Design Education and Growth — Question for Short Debate
Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen (Labour)
My Lords, before we begin the dinner break business, I point out that the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, will be the last speaker in this debate, not the penultimate one, as it says on the speakers list.
Baroness Whitaker (Labour)
My Lords, the raison d'etre of the new parliamentary Design Commission, whose first report is the subject of this debate, is that we do not pay enough attention to design-not enough attention economically, because it is one of the great, and potentially even greater, contributors to economic growth; not enough attention socially, because well designed environments, services and equipment create well-being, efficiency and security; and, the subject of the report, not enough attention educationally, the key to the other omissions.
The Design Commission grew out of lack of action in response to the All Party Associate Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group report on design and public procurement, Design and the Public Good, which I had the privilege of co-chairing, with Deborah Dawton, chief executive of the Design Business Association. The new commission is fortunate indeed to have as its chair someone of such distinction in the field as the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, and I look forward very much to hearing what he will say in this new role.
We focused on education for our first report because design education is in some peril. Not enough people realise how important design is in creating the technical and intellectual capacity we need for the 21st century. One of those who does, of course, is the noble Lord, Lord Baker, and I am delighted that he will be speaking today. My co-chair, Vicky Pryce, is herself a distinguished economist, and our report took evidence from business leaders such as Sir James Dyson and Sir John Rose, formerly of Rolls-Royce, academics and experts such as Dr Paul Thompson of the Royal College of Art and Sir Christopher Frayling, and, of course, other designers themselves. Sir John Sorrell gave eloquent testimony to the powers of design for school-age children. The newly honoured Sir Jonathan Ive, our British export to Apple, spoke at an adjunct seminar mounted by the Design Council. Our evidence makes a very good read, and I recommend it. We asked four questions: why does design matter; what is the current situation in design education; what are our competitors doing; and what must we do to compete?
We came up with some interesting and disturbing answers. Design is central to growth because it is the link, in Sir Christopher Frayling's words, between disciplines like engineering and science and the production of the goods and services that we trade. As I said, good design makes the world a better place in all sorts of ways that matter profoundly. We teach design superlatively well here and there, but we have not got it lodged within the higher education science, technology, engineering and mathematics complex; we have not got enough intermediate further education shorter diplomas to equip the more technical workforce that we need; and, the most glaring gap, we do not teach all our school students with sufficient rigour that large proportion of the skills and capacities which would not only prepare them for a wide range of work calling on design, but for 21st-century work in general.
What do I mean by that? I mean a problem-solving approach; the capacity to work collaboratively; interdisciplinary capability; taking into account the participation of the end-user-that is us, the users; and the habit, and satisfaction, of creating projects which work. These are what lead to innovation and these are the qualities that business needs in its future employees if we are to make a better success of an innovative knowledge economy. They are not fundamental to the way in which art and design or design and technology are taught in school today, and they are hard to acquire from other subjects.
Nevertheless, at present, our competitors, particularly in Asia, send their students here to qualify in design. I met some at Imperial College a few weeks ago, from China, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Middle East, mixing with our own talented design engineering students in one of the few integrated courses, supported by Buro Happold. But that competitive edge will not be for long. South Korea has several new academic design institutions and it is not alone.
To keep up our leading international position, we need some changes in education. Briefly, first, like all good education recommendations, there needs to be an idea about society. The Government should have, like the Governments of the design-strong countries-Finland, Denmark, South Korea-an idea about the part that design plays in society, from the beautiful axe blades of the High Peak, long before written history, and an active national design strategy, which they clearly own and pursue. The chief educational elements of such a strategy should be at least: first, protection and increased support for the development of our unbeatable higher education centres of excellence in innovation and design-and that means for research as well as teaching; secondly, a real broadening of the pathways into design-related careers after school by means of higher-level vocational qualifications; and, thirdly, perhaps least understood, a hard look at how design is taught in schools with a view to making it more widespread and also more rigorous, creative and interesting. Mr Gove's recent announcement of an overhaul of ICT teaching might provide a model.
Design matters, and if we do not act accordingly we shall lose out in many ways. I very much look forward to the speeches of our select but eminent speakers-and, of course, to the Minister's response.
