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.

4. Excellence

To ensure that STEM education and training helps people develop the STEM skills and knowledge they need, we are promoting Excellence in STEM by:

  • improving the supply of STEM talent into the profession
  • improving STEM learning and teaching and delivering enhanced professional learning
  • prioritising STEM in the expansion of apprenticeships
  • maintaining our research excellence in our universities

As result of the actions under this theme, by 2022 we expect to see:

  • Increases in the proportion of people undertaking STEM-related learning, engagement, study and training across all sectors including in school-level qualifications and awards and participation in apprenticeship programmes. (KPI I)
  • Increased practitioner confidence in STEM learning in the early years, primary years and in CLD settings, and increased practitioner engagement in STEM professional learning opportunities. (KPI II)

This section provides an overview of progress against individual actions under the Excellence theme.

Improving the supply of STEM talent to the teaching profession

To encourage STEM career changers into teaching, 111 STEM Bursaries of up to £20,000 were awarded in the 2019-20 academic year (compared to 107 in 2018-19). These bursaries are targeted at secondary teaching in shortage STEM subjects - mathematics, physics, computing, chemistry, home economics and technical education.

218 STEM Bursaries awarded in 2018-19 and 2019-20
218 STEM Bursaries awarded in 2018-19 and 2019-20
STEM Teacher Training entrants increased from 380 in 2015-16 to 510 in 2016-17 and 2017-18 to 595 in 2018-19. (KPI I a)
380 - 2015-16; 510 - 2016-17 and 2017-18; 595 - 2018-19

STEM Teacher Training entrants increased from 380 in 2015-16 to 510 in 2016-17 and 2017-18 to 595 in 2018-19. (KPI I a)

Alternative routes into teaching for graduates have been available from 2017 and were introduced to help address recruitment challenges for teachers in priority subjects as well as in the remote and rural areas of Scotland. These innovative and ambitious programmes have all been professionally accredited by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) and are structured to ensure the professional standards of teaching in Scotland are maintained. Depending on the programme, they do this in a number of ways by:

  • Qualifying new teachers more quickly in the priority STEM subjects by combining post-graduate education with the teacher probation year and in some cases offering financial support to participants during their time on their programme;
  • Providing targeted help for former teachers looking to return to the profession;
  • Developing teachers able to work across the entire primary curriculum as well as enabling them to develop a specialism across a range of subjects that includes Primary Science, Numeracy and Environmental Science;
  • Targeting career changers to meet the demand for primary and secondary teachers in rural areas of Scotland; and
  • Developing teachers able to work in both primary and secondary schools.

There were 799 starts on these programmes during academic year 2017-18 and 2018-19.

In 2019 the Scottish Government worked with the GTCS and each of the Initial Teacher Education (ITE) institutions involved in the delivery of alternative routes to undertake an interim evaluation of their impact. The findings show the new routes are:

  • Attracting individuals from diverse academic and professional backgrounds to access the teaching profession, particularly career changers;
  • Contributing towards the number of ITE students going into the priority STEM subjects;
  • Developing the professional competence of existing teaching staff through the mentoring support being given to students; and
  • Supporting the qualification of teachers with masters degrees that are able to teach across both primary and secondary school settings.

The GTCS Memorandum on Entry Requirements to Programmes of ITE in Scotland was revised in 2019, following public consultation. This now encourages universities to expect at least one SCQF Level 5 qualification in a science subject for entry to ITE Primary programmes

Many of these actions are contributing to and are being measured against KPI I, which is tracking the number of students on Initial Teacher Education courses in STEM subjects. Targets are set for these courses for the subjects where there are shortages of teachers. These targets have been increasing each year. While targets have still been missed in the shortage subject areas, overall intakes for the STEM secondary teacher training courses are increasing with 595 starts in STEM subjects in 2018-19 compared to 510 in 2016-17 and 2017-18 and 380 in 2015-16 (the baseline year).

