STEM strategy for education and training: second annual report

Second annual report on progress with the STEM Education and Training Strategy which shows how we have built on progress in the first year to start to deliver benefits for educators and young people.

2. Introduction

This is the second annual report on progress with the STEM Education and Training Strategy and it shows how we have built on progress in the first year to start to deliver benefits for educators and learners.

The Strategy identifies four key challenges for STEM education and training in Scotland:

  • We need to ensure children, young people and adults are encouraged to develop an interest in, and enthusiasm for, STEM that is reinforced throughout their lives.
  • We need to ensure our education system has the right number of practitioners, including teachers with the appropriate STEM capability, delivering excellent learning and teaching.
  • We need to ensure that our education and training system is equipping people with the skills that employers need and that it has the flexibility to respond to the changes in labour market demand and the globalised economic context.
  • We need to tackle the gender imbalances and other inequities that exist across STEM education and training including in relation to race, disability, deprivation and geography. These are unfair and undermine our ability to deliver inclusive economic growth in Scotland.

Addressing these, the Strategy sets out a vision for everyone in Scotland to be encouraged and supported to develop their STEM skills throughout their lives. It has four key aims:

  • to build the capacity of the education and training system to deliver excellent STEM learning so that employers have access to the workforce they need;
  • to inspire children, young people and adults to study STEM and to continue their studies to obtain more specialist skills; and
  • to close equity gaps in participation and attainment in STEM so that everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential and contribute to Scotland's economic prosperity;
  • to connect the STEM education and training offer with labour market need - both now and in the future - to support improved productivity and inclusive economic growth.

In the First Annual Report, published in February 2019, we highlighted how the STEM Strategy links to other strategic priorities of the Scottish Government. We provide an update on this and other activity below.

In 2019, the Scottish Parliament's Education and Skills Committee undertook an Inquiry into STEM education in the early years from age 3 to 7. The Scottish Government welcomed their input and has responded to their recommendations. The Committee provided an analysis of the challenges to be addressed and highlighted the need for a long-term, sustained and systemic approach, particularly in tackling inequity.

The early years are a crucial stage as they provide a foundation for STEM skills and are where interest in STEM can start because of children's natural curiosity and inventiveness. Recognising this, there is a strong focus on actions that target the early years and primary schools in the Strategy. It is worth noting, though, that the scope of the Strategy is broader and is designed to bring opportunities and changes for all ages across the education and training landscape - ensuring that young people are developing the necessary skills and that we are also reskilling our adult population to meet the needs of our evolving workplaces.

This year we are delivering a significant expansion in the entitlement to funded early learning and childcare from 600 to 1,140 hours a year. This is a universal offer for all three and four-year-olds and for eligible two-year-olds. The focus within the offer of providing high quality experiences for our youngest learners is an opportunity to enhance early learning in STEM skills, and will help to tackle inequity and inequality at an early stage.

The focus on numeracy as one of three key areas within Scottish education reinforces the aims of the STEM Strategy as mathematics and numeracy are part of, and underpin, STEM knowledge and skills. The refreshed curriculum narrative for education in early years and schools, published in September 2019, emphasises the purpose of the curriculum as helping children and young people gain the knowledge, skills and attributes they need for life in the 21st century. It therefore provides a firm basis for teaching and learning in STEM across all stages of early learning and school education. Our focus on closing the deprivation-related attainment gap in education also contributes to tackling inequity gaps in STEM which lead to occupational segregation and disadvantage in later life.

June 2019 saw the launch of the new Learning for Sustainability Action Plan. STEM links strongly to Learning for Sustainability. This is a cross-curricular approach to learning which enables young people to explore sustainability across a number of subjects. As part of their STEM learning, young people may learn about greenhouse gases in the sciences and calculate carbon emissions in mathematics. Learning about these important environmental issues is crucial if our next generation is to develop the skills, knowledge and values to lead sustainable lives.

STEM is integral to the Developing the Young Workforce Programme (DYW), Scotland's youth employment strategy. The fifth annual report was published in December 2019. The DYW programme supports delivery of the STEM Strategy in several areas, particularly those linked to raising awareness of the world of work and building partnerships across the different sectors of education and with employers. We continue to ensure that close connections are made between DYW and the STEM Strategy so that they are mutually supportive of one another. For example, key performance indicators relating to STEM are now guiding the work of the 21 DYW Employer Groups.

The 15-24 Learner Journey Review, published in May 2018, sets out a series of recommendations designed to create smoother learner journeys for young people. This programme of work aims to develop stronger advice and support for young people with the goal of allowing young people to make more informed choices regarding their futures. Young people now have a greater range of choices in the Senior Phase including National Qualifications, Foundation Apprenticeships and Youth Awards to demonstrate their achievements before progressing to further learning, at college or university, or to work. This means that young people now have a diverse range of pathways for STEM study and into STEM careers and will be better informed about the choices they make.

