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Surgical students increasingly lack dexterity skills for surgery

School curriculum lack of focus on crafts mean young people struggle with practical skills, professor of surgical education warns

Ingrid Torjesen

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Young people’s lack of experience of crafts such as sewing mean that young medical students lack the foundation for the practical skills they require for surgery, warns Roger Kneebone, professor of surgical education at Imperial College, London.

“Whereas in the past you could make the assumption that students would leave school able to do certain practical things – cutting things out, making things – that is no longer the case. We have students who have very high exam grades, but lack tactile general knowledge so they struggle even to perform chemistry experiments,” he says.

“An obvious example is of a surgeon needing some dexterity and skill in sewing or stitching. It can be traced back to the sweeping out of creative subjects from the curriculum; it is important and an increasingly urgent issue.”

Professor Kneebone is taking part in a panel discussion this evening at the V&A Museum of Childhood in east London, at the launch of a report*, published by the Edge Foundation, calling for more creativity in the curriculum.

Alice Barnard, chief executive of the education charity, says: "The government pays lip service by saying creative subjects are important, but its policies demonstrate otherwise.”

The EBacc effectively makes a minimum of seven GCSEs compulsory for pupils in England, but does not include any arts, design or technology subjects, and the government wants 90 per cent of students to be taking the EBacc by 2025.

The Edge Foundation report highlights how the current narrow knowledge-focused academic curriculum using rote-learning to prepare young people to pass exams, is not fit for purpose to tackle the challenges of a twenty-first century economy. The report also shines a spotlight on schools, colleges and organisations which are taking a more holistic and forward-thinking approach to learning.


*Towards a Twenty-First Century Education System. A report by The Edge Foundation, October 2018.

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