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Creativity spurs innovation, so how can we give the arts more emphasis within the science, technology, engineering and maths mix?


by Nicolette Sheehan From STEM to W


here a rounded education was once seen as the ideal, the promotion of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects in recent years has seen the arts being pushed to the sidelines. But in our scramble to train up a


workforce qualied in STEM subjects, have we thrown the proverbial baby out with the bathwater? A cursory glance through history shows many examples of inventors and scientists whose work was also informed by their art: alileo (poet), Einstein (violinist), and, of course, Leonardo Da Vinci, whose output included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography!


Building the British workforce The recent division in favour of STEM subjects in schools has less to do with educational principles, and more to do with economics. The UK already has a world-class digital economy, and it’s still growing. However, nearly 20 of vacancies within the industry are difcult to ll because of skills shortages. The irony is that, at the same time, over 16 of our digital native 16- to 24-year-olds are out of work. In order to give these young people the skills they need to


get a job, while simultaneously solving the workforce problem, STEM subjects have been given the mother of all leg ups. It is current government policy to encourage science over


arts subjects in schools, to train more STEM teachers, and to create links between schools and employers in order to ‘open young people’s minds to the opportunities available and boost their employability skills.’ Universities, employers and charities are all trying to


stimulate young people’s interest in STEM. Online campaign YourLife.org.uk, which is sponsored by big corporations, encourages more young people into science and maths using competitions and celebrity role models, as well as informing them that they will earn more! Groups such as the charity EDT,


16 SPRING 2016 FundEd


run work experience schemes, while companies such as IBM, BAE Systems and O2 are all investing in the provision of teaching materials, open days and opportunities to inspire students to gain the skills that these businesses are crying out for.


The gender gap In addition, girls have been targeted by campaigns such as STEMettes, seeking to improve the situation where only 11 of girls who achieved A in maths GCSE go on to study mathematics A-level, and just 9 of engineers in the UK are female, putting us bottom in Europe. The repercussions for women opting out of the sciences are


seen in women’s earnings; girls who take maths and science A-levels earn a third more than arts and humanities students. So STEM would seem not only to offer women a good career, but also to address the gender pay gap.


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