There is a rich and fascinating history that stems from Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM); one that has been pioneered by some of the greatest and most creative minds, including Stephen Hawkins, Tim Berners-Lee and Ada Lovelace.
But despite the feats accomplished in these fields, we know that too few young people are pursuing an active interest in these subjects, with massive implications on their attainment and the opportunities available to them in the future. This is especially true amongst pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, with fifty eight per cent of those eligible for free school meals in 2011 failing to achieve a maths GCSE grade at A*-C (Skills Commission, 2011).
Unsurprisingly, this is just as daunting for businesses and the wider economy. A report that was published in 2013 by the Social Market Foundation, titled: In the Balance: The STEM human capital crunch, revealed a significant mismatch between future employment requirements and the supply of skills in the STEM sector. The report goes on to suggest that the Government’s aim to rebalance the economy away from financial services is inconceivable due to a 40,000 per year shortage of STEM graduates.
Undoubtedly then, the need for more young people to recognise the value of the STEM subjects is crucial – both for themselves, businesses, and the wider economy.
At Teach First, we are therefore delighted to see the return of Deloitte’s annual Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) Predictions Schools Challenge. By working with sixth form students from Deloitte Access partner schools as well as a wider network of schools, this event directly supports our vision for ensuring that all pupils have access to the opportunities in life that they deserve.
Now in its third year — and handily coinciding with British Science Week — the event provides an exciting opportunity to showcase the excitement of STEM by challenging students to present their innovations for the technology, media or telecoms businesses of the future. Many of these predictions are set out in Deloitte’s recently published report, TMT Predictions 2016.
On Thursday 17 March, schools from London, Milton Keynes and Belfast will take part in the competition’s Grand Final, each setting out their innovative business ideas leveraging recent scientific and technological advances; from virtual reality tours of universities and mobile games to help teenagers better manage their finances, to an equally ingenious way for how we can get more out of our old smartphones.
As a society, we must all loudly value the contribution of STEM to our lives. For this reason, we are committed not only to recruiting, training and placing teachers in schools serving low-income communities, but also, working with businesses like Deloitte to ensure long-term change. Without this pupils will never realise how much we rely on scientists and mathematicians to invent the next step in our future.