STEM strategy for education and training: third annual report

Third annual report on progress of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic (STEM) education and training strategy setting out a range of actions that have been taken, despite the restrictions due to COVID-19, in support of STEM education and training provision.


We will promote Excellence by:

  • Improving the supply of STEM talent into the teaching 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.

Skills Development Scotland continues to work with partners at a local level to increase uptake of Pre-Apprenticeship and Foundation Apprenticeship STEM-related programmes, starting in 2018 and continuing until 2022. Young people from 325 schools across 32 local authority areas have been participating in Foundation Apprenticeships, representing a significant increase in school engagement from 66 schools in 2016-18 across 19 local authority areas. SDS has worked with the SQA, sector skills councils and learning providers to accelerate planned adaptations and ensure delivery of Foundation Apprenticeships could be effectively managed within current COVID-19 restrictions.

Data published in June 2020 show that in 2019/20 41% of Modern Apprentice starts were in STEM frameworks. Of all STEM starts, 64% were aged 16-24 and 81% of STEM starts were at SCQF Level 6 and above or VQ level 3. 10 out of the 14 available Graduate Apprentice Frameworks are focussed on STEM subject areas.

Number of STEM Foundation Apprenticeships new starts increased from 161 in Cohort 1, to 552 in Cohort 2, to 722 in Cohort 3 and to 1,438 in Cohort 4.
In the year 19/20 there were 54 STEM frameworks, 41% of all Modern Apprenticeships were STEM Starts.
In the year 2016 to 2017 37% of Modern Apprenticeships were STEM Starts over 46 STEM Frameworks, in the year 2017 to 2018 this increased to 38% STEM Starts over 50 STEM Frameworks, in the year 2018 to 2019 this increased further to 41% STEM Starts over 54 STEM frameworks, and in the year 2019 to 2020 the number of STEM Starts and STEM Frameworks remained the same.
In 2019-2020 there were 811 STEM Start Graduate Apprenticeships over 10 STEM Frameworks. This shows a rise from 607 STEM Starts in 2018-2019 and 276 STEM Starts in 2017-2018.

STEM Bursaries
We have been able once again to continue the STEM Bursaries programme administered by Skills Development Scotland. To date, 368 bursaries have been awarded. In the past two years, we exceeded the bursary target with 107 bursaries awarded in 2018-19 and 111 in 2019-20 and in 2020-21 we awarded 150. The 2021-22 STEM

bursary scheme will offer a bursary of up to £20,000 to encourage career changers to train as secondary school teachers in Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Computing Science, Technical Education and Home Economics. The bursary scheme will be open for applications on 5 April 2021.

Teacher Numbers
Teacher numbers are currently the highest they have been since 2008, with the number of primary teachers the highest since 1980. Figures published in December 2020 show that teacher numbers increased for the fifth year in a row – rising to 53,400 in 2020. The ratio of pupils to teachers is at its lowest since 2010.

Initial Teacher Education: 2020 provisional student teacher intake
Initial Teacher education Target Intake At October 2020
U/g degree 711 754
PGDE 1,155 1,214
U/g (combined degree) 68 105
Total 1,934 2,073
U/g degree 165 161
PGDE & other routes 1,800 1,647
U/g (combined degree) 171 118
Total 2,136 1,926
Overall Total 4,070 3,999

This tables show provisional information received from Universities on intakes to initial teacher education in 2020-21. This information is not official statistics but indicative figures provided by Universities at the start of the academic session. The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) publishes the official data a year later.

In 2019 the breakdown of teachers by main subject taught shows 6,120, of which 3,522 were female and 2,298 were male.
Main Subject Taught
  2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Total Total Total Total Total Female Male Total
Mathematics 2,403 2,350 2,331 2,361 2,364 1,384 978 2,362
Biology 1,179 1,165 1,183 1,153 1,213 938 317 1,256
Chemistry 937 932 942 982 948 619 348 967
General Science 129 128 131 136 144 72 78 149
Physics 823 807 814 826 806 261 545 806
Computing Studies 636 601 594 582 595 247 332 579
Total 6,107 5,983 5,995 6,040 6,070 3,522 2,598 6,120

Additional teachers have been recruited in the 2020-21 school year to support the recovery of education following the disruption caused by COVID-19. These teachers are likely to be a major contributing factor to the increase in teacher numbers, reduction in overall pupil-teacher-ratio, decrease in average primary class sizes, increase in proportion of teachers on temporary posts and the overall proportion of the 2019-20 cohort of Teacher Induction Scheme probationers in teaching posts.