Lord Baker of Dorking (Conservative)
I welcome this report and congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, on being the inspiration behind it, with her enthusiasm and dedication. Without it, I do not think that the report would ever have appeared.
The essence of the report is that our recovery as a manufacturing country depends on innovation and invention throughout our society, from aero engines down to carpet sweepers. That is really what the report is saying-and it is quite right to say that if we are going to have that sense of innovation it must be bedded into the education system of our country. It has to start in our schools, further education colleges and universities.
When one talks of design, one is often tempted to think of the one or two geniuses in design. These geniuses, rather like the 24 bus service, do not come in pairs-and, rather like the 24 bus service, there is a long gap until the next one appears. Innovation and design depend on hundreds and thousands of people in companies large and small, in any economy. We should be very proud of the fact that in our history we have a tremendous record of this. If you study the industrial revolution-although it has dropped out of the school curriculum almost totally, so it is almost impossible to do so-from 1730 to 1830, you would know the great names. There was Thomas Newcomen's beam engine, Arkwright's spinning jenny, Watt's first steam condenser and Joseph Bramah's lock. You would study all those-but behind them were tens of thousands of people. If you look at the patent registrations in the 18th century, it was happening day after day. When Hargreaves published his own patent application in 1740 for a spinning jenny, he referred to,
"much application and many trials".
What those great names were all recording was not a great breakthrough in invention but a series of micro-inventions. The history of the industrial revolution is a history of one gadget after another that made the spinning jenny better. First, there was Kay, who realised that you could use a mechanical means to take the warp through the weft. After that there were endless changes by people who, working with their hands, discovered a slightly better way in which to do it. We would not have had the ultimate spinning jenny of Arkwright until he decided that two rollers were better than one, because two rollers made the thread a bit stronger and longer. We would not have had the rocket of Stephenson unless we had micro-inventions such as a dial on a steam boiler, or indeed the need for it to run on reverse fumes. The point I am trying to get over is that these are micro-inventions by people who had worked on those early machines and made them better. The hand-working is therefore very important.
This is where the report is a bit inadequate, if I may say so, because it does not recognise the importance in education of doing things with one's hands. I am a strong believer in doing as well as seeing in education. Perhaps that comes from my own education, because I attended a grammar school in Lancashire at the end of the war and the only lesson that I remember from that school was the three hours of carpentry that I had, where I learnt to do tenon joints and dovetail joints. If pushed I can still do them, and it made me handy in life, as it were. I have a great belief that all our children, in all our schools, should experience doing things with their hands. That is not the same as doing things on your computer; it is actually making and fashioning things.
I recommend to the House a book that was published in America last year by an American professor of philosophy who also runs his own motorcycle repair workshop in Virginia, where he repairs motorcycle engines. It is The Case for Working with Your Hands: or Why Office Work is Bad for Us and Fixing Things Feels Good. That is very much the essence of the university technical colleges that I am seeking to establish across the country, which are based very much on practical hand-work. I am glad to say that while all of them do engineering, some are specifically doing design engineering. The one that opened in Walsall last year, in the Black Country, is doing design engineering alongside the STEM subjects, and its particular courses are going to be on new product design and development. Siemens is helping it by coming in and devising the teaching modules that are needed in those courses. This is something that industry has never done before in the education system.
We asked the companies not just for day release or apprenticeships but to come in and design the actual courses. Rolls-Royce apprentices came over from Derby and in the UTC in Staffordshire set up courses to design piston pumps and to make them for eight weeks. When youngsters have done that, they have used their hands and got to know the use of metals and the effect of mechanical changes. The one in central Bedfordshire, which is opening this year, is going to do design engineering with BAE and with Cranfield, the postgraduate university. My time is almost up, so I must design the end by saying simply that the practical hands-on work in education is essential for innovation and design, and for the future growth of our country.
