STEM strategy for education and training: first annual report

Overview of progress in the first year of the five year STEM Strategy for Education and Training in Scotland.


We will promote Equity by:

  • Tackling inequity in STEM learning and careers.
  • Improving participation in STEM further and higher education courses and apprenticeships.
  • Increasing access to public science engagement events.

As a result of the actions in this section, by 2022, we expect to see:

  • Significant reductions in the equity gaps in participation and achievement in STEM learning, engagement, study, courses and training across all sectors in relation to gender, deprivation, rurality, race, disability and for care leavers. (KPI III)

Tackling Inequity in STEM learning and careers

Following a positive evaluation of the three-year Improving Gender Balance pilot (published in June 2018), a new team of Gender Balance and Equalities officers has been recruited. The officers will work with schools and early learning providers to expand and embed the approaches developed in the pilot on practical ways to address gender bias and stereotyping and tackle inequity in learning. The pilot was jointly led by the Institute of Physics, Skills Development Scotland and Education Scotland. Drawing on this work, Education Scotland has already published a suite of Improving Gender Balance Action Guides for teachers and early learning and childcare practitioners. An SCQF accredited module of professional learning for practitioners is currently being trialled, in partnership with Skills Development Scotland. In 2019, the team will provide gender and equality training to practitioners, and will establish a gender champion network and a gender kitemark, to grow and spread best practice. The work will be undertaken with the six new Regional Improvement Collaboratives along with the new Regional STEM Advisers. There will be external evaluation of the impact of this work which will inform the future direction of interventions and build capacity for local evaluation. The programme will also be informed from wider evidence gathered via the Regional STEM advisers, the college-led STEM Hubs and through the education inspection and review process.

This action is contributing to KPI III which is measuring gender and deprivation gaps in STEM at school, college, university, in apprenticeships and in STEM engagement. Over the medium to long term we expect this action to lead to an improved gender balance in the STEM National Qualifications, STEM Awards and STEM learner pathways. We are measuring this through KPI IIIb on gender balance in attainment in physics and computing at SCQF level 6 (Higher level) which are school STEM subjects which see the greatest gender imbalance.

Improving participation in STEM further and higher education courses and apprenticeships

A new social media campaign to increase gender balance in participation in STEM study at college and university was launched in November 2018, led by Young Scot. The joint Scottish Government and Young Scot campaign encourages young women to subjects traditionally studied by males at both college and university level by challenging stereotypes and highlights possible career paths and advantages to studying STEM for all young people.

Each college and university has now produced a Gender Action Plan (GAP) outlining how they will advance equity and reduce gender disparities within STEM subject areas. A first progress report was published by the Scottish Funding Council in December 2017 and progress reports will now be published annually, with the next one due in February 2019. Any adjustments required will be managed through the Outcome Agreement process. The ambition of the GAP is that, by 2030, no college or university subject will have a gender imbalance greater than 75% of one gender.

Skills Development Scotland has worked with Equate Scotland to provide mentoring support to female apprentices in STEM. As part of this project, Equate Scotland has developed an SQA accredited module for employers that will provide them with the knowledge and skills to establish their own in-house mentoring specifically aimed at women in STEM sectors. This module was successfully piloted during summer 2018 and will be delivered by West Lothian College on behalf of Skills Development Scotland and Equate Scotland.

Skills Development Scotland’s team of Equality Executives also work at a local level with individual training providers and employers to help them identify areas of under-representation and take positive action to address these. This includes working with providers and employers in STEM sectors to attract more women. Examples of positive action include holding women only information evenings or taster events, and actively targeting marketing and recruitment materials at female audiences across industries such as Engineering, Plumbing or Oil and Gas. This team also works closely with Careers Advisers and school staff to promote STEM industries to learners, specifically highlighting apprenticeships as a pathway into these sectors.

These actions are contributing to KPI III to reduce the equity gaps in participation and achievement in STEM learning, engagement, study, courses and training, and will impact on KPI IIIa, b, c and d. In 2016, 8.1% of STEM Foundation Apprenticeship starts were female and in 2017 13.2% of STEM Foundation Apprenticeship starts were female.

Increasing access to public science engagement events

Prior to the STEM Strategy, we provided Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow Science Centres and Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh with extra subsidies to help them engage with schools and communities in more deprived and rural areas. This year we have conducted an in-depth analysis of this work to help determine how to further improve the offer to under-served audiences. As a result, the number of schools and range of community groups eligible for subsidy has been expanded for 2018-19. This will further remove perceived barriers to access these inspirational resources. Data will continue to be collected and analysed over the period of the Strategy to further develop the impact.

Through these subsidies, the Science Centres have developed their work with under-served communities in their local areas. Over the first year of the Strategy we have brought the Science Centres together with the larger Science Festivals and the Community Learning and Development sector to share best practice and develop a vision for genuinely community-led engagement. This vision will be further developed and implemented during 2019.

These actions also contribute to KPI III, and are being specifically measured against KPI IIIe and f, where improvements have already been seen with a 10.8 percentage point increase in the proportion of schools from the most deprived quintile that receive a quality STEM engagement experience from funded Science Centres, and a 4.5% increase in the number of members from community groups from the most deprived or rural areas participating in quality engagement with Science Centres.

Eligible Schools

In 2017-18, 44.9% of eligible schools in the most deprived quintile received a quality STEM engagement experience compared with 34.1% in 2016-17. (KPI IIIe)

Quality community group engagement with Science Centres and Festivals

The number of members of community groups from most deprived or rural areas participating in quality engagement with Science Centres and Festivals increased from 7,364 in 2014-15 to 8,604 in 2017-18. (KPI IIIf)


Email: Frank Creamer

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