Dyson echoes IET’s curriculum warning on engineering

The UK risks failing the next generation of engineers and technicians if proposed changes to the National Curriculum are implemented, the IET warns today.

In a statement echoed by industrial designer and businessman James Dyson, the Institution of Engineering and Technology argued that proposed changes to England’s design and technology (DT) curriculum lack the ambition needed to encourage more young people into engineering.

Dyson made a similar point in an article in today’s Guardian, arguing that education secretary Michael Gove was overlooking design and technology in the proposed curriculum and ‘diluting it with puff pastry and topiary’ instead of engineering.

Without an increase in engineers, he warned, technology companies would leave the UK for countries such as Malaysia and Singapore, further cutting Britain’s export capabilities.

As part of the IET’s submission to the Department for Education’s National Curriculum consultation, which closes today, the organisation said the draft proposals appear to set lower expectations for pupils compared to the existing programme.

In particular, the IET argues, there appears to be an inappropriately high focus on practical and life skills at the expense of encouraging students to innovate, design, create, and build.

Paul Davies, IET head of policy, said in a statement: ‘The draft Design & Technology curriculum has lacked expert input, and as a result, does not provide the rigour and challenge consistent with the needs of today.

‘We are concerned about the lack of emphasis of how Design & Technology relates to and is used in the creation of new technologies and modern manufacturing processes, which is very important to inspire students into strategically important related subjects such as engineering.

‘Without this link, students will not be adequately prepared for career opportunities and the needs of employers and, more worryingly, this will exacerbate the technical skills shortage that the UK is currently facing.

‘This is contradictory to the government’s attempts to rebalance the economy towards manufacturing industries.’

Dyson, whose charitable foundation today launched a new teaching resource called Ideas Box to enable children to experience the process of design engineering, said the curriculum should be about problem-solving, prototyping and learning by doing.

‘It is no coincidence that students who study DT alongside maths and science do better,’ he said in the article. ‘Taught well, it contextualises tricky equations and abstract scientific concepts in creative ways.’