Lord Cotter (Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for introducing this timely and important debate, and I compliment the noble Lord, Lord Baker, the previous speaker, on the work that he is doing on university technical colleges. My interest comes from my experience as managing director of a plastics manufacturing company before I came into Parliament, and I have spent a great deal of time in this House on business apprenticeships and career progression. In the Design Commission's report, the present Chancellor is quoted as saying:
"I want Britain to be the home of the greatest scientists, the greatest engineers, the greatest businesses-a land of innovators",
which, with my focus, is good news. However, I also accept the comments made in the report about this being an incomplete vision, on which the report goes on to elaborate in due course. However, if I may concentrate on the business field, I should say that those are warm words from the Chancellor but they need to be put into practice, as indeed a wider vision of design should be.
With this engineering/business focus in mind, it has been concerning to learn that, after over 20 years with design and technology as a core element of the curriculum, that is at risk. A recent report from the Design Council indicated that firms that used design intensively outperform those who did not by 200 per cent or thereabouts. The report also stated that 80 per cent of UK businesses believe that design will help them stay competitive in the current economic climate. A further point produced by the report indicates that every £100 spent on design by businesses that are alert to it increases their turnover by something in the order of £220. I hope that I am not coming over as too mercenary, but I said that I wanted to focus on business and to a large extent on manufacturing.
Using as a source a recent report from the Design and Technology Association, there was great concern about downgrading design and technology in the education system. We must ask the Government to be aware of that risk to this country's economy if these areas are downgraded. Rather than being decreased, the emphasis in our education system needs to be design-linked with technology for the future, for our economy and, most importantly, for jobs. As Sir James Dyson, the well-known designer, inventor and innovator, said, "If the Department for Education is thinking of removing D&T from the curriculum, it will be at the expense of British ingenuity"-words from someone who has been a leader in this field of design and has gone on from designing to producing products that have been extremely successful. When it comes to design and technology education, the call is that the Government need to recognise, keep and support it.
With my focus on business, perhaps I might briefly refer to concerns about careers advice and guidance. I am sure that I am not alone in remembering from my time at school quite how inadequate careers advice was in those days. It was the sort of subject that was given to a teacher who was told, "Do a bit of careers advice and get on with it", or that type of thing. Sadly it appears, generally speaking, that this situation still applies today. Since we are living in this global world-in times past it was not a global world and not as competitive as it is today-we must ensure that we have the right schools in this country. So often when I meet business people, I hear about the lack of the necessary skills associated with manufacturing, particularly in design but also in engineering and technology. That is of very great concern indeed.
There is the concern that if we do not get this right, it will harm the economy considerably. We must get it right and go beyond the concept that for careers advice and guidance, young people can switch on a computer and get all the information that they need. This is not so, and it is so important that the Government ensure that we improve our careers guidance and advice through much more one-to-one engagement with young people, who need encouragement, who need to be told what there is out there to do, and who need to be advised that they could contribute well to this country through design technology and the education that they get in that field.
Baroness Morris of Yardley (Labour)
My Lords, I welcome this report and the interesting debate that we are having today. It must not just be one debate; we need a long debate about this nationally if we are really going to solve some of these problems.
In a way, design finds itself in an unusual position: I have never known anyone who was against design. There is no army of people out there making a case against it. Sometimes when that happens, because there is no core to the debate, you find that everyone thinks that it is a good thing but no one really fights for it to be as good as it could be. I suspect that in this debate today we will all agree with each other on the whole, and there is a danger that we will be left thinking, "So what are we going to carry on campaigning about and striving for after this?".
Design has often been seen as a very nice optional extra. In the past, if you could afford something and it had good design, all to the good, but if you could not afford the "good design" bit, never mind-you could just get on with the basic version. To some extent, the best thing about this report is that it shows how wrong that attitude is.
There has been something of a revolution in design in recent years, and the report puts that very powerfully. It talks about the ability of design to unlock the commercial potential of the United Kingdom's research base, and then it has a lovely quote, mentioning that all the essential services,
"all the things that make civilised societies function well ... are"-
here I would add, "in part"-"dependent on good design". However, I am not sure that that is what the British public think. If you polled that, I am not sure that they would say, "That's terrible", but they would not say, "Absolutely, that's what drives my life day in and day out". Part of the challenge is to win the argument in a much more powerful way than we have done so far.
