This was written on Friday (it is in the Argus this morning) before the national lockdown announcement.
Today a significant number of pupils are due to return to their schools for the beginning of their second half of autumn term in the run up to Christmas. Clearly this half term will be one with a number of pressures for the Schools and the Teachers and many of us will be keen to see some increased support from the Government via local Councils. It was very frustrating that two weeks ago when Parliament debated and voted for our nation to support families on low incomes in Schools that some of the MPs and Ministers got confused about the funds that the Government had released to Councils in early June. At that time the Government made it clear that the money was intended to last for around 12 weeks from the beginning of July so it was shocking that in the last two weeks some Ministers suggested it would extend to late October and even to Christmas and into next year. Parliament clearly needs help so that when statements are made and published by the Government, that they then can be recalled with all of the details. Although setting dates and counting weeks is not exclusively a mathematical skill, this sort of confusion in Parliament and in the Government does raise the question of whether STEM training would benefit some of the people who are running our nation. Indeed perhaps the young people who are returning to school today could be encouraged to focus on these elements as they set out to consider what qualifications and what careers they would like to develop for themselves in the future.
The Science theme that is at the start of STEM is a clear focus on how we should be dealing with COVID and it while it is clearly vital for our whole nation, if the Government included some people with a science capability, some of the mistakes made over the last 10 months might have been avoided. The Technology which the Government is failing to use in an effective way within their internal processes is partly because certain people consider history is more important than the best ways of working in the 21st Century. As London where Parliament is based appears to be heading towards Tier 3 it would seem as though the use of video conferencing debates and digital voting processes could enable most or even all MPs to remain in their constituencies. Indeed it would also help to reduce the risk of MPs like Margaret Ferrier travelling into London from other parts of the country while they have COVID. Equally it would reduce the risk of any MPs being exposed to COVID when they come into an area like London before returning home.
The final part of STEM is Mathematics and it is clear that the MPs and Ministers who claimed that a 12 week period from the beginning of July would reach the end of October or even Christmas and beyond are in desperate need of some mathematical information. The third STEM theme is one I wanted to refer to because I am personally involved in it and also it is one that today has a very specific relevance. This week is the “Tomorrows Engineers Week 2020” which is a campaign organised by Tomorrows Engineers from 2nd to 6th November which places an emphasis on providing inspiring and exciting opportunities for young people to experience digital and social media engineering platforms. As people return to School after half term, it would be fantastic if some teachers could pick up this theme up and encourage their pupils to consider engineering for the future. Although there is no indication that Parliament has adopted this for any of their themes, on Wednesday there will be debate that could refer to it. The debate in Westminster Hall at 2.30 is on the subject of “Funding for further education”. Let us hope that the threat of Tier 3 for London does not arise this week and that this debate will be able to take place on Wednesday. It would be fantastic if the themes of Engineering along with Science, Mathematics and Technology would be raised by the Politicians involved, even if they do not have backgrounds that are connected with any of these themes. My own involvement with engineering began when I left School with few qualifications but which left me to explore several ideas and thankfully I managed to get into a nearby Technical College where I gained enough qualifications to get accepted for a degree by Brighton Polytechnic. I was privileged to learn a great deal and I was able to leave with an Engineering Degree that has been very helpful for me ever since. It is clear to me that we would benefit from MPs who understand such a subject!