THE BLOG
09/09/2011 20:05 BST | Updated 09/11/2011 05:12 GMT

Osborne and Gove Must Fuse the Link Between the Economy and Education

While Osborne calls for a 'march of the makers', Gove considers dropping Design and Technology - the font of modern making - from the national curriculum. Inspirational design and technology lessons nurture problem solvers - people with the good ideas to be developed and exported.

George Osborne and Michael Gove need to talk. While Osborne calls for a 'march of the makers', Gove considers dropping Design and Technology - the font of modern making - from the national curriculum. Inspirational design and technology lessons nurture problem solvers - people with the good ideas to be developed and exported. So why is the subject losing out to its 'hard' competitors?

Martin Rees, Master of Trinity College Cambridge, extols the virtues of science in his post. Not only in education and for the economy, but culturally too. And as he admits, it's not all about glitzy science projects; for me, our future is not exclusively digital or virtual either. We still need to invent and make.

D&T should be valued by its long-term contribution to the economy, not by expense of teaching it. It teaches prized skills, relevant to business and industry; the launch pad for the next generation of Edisons, Brunels and Whittles. D&T needs inspiring teachers and healthy government funding but this investment will produce good yield.

D&T is the most popular subject after the compulsory ones (a title it was stripped of in 2004), but it has a dowdy 'soft' reputation. I can see why. The 'hard' parts of the subject have been linked with softer elements like food technology, textiles and graphics.

It was the 1880s Samuelson Commission that introduced Victorian handicraft to our schools, albeit as a subject for those "dull in all 'brain work'". It's a myth about engineering and technology that persists: making plastic clocks or moneyboxes at school, fixing boilers and mending the car in working life.

My only exposure to practical hands-on skill at school was woodwork - it was dull. We made wonky matchbox holders and as exciting as it got, it wasn't enough to inspire a career in engineering or design. It was at home that I experimented. Ripping apart exciting machines to discover how they work, before invariably failing to piece them back together again. We had lots of broken radios. It was, eventually, at London's Royal College of Art that I had the inspiring teachers who gave me the skills to ultimately rip the bag off my old Hoover Junior and create a vacuum cleaner that didn't wheeze and lose suction.

Well taught, relevant and ultimately 'hard' Design & Technology will inspire more of young people, prompting them to take their interest further - to a career. Design engineering marries the creative with the cerebral, turning ideas into commercial reality. But the subject needs a re-design. Remove cookery and sewing, shift the focus to engineering, product design, and technology. Call it DTE - Design, technology and engineering. Merged with STEM subjects, it's a winning combination of theoretical knowledge and practical skills. It is the fourth science.

George Osborne and Michael Gove must fuse the link between the economy and education. D&T can be that link if added to the STEM quartet - providing fertile ground for new technology. Young people learn theory from science, but only through DTE will the theory be put into practice.