Stripping down STEM

All Change Please! is getting all STEAMed up about the latest government announcement…

Most of us would agree that for the U.K. to survive in an apocalyptic Hard Brexitland future we are going to need considerable expertise in technology and engineering in order to create innovative new products and services to sell to the world. That is, of course, everyone except for the D well and truly f-ing E.

STEM, as all All Change Please! readers will be familiar with, is an acronym for the study of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Meanwhile All Change Please! has also long been a supporter of the campaign for the acronym to become STEAM, with the A representing The Arts which are required to enable students to develop skills of creativity and to acquire an understanding of human psychological and emotional needs.

While the US seems to grasp the concept that STEM, or STEAM, involves the necessary study of the relationships between the component subjects involved, here in the U.K. we have consistently mis-understood it simply as the isolated study of the separate academic subjects involved. And, given that Design & Technology typically plays no part in STEM, many of us have often wondered where the missing Technology and Engineering subjects are?

Well at least now we know. According to yesterday’s D no f-ing clue whatsoever about Education announcement:

So if there is no Technology or Engineering in STEM, that leaves us with just Science and Mathematics. Thus, to ensure the government cannot be accused of misleading the country, can we now look forward to the STEM initiative being more accurately renamed as S&M?

All Change Please! can’t wait for the newspaper headlines:


Problem still unsolved

19295893399_3ee40fd48c_o.jpgProblem-solving: the process of finding solutions to difficult or complex issues

The recent news that ‘Just 3 per cent of teenagers believe problem solving skills and creativity are essential attributes to have on their CVs’ is of course no more than a reflection of the lack of emphasis and importance placed on them in our education system. And it goes a long way to explaining why so few politicians and administrators seem quite unable to develop policies and procedures that manage to improve the life of the population. Too many students undertake academic degrees, including subjects like science and engineering, having had next to no experience of the processes and approaches involved in coming up with successful new practical and appropriate ways of doing things.

Where children are exposed to problem-solving and creativity in schools, the experience is usually limited to solving closed problems, where there is a single correct right or wrong answer. Such problems are usually technical in nature, rarely focusing on solving individual or social human problems.

Even in design and technology, where a rapidly diminishing number of students are asked to solve design problems, the understanding of problem-solving skills is given disproportionate emphasis to increasingly acquiring knowledge about materials and production technologies. Few children rise to the challenge of resolving multiple conflicting requirements and coming up with truly creative solutions. And while there is good imaginative work in evidence in many departments of art, drama and music, its value and application is restricted to those lessons and defined studio spaces.

Developing students’ problem-solving and creative abilities is not achieved through a series of disparate activities experienced largely out of context. It involves an extended course of study in which increasingly complex, open-ended and challenging problems are tackled in such a way that the learner starts to identify their own strategies and preferred methodologies for tackling different sorts of problems. This includes being able to deal with problems that require:

• a mixture of creative and logical thinking

• dealing with subjective and objective criteria

• testing and evaluating possible solutions using a variety of modelling techniques

• identifying and understanding human needs and desires

• information finding

• planning over multiple time-scales, collaboration and self-management

• effective communication.

Underlying these skills at a more basic level, successful problem-solving requires a desire to improve the way things are, a sense of curiosity, the drive to explore and develop a multiplicity of possible solutions and willingness to learn from failure.

Until our children start to acquire these skills and they come to be acknowledged in schools and universities as being valuable in life and the workplace it is difficult to be optimistic about our future. We no longer require a steady flow of people to administer and oversee the far-flung corners of our long-lost Empire, but instead a stream of creative problem-solvers to construct our brave new post-Brexit world.



Image credits: Flickr Sacha Chua






Shower Power


Recent research has shown that higher-level performance in thinking skills (exactly the sort that Mr By Jove hopes to encourage) result from a relaxation in the prefrontal cortex – the brain’s command center for decisions, goals, and behaviour. In other words, curiously your brain is at its most active when you’re not focused on a specific task.

Now obviously this has some startling implications for learning and assessment, in that it seems that one of the best ways to facilitate this process of coaxing out your genius is to take a shower:

Presumably therefore the DfE’s new GCSE and A level specifications will include the requirement for all candidates to take a shower mid-way through each examination. Under the present system, to avoid so-called cheating, each candidate would therefore need to have their own private cubicle, complete with personal escort.  Carefully co-ordinated coloured bath towels and free delicately scented soaps and candles – the sort of luxuries currently only provided by private schools – will also be required.

“This is an exciting piece of research, and one we will be looking at very seriously.” a spokesperson for the DfE didn’t say, before failing to add: “We plan to conduct some pilot schemes as soon as possible. There are substantial cost implications of course, so we might need to look at upgrading the current communal showers found in schools. As a result we will be considering introducing examinations that involve collaborative work – something teachers have long been asking for. We are also going to look at other means of enabling candidates to relax more and achieve ‘higher’ standards during examinations, such as meditation, yoga, and of course cannabis. After all, the last thing we would want to be accused of is being an enemy of promise.”

1S-2770208991_76c86727fa_zFacilities such as these will need to be substantially upgraded to provide new relaxing collaborative examination facilities.

Image credit: Steven Depolo, Third Angel

All Sign Please!

Creativity, Creativity, Creativity…

Please sign the petition to save the future of creativity in schools

“The campaign to reform the EBacc

The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) threatens the very future of creative subjects – like Music, Art, Design & Technology, Drama and Dance.

By missing them off its list of core areas children must study, the Government is undermining their place at the heart of learning.

Your voice is vital to help change this

Without them, our children will be denied the balanced education they need to grow and thrive. Without them, the skills that drive our creative economy will be lost.”

Image credit:  shadfan66