Improving STEM learning and teaching and delivering enhanced professional learning

Since the last STEM Strategy Annual Report, Education Scotland's Inspectors have carried out a review of current practice in numeracy and mathematics. Their findings were published in the Multiplying Skills, Adding Value Report in December 2019. In the aspects for development, the report emphasises that primary schools in particular should further explore the potential for STEM and Developing the Young Workforce activity to add value to learning in mathematics and numeracy. It also recommended that secondary schools need to further develop the use and application of numeracy skills across subject areas using a school-wide approach.

Education Scotland's National Improvement Hub continues to provide a 'one stop shop' access to a wide range of STEM learning resources for practitioners. This includes a wealth of professional learning related to numeracy and mathematics.

Education Scotland has also awarded around £2m in grants to allow for groups of practitioners to take the lead in developing their own professional learning in STEM areas. Regional and national partners are also being funded to increase their capacity to provide professional learning.

£187,000 of grants were awarded to 24 projects through Round 1 of the Enhancing Professional Learning in STEM grants programme in financial year 2018-19. An additional £572,000 was made available to continue 20 of these projects in financial year 2019-20 to allow them to extend the reach and development of these programmes. In addition, £1.376 million of funding was shared across 140 new projects in financial year 2019-20. These new projects are expected to directly benefit an estimated 722 establishments and 13,847 practitioners across early years, community learning practitioners, teachers and school technicians. Where relevant, outputs will be shared online so that a greater number of practitioners can benefit.

From 2019-20, the funding for the grants incorporated the National Numeracy and Mathematics Hub funding, and a significant proportion of the successful projects are supporting mathematics and numeracy.

Much of the activity being supported through the grants is also interdisciplinary in nature, reflecting the fact that working across disciplines is an essential competence in the world of work, and individual subjects are rarely used in isolation.

Skills Development Scotland and Education Scotland are developing STEM 'lesson inserts' to help teachers relate learning and skills in the class to real-life situations and careers. Further work has been undertaken to update and extend the resources available to careers advisers and practitioners about STEM workplaces and careers.

Enhancing Professional Learning in STEM Grants

#Excellence #CLPL #Connection

The grants programme is supporting a wide range of activity across Scotland benefitting practitioners in new ways and helping to address some of the challenges practitioners face in accessing high-quality professional learning that meets their needs. Examples of funded projects include:

  • Abercorn Secondary in Glasgow has built an active network of ASN practitioners to promote collegiate working. The network will create opportunities for staff from a variety of local authorities to share practice and professional learning in relation to STEM in Additional Support Need (ASN) settings.
  • Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh has put Creative Science, one of its most popular science courses, onto an online platform so it can be accessed by a much wider range of practitioners across Scotland.
  • Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is developing a programme of virtual professional learning for primary practitioners working in remote island schools that can be delivered in class, in English or Gaelic.
  • Early learning and childcare practitioners in South Lanarkshire are benefitting from a significant programme of professional learning promoting Froebelian pedagogy, and how it can be used to support delivery of STEM learning.
  • Community learning and development practitioners in Midlothian, East Lothian and Edinburgh are now accessing a wide range of STEM professional learning opportunities to help them bring STEM to all communities.
  • The Scottish Childminding Association is working in partnership with SSERC to develop a bespoke professional learning course in science, mathematics and numeracy to build understanding of STEM practice in childminding settings.
  • Mathematics teachers in East Lothian are receiving funding to access professional learning to build their skills in the use of manipulatives to improve pedagogy, promote a love of mathematics and to raise attainment.
  • The Safer Internet Centre will equip 180 practitioners across Scotland with up-to-date knowledge, key skills and resources for working with and supporting the digital citizens of the future.

To see the full list of Round 2 grants being supported please visit:

A STEM online professional learning module for the early learning sector has been developed with the University of the West of Scotland and launched in January 2020. It aims to help early learning practitioners develop an understanding of using inspiring, child-led and play-based approaches to STEM learning in a range of environments, in an inclusive and easily accessible way. It will play an important role in upskilling staff and building their confidence in these areas, as part of the significant recruitment underway to support the expansion of early learning and childcare. This resource will be available to all practitioners through the Online National Directory of early learning and childcare professional learning, including to those in the private, voluntary and independent sectors.