The Scottish Government funded Science Skills Academy (SSA) operating in the Highland region is now mid-way through its implementation. An exciting demonstration project, it is effectively testing the ability to deliver a consistent and high quality STEM experience across the whole region, through enhanced infrastructure and staffing provision. So far the SSA has established two Newton Rooms (in Thurso and Fort William), and is due to open its third room in Dingwall in Spring 2020. Planning is underway for Skye and Inverness to complete the five areas. Targeting Primary 6, Primary 7, Secondary 1 and Secondary 2 pupils in the Highland region, the project delivers a full day's inspirational STEM activity. Operating in partnership with regional and national stakeholders, it also acts as a catalyst and co-ordinator for other STEM provision being delivered in the region. To date, almost 3500 pupils have attended the Newton Rooms. By the end of 2022, it is hoped to be fully operational and delivering to 10,000 pupils annually.

The college sector has a vital role to play in supporting the successful delivery of the Strategy. As a provider of STEM courses, colleges are a key partner in building a strong base of STEM skills and knowledge. STEM activity carried out by colleges working with schools, often under the auspices of the Regional STEM Hubs, means they are well placed to meet the aims and aspirations of the STEM Strategy. Colleges are connecting their STEM education and training offer with labour market need - both now and in the future - to support improved productivity and inclusive economic growth.

Our universities, working at the cutting edge of research and innovation, are also acting to forge improved links between their education and training offers and changing labour market needs. This is exemplified by the Digital Skills Partnership, a ScotlandIS initiative, supported by Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council. This initiative brings together industry, colleges and universities to build industry-relevant curriculum materials and empower students with exposure to up‑to‑date working practices. Scotland's universities enhance the development of STEM through their innovation agenda, by contributing to research pools and knowledge-transfer partnerships, and through world-leading research.

Colleges and universities are working jointly on the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC), one of eight industry-led and demand-driven Innovation Centres supported by the Scottish Funding Council, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and the Scottish university and college sector. CSIC assists industry and key procurement players to build strong collaborative projects to tackle construction industry challenges, stimulate growth and create new jobs.

The proportion of STEM employers in Scotland reporting at least one skills shortage vacancy[1] (7.7%) was higher than for all employers in Scotland (6%) in 2017. The ratio of male to female employees in STEM businesses is also highly skewed, particularly if medical and related businesses are not included in the analysis. Scotland's Future Skills Action Plan, published in September 2019, sets out what action the Scottish Government intends to take to address skills gaps and shortages in our workforce. We will also publish our Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan in September 2020. This will set out how we will begin to deliver the skills, including critical STEM skills, to support our transition to a Net Zero Economy.

Scotland's Careers Strategy: Moving Forward was published in February 2020. The new strategy, drafted in collaboration with the sector, brings together all those who deliver career services in Scotland to ensure people can access the support they need to take advantage of job and career opportunities in the labour market, including STEM opportunities.

The actions in the STEM Strategy on tackling gender imbalances in STEM will help to address occupational segregation and closing the gender pay gap. This contributes to the Government's Gender Pay Gap Action Plan that was published in March 2019. It identified a series of actions to reduce gender pay gaps across Scotland as part of the Scottish Government's inclusive growth vision. A Year One update charting progress on actions in the Gender Pay Gap Action Plan is expected to be published in Spring 2020.

The STEM Strategy and its impacts will also be considered as part of the wider work of the Deputy First Minister's Task Force on Gender Equality in Education and Learning. This has been set up as a direct response to one of the Year One recommendations from the First Minister's National Advisory Council on Women and Girls, and met for the first time in February 2020

Science Centres and Festivals, and the community learning and development sector, continue to play a valuable role in engaging young people and the wider public in STEM activity and learning. Transport subsidies are provided to enable school trips to take place, and outreach activity allows engagement in more remote areas. This work is key in engaging people in STEM, allowing an understanding of the relevance of STEM to everyday lives as well as generating an enthusiasm and interest in developing skills in these critical areas.

In 2020, the year that sees Scotland host the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, celebrate a Year of Coasts and Waters, and which the United Nations has designated the International Year of Plant Health, we are reminded of the breadth and diversity of STEM. These events provide key opportunities to demonstrate the relevance of STEM to our learning and our lives and to capture the interest of our learners and the wider community.

This report fulfils Ministers' commitment to annual public reporting on progress, setting out the great work underway in Scotland to achieve our vision and develop STEM capability across the learning, training and skills landscape. We recognise, that there are no quick fixes. For many of the actions, particularly those targeted at the early years, it will take time to realise the long-term benefits. As we take forward activity, we will continue to take a joined-up approach across all our partners.

Our STEM Strategy Implementation Group, External Advisory Group and Equality Sub-Group bring together key delivery partners and stakeholders to ensure that relevant links are made and provide oversight and challenge of activity.

Development of the £65 million National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) is also connecting STEM provision with labour market need. NMIS will be an industry-led international centre of manufacturing expertise which aims to inspire and attract a diverse talent pool to work in the sector. NMIS includes a Manufacturing Skills Academy where 30 Industry Doctorate projects demonstrate industry investing in longer term skills and research capability. Each project is co-sponsored by at least one university and one industry partner with the programme spread across eight Scottish universities and 12 industry sectors, 40% of which are with small and medium sized companies. Separately, a series of digital and technical skills webinars and TeachMeets have been delivered to college and university lecturers with around 30 skills ambassadors recruited to provide a peer network able to offer all those teaching young people advice around current industry trends and needs.



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