the work place or in a work related environment, gives a huge opportunity to link the school based study of science with the work based experience being gained in the workplace. However, clearly the number of visits possible to local companies will be limited both by the nature of industry and commerce in the local area and also by restrictions on curriculum time. Therefore it will be necessary to use other methods of demonstrating practical application, such as multimedia (bringing the world into the classroom) and practical project work.

  Making optimum use of the similarities between the science curriculum and the design and technology curriculum would also help to demonstrate the application of science. The EEF, in conjunction with the Engineering Council, recently sponsored a study on the relationship between science, and design and technology in the school curriculum. Whereas in all other walks of life, the link between science and technology was seen to be fundamental, there was very little evidence found in schools of science and design and technology teachers working together to exploit the similarities between the two subject areas. Indeed, there was even very little understanding by the teachers of one discipline of the curriculum and attributes of the other discipline. This is despite the fact that the attributes being developed in the two subjects had a considerable degree of overlap. However, teachers from both disciplines were strongly in agreement that far greater co-operation and co-ordination between the departments would be desirable. The report identifies barriers to this and strongly urges that steps should be taken to encourage and facilitate such co-operation and co-ordination. The report's recommendations focus on the development, evaluation and dissemination of good practice in this area.


  One of the main aims of the forthcoming Green Paper on the 14 to 19 curriculum is to create greater parity of esteem between vocational and academic programmes of study and for it to become the norm for the majority of young people to undertake both academic and vocational subjects in their studies between ages of 14 and 19. September 2002 sees the introduction of a range of GCSEs in vocational subjects, including applied science, engineering and manufacturing. If these subjects are well designed, they should give excellent opportunities to demonstrate the relevance of science in the real world. Again the use of employer links will greatly enhance this as would the opportunity for work based learning alongside the study of these GCSEs in vocational subjects.

  EMTA and the EEF are very hopeful that the new Engineering Specialist Schools will also give young people the opportunity to learn about the contribution made by science and technology to their lives. We are leading a consortium which plans to provide funding for three such schools from September 2002. We would expect Engineering Specialist Schools to offer engineering qualifications, a wide range of vocational and academic subjects, and high-quality work experience which allows students to relate their learning in school to the business world.


  Poor understanding of mathematics and poor mathematical skills are of considerable concern to employers with respect to young people of all ages. Exploiting the links between the science curriculum and the mathematics curriculum should help to reinforce and develop mathematical skills in young people. Some years ago, some work was initiated at Exeter University entitled "Mathematics from Issues". It argued that mathematics curriculum should be entirely linked with applications in domestic and business life. All topics should be taught from the starting point of the problem, issue or application, before the theory of the technique is tackled. This approach in both mathematics and science would enhance the understanding of both subjects among all pupils.


  Science subjects are generally recognised as being harder than other subjects at "A" level. This has the effect of discouraging young people who would have the aptitude to undertake them. This is not a new issue. Science curricula are continuously expanding to accommodate the growing field of scientific knowledge.


  It is essential that there is a sufficient supply of well qualified and trained teachers of science. However, well qualified scientists are in great demand in other parts of the economy where they are often better rewarded than in the teaching profession. There has always been a shortage of high quality teachers in the very subjects which the economy particularly needs. This becomes a vicious circle leading to fewer successfully studying the subject, which in turn leads to further and growing shortages. It may be necessary to consider premium salaries for first class teachers of these critical shortage subjects.

  Following from the point above, we would suggest that one of the criteria for qualification as a "first class" teacher of science and technology should be an awareness of/experience in the "real-life" application of science. The EEF and EMTA has repeatedly called for teachers to be supported in work-experience, allowing them to gain business and industry knowledge which they can then use to illustrate theoretical concepts in the classroom. Similarly, we strongly support the opening up of schools to non-teaching professionals, who may not hold a formal teaching qualification, but who already engage in teaching in many ways (such as training apprentices or graduates). Such people could add real value to education through their support of teachers, either acting as additional assistance for those who may not be specialist experts, or in teaching particular elements of the curriculum (such as the use of equipment, the application of concepts, or the illustration of theory with industry examples).


  There are particular issues surrounding girls and the study of science and related subjects. These subjects have always been viewed by girls, teachers and the public at large as being more appropriate for boys than girls and it is difficult to break down these entrenched stereotypes. Girls often have to make a major effort to break into these so-called non-traditional subjects. There has always been a significant shortfall of girls taking these subjects, although girls are much more likely to take the "softer" science subjects such as biology and chemistry. Recent January 2002 figures from the Engineering Council show that the percentages of girls among students achieving different "A" level subjects are 37 per cent for mathematics, 23 per cent for Physics and 49 per cent for Chemistry. Only 15 per cent of engineering graduates are women. To attract more girls into the "harder" science subjects requires the positioning of the subjects in topics which are of interest to girls, for example medical and environmental issues rather than defence and transport, and a reduction in peer group and cultural pressures.


  The review of the 14 to 19 Curriculum, the proposals for an overarching certificate to be awarded at age 19 and greater opportunities for students to undertake both vocational and academic study give some real opportunities to position science teaching in the real world. If the new certificate is based on some sort of Baccalaureate model, where the student is required to demonstrate achievement in a broader base of subjects than is currently the norm then more young people would be studying science subjects or science related vocational subjects. However, a real breakthrough here can only be achieved if the science curricula and teaching methods are seen as relevant and interesting by the young people.


  In our response to the Roberts Review of the Supply of Scientists and Engineers, the joint submission by EMTA and the EEF, through their Joint Education and Training Policy Committee, identified a number of skill requirements for people working in engineering and science. These included: high levels of technical knowledge; an appreciation of external situations and influences on their particular area; an understanding of the business process, including the supply chain; the ability to recognise and exploit innovation in the market place; the ability to interact with a wide range of people and professions, including colleagues, the wider workforce, journalists; analytical thinking and problem-solving; negotiation and teamworking skills; and organisation and project management skills.

  The science curriculum and the way in which it is delivered should therefore reflect these needs, offering young people a combination of academic study, vocational education, and experience in the workplace. We have attached a summary of our response to the Roberts Review.

January 2002

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