The outdoors provides lots of opportunities to incorporate STEM into early learning, using the natural world to help develop curiosity and science skills. The new National Standards for Early Learning and Childcare require children to be outdoors every day as part of their funded hours. Practical Guidance for creating high quality outdoor experiences - Out to Play - was published in December 2018. Dedicated support to improve and increase outdoor learning has been provided to eight local authorities by Inspiring Scotland through a funded programme of practical advice and expertise focussed on regularly accessing greenspace, registering high quality outdoor spaces and building confidence amongst practitioners in delivering outdoors.

Practice in supporting the development of STEM skills in early learning and childcare will also be strengthened by the publication of the refreshed national practice resource 'Realising the Ambition'. This resource, which was published in February 2020, sets out how to provide playful environments that stimulate children's curiosity in the world around them.

The Scottish Funding Council has built up a baseline of existing STEM engagement and inspiration activity through its work with the Regional STEM Hubs, and the more advanced STEM Hubs are now organising professional learning activities hosted by colleges and drawing on experience across the sector. New College Lanarkshire and Forth Valley College also received funding from the STEM grants programme to develop new approaches to college-led professional learning in STEM.

We have continued to support SSERC with £865,000 provided in financial year 2019-20 for its programme of professional learning for teachers, which is expanding to include more provision on digital learning and support for all early learning and childcare practitioners. The SSERC Primary Cluster Programme is designed to equip teachers with the knowledge and skills to become STEM mentors. Mentors provide and lead STEM activities within their cluster by sharing experiences and good practice and offering support and guidance to their colleagues. In addition, in 2018-19 SSERC continued to offer a range of courses to the secondary sector, with almost 1,500 secondary teachers attending one or more of their professional learning programmes.

We have also continued to fund the Raising Aspirations in Science Education (RAiSE) programme in partnership with The Wood Foundation to support improvements in primary science and STEM practice. Following a positive evaluation, the RAiSE programme is being offered to all local authorities on a rolling basis and has now engaged with 14 authorities since it started. Authorities who have completed their two year participation are being supported to make this work sustainable. Six out of the eight pilot authorities have retained or, in some cases, expanded the role of Primary Science Development Officer to further develop practitioner confidence in teaching science and STEM in primary schools.

Learning for Sustainability continues to be a focus for many STEM programmes supported regionally. In the West, Keep Scotland Beautiful, the West Partnership and Education Scotland are collaborating with the local authorities in the Improvement Collaborative to support the Upstream Battle Programme. This large-scale citizen science programme is engaging schools and communities along the River Clyde to tackle marine plastic pollution. This included a cross-authority "STEM the Flow" event where learners were encouraged to develop innovative STEM approaches to reducing marine plastic pollution.

Through the RAiSE Programme activity in Angus, practitioners are being given the opportunity to work with Zero Waste Scotland to develop their understanding of the circular economy and how it can be embedded in the curriculum. By learning how we can make things to be made again, practitioners are developing their understanding of how we can minimise our impact on the environment, re-purpose our natural resources and tackle climate change.

Education Scotland's network of eight Regional STEM Advisors are embedded within their regional teams. They have worked closely together to support a wide range of improvement activities on a regional basis including:

  • Working with Regional Improvement Collaborative and local authority leads to develop regional STEM plans;
  • Targeted professional learning support to establishments and school clusters;
  • Visiting establishments to develop case studies and share effective approaches;
  • Working with collaborative lead officers to launch STEM-related practitioner networks at local authority or regional level;
  • Professional learning sessions on local authority in-service days with science and mathematics practitioners;
  • Supporting professional dialogue at head teacher events or with newly qualified teachers;
  • Working with the Attainment Advisors in Education Scotland's Regional Teams to explore ways of using STEM to help raise attainment and close the attainment gap;
  • Supporting regional approaches to collaborative practitioner enquiry for science and technologies practitioners; and
  • Running regional conferences to improve pedagogy and raise attainment in STEM-related disciplines.

The STEM Advisors are supported in their work in specialist areas working alongside the eight Numeracy and Mathematics Officers and eight Digital Officers.