The roots of design might be seen to be in craft, technical and creative skills. There was national pride in that in the 1960s, the 1970s and into the 1980s. There was a national context and a national culture in which they flourished and were understood and welcomed by the education system and society in general. We were a nation that could make things. We knew what an apprenticeship was. There were vocational routes from school into higher education. We had the polytechnics, which-I did not think this when we abolished them, but I realise it now-were great advocates for providing that route for design and vocational skills. My argument is that design has changed. It has progressed, as everything does, but I am not sure that we have captured that national context and culture in which it can truly take its place. It is an in-between land; it still thinks that it is in the context and culture in the past, but in fact those who know a lot about design-I would not put myself in that category-understand that it has moved on.
There are some problems with that culture at the moment. First, there is that lack of understanding of the role and importance of design in the 21st century. Secondly, the education system now is not as understanding and in praise of interdisciplinary work as it was two decades ago. We have gone back to straight subjects in silos without making the joins between them, and with polytechnics now being part of universities we do not have that clear route through apprenticeships, BTECs and HNDs into vocational and design degrees. Since the introduction of the national curriculum by the noble Lord, Lord Baker, in 1988, the subject that has had the greatest turmoil is design; the curriculum has been rewritten time and again. I do not think that this is a political issue at all, but some of the things that are around at the moment, such as the emphasis on a traditional curriculum, an apparent lack of empathy with creative subjects-particularly through the English baccalaureate-and the higher education funding of design are not helping the case for design.
There is probably general agreement across the House that more needs to be done, but what? My perhaps contentious contribution is that it is all too easy to say that if we made it compulsory for every child in every year of schooling the problems would be solved, but I am not sure that that is the case. The more difficult task is to win the case and make it so good that schools want to teach it and children want to learn it. Sometimes, giving something the hook of compulsion actually makes you take your foot off the accelerator in making it a very good subject. The Government can show some leadership and begin to oil the wheels of making that happen. The work that the noble Lord, Lord Baker, is doing with university technical colleges is excellent, and I welcome a chance to say so again.
If you look at where design and schools have worked effectively together-where the pedagogy has been right-it has been where we have invited the world of design to work with teachers and come up with something completely different. The Joined Up Design For Schools work done by the Sorrell Foundation was a perfect example of that. My plea would be that in design, more than in any other subject, the use of time, skills and space in our schools must be innovatively engineered and used in a different way. Let us make it exciting and new but, most of all, something that we can do between us: reclaim the culture and the context in which 21st-century design can flourish.
Lord Bichard (Crossbench)
My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, on enabling this debate and thank her for it.
It is true that many people regard design as largely concerned with aesthetics or with products such as furniture or ceramics. As a result, they regard it as a marginal issue-something that is good and desirable but not essential. However, as we have heard today, design has the power to restart Britain and, as the noble Lord, Lord Baker, has pointed out, not for the first time. Design has the power to help us answer some of the big questions that we face today: how do we stimulate growth; how can we make our businesses more profitable; how can we be more competitive in international markets; how can we provide improved public services at less cost; how can we realise the potential of our great scientific and technological innovations; how can we be more creative and innovative as a nation; how can we deliver the benefits of our engineering excellence; and how do we build places and buildings in which people can thrive?
I am not a designer, but I am convinced that design is key to answering those questions, both in the private sector because it is clear that, as the noble Lord, Lord Cotter, has said, design-led companies are more successful, but also in the public sector because surely by now we must realise that redesigning and reshaping our services is the only way that we are going to deliver better services at less cost and that just restructuring the bureaucracies will not prove successful.
We need design. We need service design as well as product and industrial engineering design. Indeed, we need a national design strategy and outstanding designers. This report is about trying to ensure that our education system continues to deliver the talent that we need at the moment. Not surprisingly, the report emphasises the need to protect design in higher education, where we are undoubtedly world leaders. Less obviously, it highlights ways in which the further education sector could play a much greater role in developing design and designers in this country.