National Improvement Hub
Ease of access to teaching and related resources in STEM continues to be important if teachers are to provide a high-quality learning experience for young people. The Education Scotland National Improvement Hub continues to offer a range of case study and teacher resources for primary, secondary and early years practitioners. In addition, between January and December 2020,

Education Scotland STEM Officers were able to undertake 580 engagements, benefiting 452 unique establishments and 2,449 attendees. Findings from the annual STEM Practitioners Survey (2018-19) has found that 24% of those surveyed noted that they had engaged with the Education STEM Self-evaluation Framework.

e-Learning Offer

The Education Scotland National e-Learning Offer now contains over 22,000 resource links across 26 subject spreadsheets. Of these, 10,927 were for STEM subjects. This has led to 41,610 page views by 16,055 users, mainly to access

STEM resources. In addition, the STEM Team at Education Scotland has led on the filming of nearly 150 practical science videos for National Qualifications.

STEM Qualifications
SCQF Level 6 Entries
Subject 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 % change 2019-2020
Biology 7,492 7,575 7,306 7,686 7,428 -3.4%
Chemistry 10,077 10,135 9,992 10,047 10,038 -0.1%
Human Biology 5,990 5,926 5,938 6,259 6,968 11.3%
Physics 9,129 8,956 8,280 8,327 8,392 0.8%
Other Sciences 392 454 423 392 360 -8.2%
Computing Sciences 4,454 4,476 4,099 3,228 3,164 -2.0%
Mathematics 18,871 18,861 18,753 18,626 19,181 3.0%
Technology 13,218 13,072 12,701 11,506 10,802 -6.1%
Total 69,623 69,455 67,492 66,071 66,333 0.4%

SSERC – Professional Learning
During 2019-20 SSERC (Scottish Schools Education Research Centre) has continued to deliver a programme of experiential professional learning with the main focus on the curriculum, including digital skills and computing science. Their Primary Cluster Programme has supported 78 teachers from 14 clusters across 7 local authorities to raise their own confidence and expertise in STEM by becoming mentors in STEM. The aim is that as mentors they should provide professional learning support for their colleagues within a local authority area.

SSERC – Key Facts

  • 1,536 CPD training days supporting Primary STEM education
  • 50 CPD training days supporting Early Years STEM education
  • 1,358 CPD training days supporting Secondary STEM education
  • 522 CPD training days supporting school technicians

In the academic year 2020-2021, along with all other organisations, SSERC has faced the challenge of reaching their audience in the face of 'lockdown' restrictions. This has meant that courses they offer, including for newly-qualified teachers, have been reconfigured for delivery online.

In secondary, SSERC has continued to provided support for 81% of secondary schools across all 32 Local Authorities and in order to recognise the key contribution made by technical support services in schools, SSERC has also provided a competence-based training courses to support school technicians across 6 SSERC Accredited Centres.

In computer science, SSERC has supported two professional learning programmes for mentors in the primary cluster programme – Laying the Foundations of Computer Science and Magnificent Microbits.

The 3 Scottish STEM Ambassador Hubs (managed by SSERC) collaborated with Maths Week Scotland to deliver a range of STEM activities before and during Maths Week Scotland – see below. STEM Ambassadors have been offered courses in order to gain greater confidence in maths. This was very much a practical activity in which a video "Marvellous Maths" was produced focusing on how maths is used in the workplace.

The first STEM Ambassadors in Scotland Week took place in February 2020 as a celebration of STEM in Scotland. Over 190 schools registered to access the resources created by 60 STEM Ambassadors. Resources included pre-recorded themed careers presentations and short videos on different STEM jobs in Scotland.

The Scottish Hubs continue to work with their local Developing the Young Workforce regional groups and provide STEM Ambassadors for school-led career events and activities, in addition to large scale events such as Scotland's Biggest Parents' Evening. Since April 2020 there have been 5,934 approved STEM Ambassadors, clocking up 10,591 volunteering hours.

