Q. What should schools, colleges and universities be focusing on for 2020?
I believe that the focus should be on preparing students for jobs that can’t be replaced by automation. The news is constantly telling us that AI and automation will replace many jobs in the future – so what can we teach young people now that will hold them in good stead for the future?
Team-working, problem-solving and leadership are all qualities that will never be automated. At the Smallpeice Trust, and through our Arkwright Engineering Scholarship programme, these skills form the basis of our educational programmes which aim to nurture these qualities in young people.
Q. What, if any, policy changes would you like to see in education this year?
Speaking as a Chair of Governors at a school and also as the CEO of an education charity, I am seeing a lot of uncertainty around Brexit and the political implications of a potential change in government. Together with the new Ofsted framework and the new Gatsby benchmarks, I would suggest a period of stability before introducing any new policies.
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Q. If you could pinpoint one area of improvement for the education sector during 2020, what would it be?
We rely on teachers’ goodwill to ensure that young people benefit from our programmes, and there is a wealth of resources available. However, if teachers do not have the time to access these resources, opportunities are missed. So, more time available for teachers would be one area for improvement.
Q. Is there a particular area within edtech that you think should be the main focus for 2020?
We have just completed a survey of our Arkwright scholars and found that climate change will be the biggest challenge facing the engineers of tomorrow. The survey revealed that nearly half of respondents believe that climate change is the biggest challenge facing UK scientists and engineers over the next five years. Forty-four percent of our respondents believed that the biggest challenge was climate change, while 37% opted for managing existing fuel sources. When asked the question ‘What emerging technology interests you the most?’, meanwhile, autonomous vehicles topped the list with 44%, followed by artificial intelligence (29%) and robotics (26%).