When invited by local authorities, the STEM Advisors are also delivering professional learning to local authorities and providing strategic advice and guidance on climate change and Learning for Sustainability.

They are also helping to connect the activity being supported through the STEM grants with the work of the college STEM Hubs, DYW Regional Groups, universities, science centres and festivals, industry and STEM Ambassadors. From 1 August to 31 December 2019, the Regional STEM Advisors had a total of 339 STEM engagements, with 366 distinct educational settings and 1,328 attendees.

Education Scotland also continues to provide tailored support to local authorities to improve digital skills and computing learning in schools through the their Digital Skills team. This has included hosting national Technologies networks for all local authorities to come together, and social media campaigns throughout the year linked to national events including Hour of Code, Internet Safety Day, Digital Learning Week and Cyber Week. Skills Development Scotland is also promoting digital learning through their Discover Cyber Programme.

With sponsorship support from BCS and Microsoft, the University of the Highlands and Islands is offering online professional development support for teachers through degree modules in database and computing systems and coding and web technologies. The two training modules will help primary and secondary teachers develop the general knowledge and skills required to deliver the computing curriculum up to SCQF Level 3. The programme will run from February to December 2020.

The Learning Estate Strategy and the first 11 schools to benefit from the new £1 billion Learning Estate Investment Programme were announced in September 2019. Excellent spaces for STEM learning are important for delivery of enhanced learning and teaching, and an emphasis on this is made within the Learning Estate Strategy.

Each of the above actions will complement each other and contribute to achieving the target against KPI II to increase practitioner confidence in STEM learning which is being measured through cumulative hours of STEM professional learning. In 2019 Education Scotland sought more granular responses in their practitioner survey. The results relating to practitioner confidence highlighted the variability in confidence across sectors and aspects of STEM as can be seen in the separately published KPI data tables. This information will be used to inform targeting of activity as we move forward. Overall, findings showed that practitioners accessed an average of 16.1 hours learning between 1 August 2018 and 31 July 2019. In addition, the 49 STEM providers that responded to Education Scotland's provider survey collectively provided 128,171 cumulative hours of STEM professional learning in that period.

Prioritising STEM in the expansion of apprenticeships

In 2018-19 the apprenticeship starts target of 28,000 was achieved - in keeping with the Scottish Government's ambition towards 30,000 new apprenticeship starts by 2020-21. From 2018-19, Graduate Apprenticeship starts were included in the apprenticeship total and contribute towards the Scottish Government's commitment.

Foundation Apprenticeships have expanded considerably in recent years. They provide senior phase learners (S5 and S6) with access to structured work-based learning qualifications to industry-recognised standards at SCQF Level 6 (the same level as a Higher). Foundation Apprenticeships have been designed and developed with industry and the SQA, and are aligned to key sectors of the economy with current skills shortages and projected future jobs growth. The Foundation Apprenticeship is delivered through partnerships between schools, a local college or learning provider and local employers.

The number of STEM Foundation Apprenticeship frameworks has increased from four in Cohort 1 (2016-2018) to six in Cohort 2 (2017-2019) and seven in Cohort 3 (2018-2020). The development of additional frameworks and the expansion of Foundation Apprenticeship delivery has seen the number of learners starting STEM Foundation Apprenticeship Frameworks increase from 161 in Cohort 1 to 552 in Cohort 2 and 722 in Cohort 3. There has been further significant growth of the STEM FAs in 2019.

Modern Apprenticeship training offers individuals in paid employment the opportunity to develop and learn new skills from SCQF Level 5 to up to Level 12 which includes technical, professional levels and training to support upskilling new and existing staff. STEM is included within the Modern Apprenticeships funding priorities. For the financial year 2018-19, 41% (10,900) of the Modern Apprenticeships starts were in STEM frameworks. Of these, 65% of all STEM starts were aged 16 to 24 and 79% of STEM starts were at SCQF Level 6 and above. As at 31 March 2019 there were 37,765 Modern Apprenticeships in training. Of these, 57% (21,500) of Modern Apprenticeships in training were in STEM frameworks and of these, 79% were aged 16-24 and 88% were at SCQF Level 6 and above.

