STEM education and training strategy - refresh: annual report

Annual report of progress on delivery of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and training strategy. Sets out a range of actions by education and other stakeholders under each of the four themes of the strategy.

6 Connection

We will promote connection by:

  • improving the support available to schools.
  • delivering up-to-date advice and information on STEM careers.
  • increasing the responsiveness of colleges, universities and the apprenticeship programmes to the needs of the economy.

Regional Support for STEM – Regional Improvement Collaboratives

The development of the STEM Strategy coincided with the publication of the Education Governance: Next Steps Review of Scottish education and led to the creation of six Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs) within Education Scotland. An action within the Strategy asked that Education Scotland establish a team of STEM Education Officers to provide leadership, coordination and support to help take forward implementation.

The team has collaborated extensively with practitioners and between August 2019 and March 2022 undertook 2,115 direct engagements reaching 922 distinct establishments and 10,632 attendees. This amounts to over 2,900 hours spent on engagements. Of the 922 distinct establishments that benefitted, some 152 were in remote or very remote locations. This activity represented a wide range of engagements including delivering professional learning (12%), supporting professional dialogue (25%), professional advice (24%), support for policy, strategy and networks (15%), supporting planning activities (20%), identifying highly effective practice (2%) and improvement support (2%).

When the pandemic struck in March 2020 the team pivoted to meet the local, regional and national needs of the stakeholders, with the support moving to an online delivery format. This increased the reach and scale of delivery with positive feedback from practitioners in more remote and rural areas. In addition to the engagements noted above, 4,847 practitioners and stakeholders attended 77 online webinar sessions led by the team from the start of the pandemic lockdown. Professional learning was provided on a range of themes to support the immediate priorities of practitioners during this period. This included directing them to valuable resources to support remote learning and also subject support for the SQA Alternative Certification Model.

At the same time, Education Scotland's STEM Team provided critical support for the development of the three strands of the National e-Learning Offer – live, recorded and supported. This involved collaboration with West Online School (OS) to support development the recorded lessons and direct delivery of e-Sgoil live lessons. The STEM Team also led developments on the supported resources within NeLO, drawing inspiration from its sciences network to grow it into an extensive bank of online resources to support STEM, as well as other curriculum areas.

The professional learning offer continues to be complemented by the local, regional and national networks that Education Scotland's STEM Team leads or supports. These provide practitioners and STEM leads with the opportunity to share practice, collaborate and learn together. A national network of early learning and childcare practitioners was launched with a series of webinars focussed on interactions, experiences and spaces provided for young children, and the benefits of outdoor learning as well as sharing STEM practice. The Primary STEM Network, launched in 2022, continues this approach and a new ASN STEM Network is providing this sector with an opportunity for mutual support around their specific needs. Education Scotland's network of secondary science teachers have collectively shaped a programme of professional learning for 2022, focussing on widening STEM pathways and reimagining the BGE curriculum.

More recently Education Scotland has established a local authority STEM leads Network and STEM partners network to ensure those with a responsibility for leading STEM activities within local authorities, RICS and nationally also have the opportunity to connect, share practice, collaborate and inform national developments.

A new interactive online directory was launched on the STEM Nation Online Resource in early 2022 allowing practitioners to easily search a large range of resources and support through an interactive spreadsheet. Filters allow users to search by sector, region, local authority, theme, provider and date.

STEM Ambassadors

In April 2021 the three Scottish STEM Ambassadors hubs merged to form one national hub operating under SSERC. The hub has a network of over 5,000 STEM Ambassadors and as a national hub is now well placed to contribute to national STEM programmes.

Highlights over the past year include supporting a successful Maths Week Scotland campaign funded by the Maths Week Scotland Large Grants Fund. The hub funded maths- and numeracy-linked professional learning for Early and First Level practitioners as well as creating career-linked maths resources. Over 300 schools and 80 STEM Ambassadors were involved with Maths Week Scotland, resulting in 300 hours of volunteering.

The hub's second STEM Ambassadors in Scotland Week showcased the wide variety of STEM careers opportunities. This included a business breakfast for employers in Scotland as well as live online events covering the technology, renewable energy, construction, forestry and research sectors. Employers partnered with the hub also provided activities and resources to support the week which had over 134 schools involved along with over 100 STEM Ambassadors resulting in over 900 volunteering hours.

The hub has also supported key national campaigns such as Scottish Book Week, British Science Week and Scottish Apprenticeship week with a variety of different events, resources and opportunities including: book readings, professional learning opportunities for teachers, "Meet the STEM Ambassador" online talks and business breakfasts. A particular highlight has been launching the hub's resource library where STEM Ambassadors, schools and youth groups can borrow physical STEM resources free of charge to deliver career-linked STEM activities.