Crucially, the report stresses the need to ensure that design has a place in the school curriculum too. There are very good reasons why it should, and those reasons go well beyond the need to inspire potential great designers of the future. Design education in schools provides opportunities for students to develop the generic skills that will be useful to them throughout their working lives, as well as the employability skills that employers now need. As we have heard, design education in schools can help to produce young people much better able to work in key growth sectors such as engineering, advanced manufacturing and the creative industries-and let us not forget that the creative industries are now the largest economic sector in London.
Design education in schools provides the opportunity for many young people who do not excel in traditional academic subjects to realise their own special talents. It has always seemed to me that the major purpose of education must be to enable every young person to liberate their potential to fulfil their talent. Design education can provide for many a clear pathway to a range of careers at craft and technician levels that are too often undervalued and too often seem unattractive to both young people and their parents.
It is, as the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, said, encouraging that the Government are prepared to review the way in which IT is taught in schools, and to recognise the critical importance of computer literacy for our economy and society. However, many of the same arguments apply to design but are nowhere near as well understood and well articulated. I hope this report goes some way to redressing that balance.
It is always a complete delight to have the Minister responding to our debates. I hope that she will lend support to the need for a national design strategy. However, it is also important that the Department for Education acknowledges the importance of this issue and looks for ways not of requiring, as the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, said, but of encouraging schools to feature design on the curriculum. That should happen not just in specialist schools, excellent though they are, but in all schools. Design education, like design, is not a desirable extra; it should be a key part of education for all young people.
Baroness Kingsmill (Labour)
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Whitaker for introducing this debate and for suggesting to me that I might speak in it. It happens to be an area in which I am most interested.
I started my working life in Paris, sitting on little gold stools at Christian Dior, Yves St Laurent and the like, scribbling away, trying to determine which fashion trends would be the hits of the following season. Under the tutelage of two very stylish French women, I began to understand and recognise good design. I spent six years in the heady world of fashion, working with highly talented designers, whose creativity and innovation contributed to establishing France as a global leader in the fashion industry and to the growth of some of its biggest companies, such as LVMH and PPR.
We, too, have a flourishing fashion industry, which last year is estimated to have contributed, directly and indirectly, £37 billion to our GDP. However, this is small beer compared to the giant fashion design houses of Italy and France. We are well known for our brilliant young designers and their edgy, innovative styles, but many of these young British designers are head-hunted away to France and Italy, where their talents are often more appreciated than they are here in UK. Designers such as Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Phoebe Philo are well established names who have found the design environment more supportive in France and Italy than it is here, and have been enabled to develop their own hugely successful global brands as a result.
What is perhaps less well known is that many of the big international design houses, such as Marc Jacobs and Prada, are full of the brightest and best British designers, who have been unable to find an outlet for their talents in the UK. One distinguished magazine editor told me that British designers are the creative engine of the French fashion industry. We seem to be able to produce design talent but it appears that we just do not know how to use, develop and nurture it. We do not take design seriously. What a waste of an opportunity. As we slip down the world's economic rankings, it is vital that we do not neglect the talents of designers.
I have been talking about fashion design because that is where I spent several years, but there are many other sectors where design is a significant driver of growth. As others have mentioned, the brilliant Jonathan Ive, whose creative partnership with Steve Jobs made Apple one of the world's biggest companies, is a perfect example of how a business can be transformed by a great designer. The superbly designed terminal 5, which has so enhanced the air passenger's experience of airports, is another. Dyson, too, demonstrates how innovative engineering design can completely change our perception of mundane domestic appliances and create economic growth and success.
Design and technology is a popular subject in schools. Young people like the problem-solving it entails and it is always satisfying to have an end product. I remember the stool that I designed when I was in school with more pride than any essay I ever wrote. We need to encourage and improve the teaching of design and ensure its place in the national curriculum. There is an enormous appetite among children and young people for this. I was deputy chairman of the Design Museum for six or seven years and this superb institution, under the consistent sponsorship and guidance of Sir Terence Conran, ran many hugely popular education programmes for young people. Its exhibitions raised awareness of the importance of design in a variety of fields, from street furniture to wallpaper, from shoes to aero-engine turbine blades, and many more. However, more needs to be done to ensure that the creative and innovative design talent for which we are justly praised in other countries is properly nurtured and encouraged at home.
