David Davis MP calls for educational reform


As published in the Sunday Times:

One of the biggest challenges facing our nation is the creation of an education system that nurtures talent and creates opportunity for everyone. However, debate about reform often focuses on two opposites — knowledge and skills. This is a false divide. Knowledge is only relevant alongside the skills to interpret it; skills are only useful when there is knowledge to draw on.

Our current system is not fit for the 21st century. Social mobility continues to decline, and even before the pandemic we faced significant skills gaps: by 2024, there will be an estimated shortfall of four million skilled workers. Now Covid-19 has wreaked further damage, with millions of children missing lessons.

Too much technology in schools has been out of date for 10 years. Worse still, teachers are not sufficiently incentivised to integrate it into their practice. The UK is 31% behind the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average in this respect.

Urgent change is essential. This starts with the scrapping of GCSEs. In their place we need a broad baccalaureate, incorporating academic and vocational education at age 18.

Second, the factory model — where each pupil advances at the same pace in every subject, regardless of ability and interest — must be swept away for ever. Instead, we should enable personalised education through the use of new technology.

Third, we need a radical re- engineering of the classroom. The effective use of technology, including AI, can provide seamless learning between school and home.

Clearly, the growth of AI and robotics will have a profound impact. So, fourth, we need a special royal commission on education, AI and exam reform that would include experts and report within nine months. It is essential we understand and prepare the nation for the impending changes in our economy and society.

Robert Halfon MP; David Davis MP; Sir Anthony Seldon; Priya Lakhani; Professor Rose Luckin; Geoff Barton, general secretary, Association of School and College Leaders; Damian Green MP; Flick Drummond MP; Mark Pawsey MP; Christian Wakeford MP; Lord Baker; Lord Puttnam; Lord Knight; Lord Clement-Jones; Professor Julia Buckingham, vice-chancellor and president, Brunel University London; Professor Mary Stuart, vice-chancellor, University of Lincoln; Professor Steven West, vice-chancellor and president, University of the West of England Bristol; Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, economist and principal, University of Glasgow; Sir Michael Barber, educationalist; Dr Eric Addae-Kyeremeh, head of School of Innovation, Open University; Sherry Coutu, chairwoman, The Scale Up Institute, entrepreneur, investor; Timno Hannay, managing director, School Dash Limited; Bob Harrison, chairman of governors, the Northern College; Tom Hooper, founder, Third Space Learning; Nick Kind, senior director, Tyton Partners; Luke Johnson, entrepreneur; Margaret McCabe, chief executive, DebateMate; Alistair McConville, director of learning and innovation, Bedales School; Deirdre Medler, director of initial teacher education, University of East Anglia; Professor Simon Thompson, head of education, University of Sussex; Professor Chris Wilkins, head of school of education, University of Leicester.