The Graduate Apprenticeship provides work-based learning opportunities to new or existing employees, through a degree programme offering high level academic and work-based learning. These programmes are designed to enable employees to study up to degree level (Bachelors or Masters/SCQF Level 10 or 11) while spending the majority of their time in the workplace. They have been created in partnership with industry and the further and higher education sector. The apprenticeships combine academic knowledge with skills development to enable participants to become more effective and productive in the workplace.

At the end of 2018, 14 of Scotland's universities and colleges were delivering Graduate Apprenticeships in subject areas covering sectors including ICT/Digital, Cyber Security, Data Science, Civil Engineering, Engineering, Construction and Business. Ten of the fourteen Graduate Apprenticeship frameworks developed for delivery in academic year 2019-20 are STEM. Skills Development Scotland published the Graduate Apprenticeships: Early Activity and Progress Report in August 2019, which reported that there were 921 starts on Graduate Apprenticeships in 2018-19, of which 607 were on STEM frameworks (583 of these were STEM Graduate Apprenticeship starts at SCQF Level 9 and above).

This work is being measured against KPI I c and KPI I d around provision of apprenticeship opportunities which, as above, is showing positive progress. From next year onwards, we will also look to report on completion rates for Foundation Apprenticeships.

Maintaining excellence in STEM research and building links with Industry

The Glasgow Science Centre with the support of Scottish Government, the Scottish Funding Council, the Innovation Centres and others, has developed an innovation themed exhibition to inspire school children to think about STEM careers. Idea No. 59 opens in March 2020 and is an educational platform designed to nurture critical future skills. It aims to grow the next generation of engineers and innovators by creating a physical space for extended engagement with schools, communities and families.

A Can Do Innovation Summit was held in November 2019 and involved over 800 attendees. This was co-designed in consultation with sector specialists and included interactive workshops and an innovation showcase to help businesses maximise their potential by adopting new technologies and business cultures.

Number of STEM Foundation Apprenticeships new starts increased from 161 in Cohort 1 to 552 in Cohort 2 and to 722 in Cohort 3. (KPI I c)
161 Cohort 1 (2016-2018); 552 Cohort 2 (2017-2019); 722 Cohort 3 (2018-2020)
As at 31 March 2019 there were 37,765 Modern Apprenticeships in training. Of these, 57% (21,500) were in STEM frameworks.
57% 21,500 in STEM frameworks; 37,765 MA's in training

Work-based Learning - Foundation Apprenticeship in Civil Engineering

#Excellence #Apprenticeships #Colleges #Employers

Time in school, in college and at her work placement at a busy construction site provided the perfect solution for a Falkirk Foundation Apprentice.

The Falkirk 16-year-old wasn't sure if she was ready to leave Graeme High School or stay on.

Foundation Apprenticeships give young people in S5 and S6 the opportunity to gain work experience and a nationally recognised qualification, at the same level as a Higher, alongside their other subjects.

"I felt I was ready to leave school, but I also felt that I was not ready to do that. The idea of two half days at college really appealed to me and I think it helped that I know a few people who are doing Foundation Apprenticeships," said the civil engineering Foundation Apprentice.

She said: "I'm working with construction company Laing O'Rourke on its St James Centre site in Edinburgh three days a week and still going to college. This means I will get the Foundation Apprenticeship, but I am also getting the experience of being at work and it feels like a proper job."

"I've found college is so good too and really interesting. It has opened my eyes to the possibilities of what my job could be in the future."

The Forth Valley College School Partnership Support Officer said:

"Foundation Apprenticeships are an excellent route into the workforce and provide a great foundation on which young people can build a broad skillset, whilst also gaining qualifications and workplace experience.

"Forth Valley College is working closely with local employers to give young people a greater range of qualifications and experience which develop the skills for their future careers and prepares young people for the world of work."

Other case studies demonstrating the variety of Foundation Apprenticeships, Modern Apprenticeships and Graduate Apprenticeships in different subject areas can be found at:



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