Article - Issue 36, September 2008
Response to 'The New Diploma'; Response to 'Rebuilding lives in times of disaster'; Response to ‘Opening up Defence R&D’; Follow-up to ‘Towards Sustainable Growth’
Response to the ‘New Diploma’
Further to the article on the 14-19 Diploma in Engineering by Sir Alan Jones which was printed in Ingenia 35. I’d like to tell your readers why our school chose to take up the Diploma.
Lilian Baylis Technology School is a small, inner city, non-selective school in Lambeth that is delivering the Diploma in Engineering. Some 90% of our students are from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds and over 75% claim free school meals. Our 5A*-C was 27% in 2006/07 and will rise above the 30% benchmark in 2007/08.
We have offered, in conjuction with Lambeth College, Applied GCSE and then BTEC Engineering for a number of years. This has always been popular but the Diploma has been far more popular, with twice as many students (20% of the year group) choosing it as a level 1 or level 2 course starting in September 2008, than the old BTEC course.
We did not go for the Diploma ‘hard sell’ as we were scared we would raise expectations and that the day-to-day diet of Engineering lessons might not be as exciting as the students expected. In fact we were so surprised at how many wanted to take the course that we started asking students to fill in application forms to take the course. Then we interviewed them and finally we inducted them. At every stage we stressed it was hard work, time consuming and at times really rather dull.
As we went through this process we didn’t lose a single student, in fact we gained three more! What the students told us was fascinating. The students were clear. Engineering is a profession, you can study it at university. Engineering is interesting, its how things work. Engineering is hard, we know that. Diplomas are good, you get to specailise in something you are interested in.
It wasn’t easy for staff. They had to work very hard to have the course ready for 1 June 2008 as we like to start Year 10 options straight after the SATs. In particular the exam board specifications came out late and the lack of guidance on functional skills is a disgrace. We still do not know what a ‘pass’ mark will be in any of the functional skills. This is important to us as we have plenty of level 2 engineers with poor English – it is not their mother tongue – and need to make sure that they can pass level 2 literacy. If the pass mark is very high for level 2 literacy we might need to put them on the level 1 Engineering course so they do not fail the whole diploma because they cannot get the level 2 Literacy element.
The Lambeth, Southwark and The Royal Academy of Engineering consortium has delivered the goods. Great INSET (Institute for Citizenship – In Service Training), good links with industry, lots of resources, and a focus on engaging young people. There are good job and training opportunities for Diploma graduates for our students. We know engineering is well paid and well respected and the school has close links with EDF Energy, with support and progression routes.
At Lilian Baylis Technology School we have put our mission in metre-high letters in the main atrium. It is ‘to transform the life chance of all of our students’. It is too early to state if the Diploma has been a success but we now have far more Black and Minority Ethnic students at the first stage of entering the profession than we had last year and they will have more of the associated skills (Literacy, ICT, Numeracy and Problem Solving) needed to ensure that they succeed at the next stage and do not drop out. That is what transforming life chances is all about and that is why we are proud to be a Diploma school.
Interestingly, one of our longest serving governors is a direct descendant of Joseph Bazalgette. I think he would approve of what we are doing.
Head, Lilian Baylis Technology School
Paul Jawor in front of one of the ‘swimming pools’ constructed to deal with the problem of collecting potable water in Burma
Response to ‘Rebuilding lives in times of disaster’
My day-to-day job is for Hampshire County Council as a highways engineer. I manage a team of five engineers and a budget up to £5 million for the repairs and upkeep of north Hampshire’s roads. Day to day we design and supervise the construction of roads and footway throughout north Hampshire.
I have also been an international emergency engineer for nearly 15 years, working in all of the world’s worst disaster zones. A few years ago it was Sri Lanka for the tsunami, then there was an earthquake in Pakistan, and most recently it was the cyclone in Burma.
It took me two weeks to convince my bosses that I should go, and then I briefed the rest of my team at Hampshire County Council. Without their full support I could never have gone, or indeed come back to my council job, for that matter! Then away I went.
I was working for Médecins Sans Frontièrs (MSF) on this occasion, as an emergency water and sanitation consultant, in a semi-voluntary post. I am an engineering member of the international relief charity RedR, which provides training and recruitment services for disaster relief organisations, including supplying professionals from its pool of members to respond to disasters around the world. On this occasion many agencies were having trouble getting access to Burma so only a few requests were coming through to RedR.. My job with MSF involved giving the people in the destroyed areas of the Irrawaddy Delta, a potable water supply, washing water, sanitation, as well as other roles like logistical supply of food and shelter.
Médecins Sans Frontièrs had existing AIDS programmes in other parts of the country so it was fairly easy for me to get a visa and permission to work in the region. I was lucky, many expatriate workers were not allowed out of the capital Rangoon, so they had to run jobs remotely, without being able to see the situation.
I have been with RedR (see Ingenia 35 to read full article) over ten years, and have done many missions and training courses. I learnt the basis of my skills in the Water and Sanitation in Emergencies’ course. This taught me the basics and developed my confidence in actually going to the other side of the world and making an important difference. Now I actually help run the courses when I am in the UK.
