There has been an abundance of analysis on the Budget and the Industrial Strategy over the past week. As always, the reactions have been more or less split down party lines, with some questioning how much real change this will lead to, and over what period of time.
We know that the wheels of government turn rather slowly, and so while we await the approval of certain big ticket items like the new 26-30 railcard… and 300,000 new houses, what can we expect (besides more articles like this)?
It’s fair to say that you can expect to see a noticeable shift in attention in education. It is clear from the Budget announcement that the future – in the sense of acknowledging Artificial Intelligence and driverless cars– is a focus. Although certainly not the primary focus… (Refer to word cloud courtesy of Deloitte).
Could it be that the government has heard our complaints about education? With more than £406 million being committed to STEM education, including teacher training and school funding, it seems that they might have. One of the biggest complaints getting press attention since the rollout of the 2014 tech curriculum has been the lack of trained computing teachers; we now have the promise that the number of trained computer science teachers will triple to 12,000. Where these teachers will come from is anyone’s guess, but it is good to know that there is a large fund set aside to train existing computing teachers and an intention to work closer with industry experts to inform the curriculum.
It is not only computing education that is receiving special treatment; STEM curriculum, particularly maths, from primary through to A-levels is now being backed up with additional resources, and new support for further education, including T-levels and distance-learning was announced (although a majority of the adult education announcements have been postponed). These changes indicate that there is a real potential for the pipeline of British students into the most in-demand jobs of the future to be strengthened.
There is still a large gap between the UK and EU countries, particularly in technical skills, and this is predicted to increase as the UK gets closer to the imminent divorce date. With that in mind, the government is borrowing ideas from Germany, who seems to have the formula for nurturing students into both academic and vocational routes down pat. It is estimated that this funnelling of money into training could add £11 billion to the economy over the next five years.
Overall these announcements show that the Government has realised that it’s now or never to upskill the population, and sights are certainly set very high, with the aim of making the UK “the world’s most innovative nation by 2030”. Many of these educational aims will surely be reflected in the upcoming Bett show next month, where trusted brands and passionate start-ups will be showcasing technology that will engage and enthuse 21st century students.
To top it off, as the country’s productivity begins to climb, we can all kick back with a pint or whatever your chosen libation is, and relish the fact that we won’t be paying more for that.