During a challenging year the hub has continued to support STEM Ambassadors to deliver engaging STEM opportunities to schools and groups resulting in over 17,800 volunteering hours from STEM Ambassadors in Scotland working with over 1,000 schools across Scotland. As with the YSLP, Education Scotland's Improving Gender Balance and Equalities Team has worked closely with SSERC to co-develop and deliver gender equality training for STEM Ambassadors.

The UK STEM Ambassador programme has firmly established itself as the leading STEM volunteer programme in the UK. With a network of 17 STEM Ambassador Hubs across the UK, STEM subjects are brought to life with the support of over 30,000 volunteers.

Life and Chemical Sciences National Transition Training Fund

The Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance are delivering a series of introductory courses to upskill and reskill individuals within the Life and Chemical Sciences sectors. The courses have been developed in partnership with industry and aim to develop both practical and theoretical knowledge. For academic year 2021-22, 30 individuals will be supported.

Energy Skills Partnership – ESP

The college sector plays a vital role in delivering on the objectives of this Strategy. In 2019/20 there were over 4,000 more Full-Time Equivalent students on engineering or science and maths courses at colleges than in 2006-07, an increase of 29%.

ESP is a collaboration of Scotland's colleges and industry partners that aims to increase capability and capacity to deliver the right skills for the energy, engineering and construction sectors in order to meet industry demand. As the college sector agency for energy, engineering and construction, ESP works as a cohesive partnership across Scotland's colleges.

ESP is instrumental in promoting STEM with both Scotland's colleges and its strategic partners. This has resulted in the colleges having a lead role in establishing Scotland's Regional STEM Hub Partnerships which are a collaboration of partners including the Scottish Funding Council, Skills Development Scotland, Education Scotland, Developing the Young Workforce, local authority STEM leads, the RAiSE programme, universities and key industry partners.

The Partnership has sponsored a range of events including the Greenpower electric car challenge, Bloodhound Race for the Line and Big Bang. These activities have been delivered in the Western Isles, West Highland, North Highland and within the Central Belt. During the Pandemic ESP replaced its physical STEM careers events with a virtual "Step Into" programme highlighting careers in renewables and its supply chain, science and robotics. ESP are also involved in the FIRST LEGO League in Scotland that helps develop key skills such as team work, communication, problem solving, planning and coding whilst considering a real world problem.

Labour Market Information (LMI)

Skills Development Scotland publish regular LMI resources to support partners with strategic skills investment planning. At a national level, the monthly COVID-19 Labour Market Insights report and dashboard provide up to date information on Scotland's economy and labour market. In addition, detailed regional and sectoral skills assessments provide analysis of skills supply and demand across Scotland's regions and key sectors of which several are STEM-related.

Developing the Young Workforce – DYW Live

We are committed to supporting all young people to achieve their potential and we have a good track record of tackling youth unemployment through Developing the Young Workforce (DYW). DYW Regional Groups and School Coordinators deliver bespoke activities in collaboration with specialist partners and employers to promote educational and career pathways available to young people through STEM subjects.

Skills Development Scotland has supported the implementation of DYW schools co-ordinators throughout 2021/22 by providing a number of professional learning sessions. These covered Labour Market Information for key sectors in the Scottish economy have attracted more than 1,200 participants.

Many Regional Groups have created annual STEM events which they tailor to reflect labour market demands, with others focussing on gender inequality in the workplace and promoting employment opportunities in Computing, Science and Technology and the Financial sector to young females. The key principles of DYW provide strong support for the implementation of this Strategy. These include a focus on reducing young unemployment, increasing partnerships working, and enhancing skills as part of learning and teaching.

DYW Live is a partnership between employers and organisations from across Scotland. It provides live sessions that supports learners' development of employability skills, career pathways and industry connections. DYW Live sessions have been organised with STEM Ambassadors, Pathway sessions with strong STEM links have been supported, and Code-Along sessions have been delivered involving more than 4,000 learner engagements.

Science Skills Academy

The Science Skills Academy (SSA) is a large-scale demonstration project testing the delivery of quality STEM activity in the Highland region. It targets around 10,000 young people aged 10 to 14 and has established five "Newton Rooms" across the region. A team of STEM Engagement Officers deliver full day inspiring hands-on STEM activities covering renewable energy, robotics, health sciences, biofuels, aquaculture and apace – specifically selected to reflect the core STEM industries active in the Highlands & Islands.

Consideration is being given to the potential of extending the project due to the impact of the pandemic, to allow further development of SSA model, expand coverage and develop a partnership with the Scottish science centres. Further development of the model could see a focus on older pupils around key industry-led immersive on-site STEM activity in regional hubs such as in aquaculture, energy and space.

The Highlands and Islands is a net exporter of young talent, with a loss of around 2,500 young people each year to higher education in the cities. More than half of those who take up STEM degrees will remain in city locations. The SSA has been set up to ensure young people, from an early age, are made aware of the significant STEM-related industries already located in the region as well as those projected to grow over the next ten years.



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