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Labour)
My Lords, I rise to speak in the space allocated to me by the usual channels with some regret. I thought that the noble Baroness the Minister and I had been switched to illustrate that we have a common approach to this, and that our speeches would be so sympathetic to each other that they could be delivered in each other's places. Mine has to be shorter, which is a slight difficulty, but we look forward to what the Minister will say.
I start by thanking my noble friend Lady Whitaker for introducing this discussion, and all the speakers, particularly for the insights from their earlier lives from the noble Lords, Lord Baker and Lord Cotter, and my noble friend Lady Kingsmill. I particularly thank the new Design Commission itself, the first report of which is indeed a good read. It is clearly setting high standards and we eagerly await its future output.
The key messages that we need to take away from this debate are that, as a country, as the noble Lord, Lord Cotter, said, we do not understand what design can do for us both economically and socially. We do not pay enough attention to design as a new and distinctive way of manufacturing and delivering goods and services. We need to change fundamentally how we prepare people for the world of work, and use design to drive growth and prosperity in the years to come.
The report that we are discussing this evening is mainly about education. We have been told that there are a few places where we currently teach design as well as anywhere else in the world, but we do not have it properly interpolated within the STEM subjects as they are currently taught in higher education; and, despite the good work of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, on the university technical colleges, we do not have nearly enough courses to equip technical people to support the areas of work in design.
The most glaring gap is that we are on the point of removing design from the school curriculum. Surely, on the basis of the very strong arguments that we have heard tonight, the Government should immediately reconsider the direction apparently being taken by the DfE. The curriculum review, the constituent parts of the English baccalaureate and the reduction of teacher training places in art and design all seem to point to a disastrous return to a narrow, rigid, traditional curriculum, which is simply not aligned to the wider growth agenda. We need the excellent joined-up design for schools project back and we need it all across the secondary curriculum.
I will be interested to hear what the Minister says in response to these specific concerns. However, I also hope that she might take back to the department, and to the Government more generally, a deeper point. Is not the logical conclusion of what we have heard tonight that we have to rethink what form of curriculum would ensure that many more of our young people enter the workforce with a problem-solving approach, the capacity to work collaboratively and an inter- disciplinary capability? Is a key component of future policy not the need to make design, in its widest definition, central to how we educate people for the workplace? As the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, said, it is common for those in business-and indeed in government-to see design as largely concerned with aesthetic attributes such as style and appearance. While these are important considerations, the arguments in the report persuade me that they are only a small part of what a total design approach could deliver for UK plc.
In the recent past, when we have debated the economy or the need for growth, we have grown used to hearing it bruited about that the UK's record of scientific invention and the great strength of its creative industries-product design, architecture, fashion, media, games software, entertainment and advertising-would equip us well enough for the future. However, as my noble friend Lady Kingsmill said, the uncomfortable truth is that, with a few very honourable exceptions, we have not been good enough at carrying these capabilities through into consistently world-beating products and services. Indeed, other countries have often made far more use of our ideas and grown their economies on the back of our inventiveness and creativity.
My point is that if we are to rebalance our economy and generate the growth we need, UK companies and industries will need to produce innovative, high-quality, high value-added products and services, and bring them quickly and effectively to market, so does the Minister agree with me that the Design Commission's report, and the debate this evening, make it essential that we put design at the heart of our industrial policy?
Baroness Wilcox (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Business, Innovation and Skills; Conservative)
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, on securing this important debate on design. I have enjoyed it thoroughly. What follows is what my Government say, and I am delighted to repeat it, but it is lovely for me to hear the expertise expressed on all sides of the House, including from former education Ministers. That is my personal comment. As regards the "Paris model" on the other side of the Chamber, I am terribly grateful that I am wearing my suit made for me by Lachasse 24 years ago. It is still going strong. Good design definitely counts.
The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, has done sterling work in support of design over many years as co-chair of the Associate Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group and, more recently, through her part in bringing together a group of parliamentarians, designers and academics to establish the Design Commission, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Bichard. The report of the commission's inquiry into design education rightly highlights the strength of the UK's design sector.