Whilst in the field we soon learnt that drinking water is the most important need in an emergency. In a country where it rains a lot, it was how to collect the rain water that was the main problem. With wells often poisoned by the salt water in the area I was in, the solution in Burma was to design two simple quick methods of rain water catchments.
One solution was to build ‘swimming pools’, which consisted of large surface area, shallow collection pools made out of plastic sheeting. These could hold and capture clean water, which was drinkable almost straight away. The second method was roof water collection. It was possible to line the surface of the grass roofs with sheeting to improve their im-permiability and to shape a simple gutter to chute the water into collection pots.
Both ideas were based on local traditions and technology, and therefore were accepted, welcomed and copied all around the area. This is important if the idea is to be sustainable and long lasting.
After four weeks in the delta I had to return to my work in the UK. We had reached 150,000 people with food, water and given them shelter and, most importantly, a glimmer of hope for their future. Not bad for a council worker without a degree!
Response to ‘Opening up Defence R&D’
To make a contribution to international peace and security is a worthy goal for individual engineers and engineering enterprises. However, the recent article in Ingenia (Issue 35, Philip Sutton) provides only a partial account of how such contributions may be made in response to recent analysis, policy and initiatives.
Organisations such as the Oxford Research Group have provided perceptive analyses of current threats to peace and of the most effective responses. The Group identifies four factors as the root causes of conflict and insecurity: climate change, competition over resources, marginalisation of the majority world and global militarisation. The Group characterises the predominant current responses as a “control paradigm” - an attempt to maintain the status quo through military means. They propose that a more effective approach is a “sustainable security paradigm” - to cooperatively resolve the root causes of these threats using the most effective means available. It will be noted that engineers can play a major role is resolving each of the four root causes identified.
In the UK, government policy on security has recently been clarified with the publication of The National Security Strategy of the United Kingdom. This document makes clear that “The broad scope of this strategy also reflects our commitment to focus on the underlying drivers of security and insecurity, rather than just immediate threats and risks”. It is further recognised that climate change, competition for energy and water stress are “the biggest potential drivers of the breakdown of the rules-based international system and the re-emergence of major inter-state conflict, as well as increasing regional tensions and instability”. The consonance of this policy with the Oxford Research Group's analysis is striking, and the challenge to engineers is again clear.
Absence of conflict is a necessary but not sufficient condition for peace. Peace is additionally characterised by relationships between individuals, and social groupings of all sizes, based on honesty, fairness, openness and goodwill. This is emphasised in the important initiative by the United Nations which began with a Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace. Such a culture is considered to consist of values, attitudes and actions that promote cooperation and mutuality among individuals, groups and nations. The United Nations has identified eight action areas. Some of these can show immediate benefit from engineering, such as actions to promote sustainable economic and social development. Even those actions that appear political or societal can benefit from appropriate engineering. For example, participatory democracy can be fostered through engineering provision for effective distribution of information and drilling convenient wells can promote gender equality as women are freed from the often onerous task of collecting water from a remote source.
Engineers and engineering enterprises aiming to make a significant contribution to international peace should consider how they can make the most effective use of their skills and resources in response to these independent analyses, government policy and international initiatives. Resolving the root causes of conflict also provides real commercial opportunities for the benefit of all. Additionally, engineers need to take a greater responsibility for informing politicians and other decision-makers about the capability of engineering, and give special attention to promoting the use of appropriate engineering before conflict arises – none of the documents cited in this letter refers explicitly to engineering. Further, as the promotion of peace is a long-term task, we need to ensure that all engineering students are aware of the origins of conflict, of international agreements, and of the great contribution engineering can make to sustainable security and a culture of peace.
Professor W Richard Bowen FREng
Follow-up to ‘Towards Sustainable Growth’
In the February 2002 issue of Ingenia, at your invitation, we contributed an article entitled ‘Towards Sustainable Growth’. This pointed out the saving of greenhouse gas emissions which could be made if consumers changed their buying habits from the acquisition of more material goods to the pursuit of intellectual and cultural enjoyment.
This article aroused some interest and in subsequent months a series of discussions took place involving prominent economists and environmentalists, among others. The main thrust of these meetings was that the idea had merit but lacked quantitative support. One question asked was ‘if every household in the UK shifted their purchasing patterns by 10% from goods to services what difference would this make to greenhouse gas emissions?’
To answer this question the Comino Foundation commissioned the prestigious Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). Their report, recently issued, has shown that the effect can be substantial.
If the change can be effected by 2015 then they estimated that the saving in CO2 production could be 9% compared with what otherwise might have taken place. This is as much as might be achieved by taking three quarters of the cars off the British roads.
Because most of the current initiatives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the UK would take time to achieve, it is perfectly likely that these will increase over the next 5-10 years before falling thereafter. It is therefore important to consider what can be achieved simply by consumers adjusting what they buy from ‘hardware’ to ‘software’.
The whole report can be accessed on the Comino Foundation website:
Honorary Industry Fellow, Comino Foundation
Eric Duckworth FREng,
Trustee, Comino Foundation