The Integrated Review marks a rare occasion of joined-up thinking across government departments which has the potential consolidate ‘Global Britain’ as a brand which is prosperous, strong, safe and leading from the front on domestic and foreign policy. Setting out the Integrated Review’s conclusions, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“I am profoundly optimistic about the UK’s place in the world and our ability to seize the opportunities ahead. The ingenuity of our citizens and the strength of our Union will combine with our international partnerships, modernised armed forces and a new green agenda, enabling us to look forward with confidence as we shape the world of the future.”
This is Boris as his optimistic best, and the IR did successfully set out a clear vision. BUT, in my view… it wasn’t integrated enough!
In my opinion, education is the starting point for any successful country. Countries which prioritise education generally have a higher skilled / higher wage population, and although education was mentioned twenty-six times in the document (and rightly reaffirmed our commitment to promoting education equality across the world) it only made a fleeting nod to an “integrated education and training system to grow diverse talent.”
When setting out a vision for the next five, ten, even thirty years, it is the young people just starting school, college or university who are going to be delivering and shaping this vision (and living with the consequences). In a constantly evolving, dynamic world – education is the key to best preparing our population for industries, issues and threats that we may face (and may not have even dreamed of). We must integrate our global vision for Britain with education policy.
As well as English, mathematics and science, curriculums need to have a greater focus on computer science. When Michael Gove overhauled the National Curriculum, a greater emphasis was placed on STEM subjects and a knowledge-based curriculum – this was a step in the right direction. But more needs to be done if we want to establish the UK as a global leader in cyber technologies. If we want young people to take their rightful place as the leaders of a responsible, democratic cyber power we must make sure that we invest now in the teaching of cyber skills. Teachers are the people who have tools to inspire, stimulate and encourage a greater excitement of all things cyber and upskilling our teaching workforce it a crucial step forward.
Not only will this give us the competitive edge in private enterprise, but it will also mean that cutting edge cyber technologies can be developed ‘in house’ rather than relying on other nations for our security. Government must strengthen the UK’s cyber ecosystem and the whole education sector can play a huge role in this – starting now! A whole-of-nation approach to cyber and deepening the partnership between government, academia and industry will pay huge dividends going forward. This investment in education will, in turn, will also feed into our defensive and offensive capabilities. The establishment of a National Cyber Security Centre and National Cyber Force will be made that much easier if pupils and students are leaving school with basic cyber skills that are necessary to hit the ground running in a Competitive Global Britain.
Stephen James is a veteran of the Intelligence Corps who served in Afghanistan in the multinational Kandahar Intelligence Fusion Center (KIFC). He has since retrained as a teacher, founded Conservative Friends of Education, and has been a Conservative Parliamentary Candidate.