I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Kingsmill, that the UK has a global reputation as a leader in creativity and design. We have a world-class design sector, the largest in Europe with more than 230,000 designers. It is a thriving sector that makes a significant contribution to our economic wealth. Research indicates that £15 billion was spent on UK design in 2009.
While we welcome the commission's contribution to this important subject, we must dispute the suggestion that the Government do not fully appreciate design as a lever for growth. Successive Governments have supported design for more than 60 years since the Churchill Government set up the Council of Industrial Design in 1944 to aid post-war economic recovery. We do not see it as "whimsical", which I heard Sir Paul Smith say was the view of design that many people have when they should be looking at the beautiful design of an engine or water bottle. He actually said that design "isn't all red hair and bare chests" when he was interviewed this morning about the relocation of the Design Museum.
Design can be a source of competitive advantage and can help organisations transform their performance from business product innovation-as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Cotter-to the commercialisation of science and the delivery of public services. That is why design forms an integral part of the Government's plans for innovation and growth. It features strongly in our Innovation and Research Strategy for Growth published in December. For example, we announced that the capability to use design for commercialising technology would be integrated within the specialist expertise and support that the Catapult centres will provide to business. These are the Technology Strategy Board's network of elite technology and innovation centres.
The strategy also reaffirms the Government's support for the Design Council's activities to connect both the private and public sectors to design. I am sure my Opposition colleagues will be pleased to hear that we continue to fund activities which were supported by the previous Administration. For example, we announced an increase in funding for Designing Demand, a mentoring programme to build greater design capability and understanding among small and medium-sized enterprises. This will enable more businesses to benefit from the programme.
My right honourable friend David Willetts, the Minister for Universities and Science, is a strong advocate of design. He is keen to see design embedded across government and wants to build on the momentum generated from design's inclusion in the Innovation and Research Strategy. The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, said that the Government should have a national design strategy. The Government are committed to design and their strategy for design. This was outlined in the Innovation and Research Strategy for Growth, published in December.
A number of points have been raised about design teaching. The Design Commission's report notes that higher education centres of excellence need protecting and funding. The Higher Education Funding Council for England has invested in multidisciplinary centres of excellence where universities come forward with proposals. We agree with the commission that the onus for developing such activities is very much on the institution.
Design skills are fundamental for innovation and will carry the United Kingdom into future prosperity. The design education system in this country is a national asset-from the time creative subjects are given on the school timetable to the diversity and quality of courses at university.
Let me first address the points raised by the noble Baroness and others about design teaching in schools. The aim of the Government's current review of the national curriculum is to focus it on the essential knowledge that all children should learn, and to give schools greater freedom to adapt their wider curricula to meet the needs of pupils. We wholeheartedly agree that design is an important subject and that it can inspire young people to pursue careers in industry. In that way, it plays a key role in supporting economic growth in this country. The teaching of design undoubtedly equips young people with practical knowledge and a broad range of skills in preparation for the workplace.
My noble friend Lord Baker talked of practical skills in schools. The design and technology curriculum is currently compulsory to key stage 3, age 14. Pupils must participate in systems and controls, resistant materials and then either food or textiles. We are currently reviewing the whole national curriculum.
The noble Lord, Lord Cotter, asked about careers advice for young people-an issue that I know is important to this House, given that I recently answered an Oral Question on this topic. Local authorities are currently transferring careers advice to independent organisations so that young people can obtain independent careers advice, and this process is currently ongoing.
We have not yet reached the stage of deciding whether design should remain part of the national curriculum in the future and, if so, at which key stages. The call for evidence generated significant interest across the sector. On
We intend to announce our proposals about the shape of the new national curriculum, including the position of design, later this year. A full public consultation will be undertaken before final decisions are made. I am sure all stakeholders with an interest in the future of design education will welcome the opportunity this brings to engage further.
The Design Commission's report has been a useful contribution to the debate and the Government will reflect carefully on the points raised by your Lordships this evening. I thank again the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for her debate.