I work for a small company and occasionally we get a phone call from an agency ringing on behalf of the Government wanting to gather data on our work and impact. If we have the data, we will share it with the Government and if not then we cannot do so, sometimes we have to do a bit of extra work to measure aspects of our efforts before we can answer the questions. Over the last 20 years I have worked for a range of charities as a Trustee and where these charities have received funding from statutory sources such as the Government or the EU it is not unusual for charities to receive requests to provide data which is a new request and usually they are given time to pull the information together before publishing it. Clearly the more useful a piece of data is the more important its provision, even if it takes time to generate. Although I have never worked directly in education I am sure they are asked to gather data from time to time. A few weeks ago an MP asked a question of the Government which they explained they do not know the answer to. That appears to be the end of the Q and A session and life will now move on. My question in the light of what appears to be a very useful piece of data to ask for, is why is the Government not being requested to send off requests to gather the data so that next time they are asked such a question, they have the answer?
The question relates to a theme referred to as STEM which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. We are currently in the Year of Engineering and both Engineering and Mathematics depend in part on data being available. If an MP is told the Government does not have an answer, surely there is a way of raising this up a notch and demanding that the Government measure the issue concerned?
Ian Austin is the MP for Dudley North and back on St Georges Day at the end of April he asked: “To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what proportion of students leaving a free school pursued a STEM subject at university in each year since 2015; and if he will make a statement.”
His question was answered by Sam Gyimah who is the MP for East Surrey and Minister for Higher Education. His response was “The department does not hold information on the subject of higher education qualifications pursued by pupils leaving free schools. We do published information on pupil destinations, which includes a breakdown of the types of destination that pupils move on to after key stage 5.”
So at present the Government uses our funds to measure what people study at University and they fund education more generally. It surely would make sense, bearing in mind the different types of education provision in this country to measure what sort of education that students progress onto after leaving School so that the types of education can be seen through such data.
I am a STEM Ambassador and many of my colleagues regularly visit Schools as volunteers to endeavour to raise the profile of STEM subjects. It would be very helpful if the work of STEM Ambassadors could be assessed based on the increase or reduction in students from school types moving on to work or study STEM subjects. STEM is about matters that depend on data, it is not unreasonable for us to expect the Government to improve its data whenever questions are asked such as the one by Ian Austin!