The UK STEM Ambassador programme has firmly established itself as the leading STEM volunteer programme in the UK. With a 19 STEM Ambassador Hub network across the UK, STEM subjects are brought to life by over 33,000 volunteers who volunteer 640,000 hours per year. In Scotland, the STEM Ambassadors Hubs are:

  • SAE@SSERC – covering the East of Scotland
  • Science Connects – covering the West of Scotland
  • Aberdeen Science Centre – covering the North of Scotland

COVID-19 and the resulting restrictions could have negatively impacted on the ability of SSERC to deliver planned professional learning in 2020-21. In response, the SSERC team quickly reconfigured most professional learning activity to be delivered online, providing a blend of live online, pre-recorded and self-study. Whilst this can never be an adequate replacement for hands-on experiential learning, it did allow for extended reach across the whole of Scotland.

"The home kits and resources have been brilliant. The organisation has been great and our kits/instructions have been easy to follow and use. It also shows that if a second lockdown was to occur there is so much that our pupils can be doing at home in relation to Science."

Support for PGDE Students
All PGDE Science and final year undergraduates following a science with education programme in Scotland are invited by SSERC to the Scottish Universities Science School which is held during their training year.

In order that hands-on practical activities could take place, delegates received a kit of equipment and other resources that would enable them to 'cook along' with presenters from the SSERC secondary science team. Young people have responded particularly positively to the kit provided by SSERC. Feedback also indicated that they were pleased to be able to use some of the materials to support their own online teaching.

Raising Aspirations in Science Education (RAiSE) is a programme of The Wood Foundation, Education Scotland, Scottish Government, and participating local authorities. RAiSE equips primary practitioners with the skills, networks, and confidence to deliver engaging and motivating STEM experiences. Participating local authorities appoint a Primary Science Development Officer (PSDO) to support professional learning and partnership working. PSDOs co-ordinate and deliver professional learning, create networks, empower practitioners, organise events, develop partnerships, highlight opportunities, and offer tailored operational and strategic support.

There is currently a suite of online resources and opportunities which are shared nationally through social media and other platforms. As at December 2020, 77% of teachers involved in the RAiSE programme noted that the pupils' STEM aspirations have increased.

The initiative is now a national offer with a rolling programme of education authority engagement. As of February 2021, 17 authorities have been involved and over 300 professional learning events have run between August and December 2020. To date, RAISE has delivered over 1,450 professional learning events, with over 54,605 cumulative hours of professional learning.

SSERC – Key Facts

  • Number of Practitioner engagements in RAiSE Activities – 3,273
  • Number of establishment engagements in RAiSE Activities – 809
  • Number of Cluster engagements in RAiSE Activities – 62
  • Number of CLPL events delivered – 408
  • Number of cumulative CLPL hours an authority delivers through RAiSE – 4,725

Cyber Skills
Since the launch of the Discover Cyber Skills programme in 2017 over 130,000 young people have used the initiative to explore careers in this sector through classroom-based and online lessons and challenges. The Digital World platform provides information and insights into careers in cyber security, including through case studies.

Education Scotland is providing dedicated support to digital skills development in early learning settings and schools, including primary schools. The use of digital tools for learning and teaching has been extensive since March 2020 and has enabled practitioners to provide better continuity for the learning experience of young people. The skills practitioners have gained and the breadth of applications they use to facilitate, support and lead learning will continue as part of everyday learning and teaching post-COVID-19. This work will continue to develop the digital literacy skills that learners will require for their learning, life and work in the future.

Currently, the focus is on supporting practitioners with remote learning pedagogies. This work includes delivering new content online, interactive learning, a digital day in a primary school and subject-specific examples of online delivery.

Since March last year, over 11,000 practitioners have engaged in the 203 webinars delivered by Education Scotland Digital Officers, focusing on the delivery and creation of online learning. The Education Scotland website hosts access to a range of support such as live and recorded webinars, practitioner learning pathways and practitioner blog posts which have had over 259,000 views. The YouTube channel hosting all video content has had more than 5,000 hours of videos viewed since April 2020.

Numeracy and Mathematics
Education Scotland's Numeracy and Mathematics officers, continue to work alongside practitioners, schools, local authorities and regional improvement collaboratives (RICs) to deliver support and drive improvement. In August 2020, a series of Professional Learning Resources were published to advance effective learning and teaching of discrete themes within numeracy. To complement these publications a series of national webinars were designed and delivered to over 1,000 practitioners from across Scotland during the period of September 2020 - March 2021. These sessions were well received and resulted in subsequent webinars being requested by RICs and local authorities. To date an additional 84 webinars/professional learning events have been delivered to practitioners, each reinforcing effective learning and progression within numeracy and exemplifying skills and application within the context of STEM.

The reach of the Education Scotland Numeracy and Mathematics officers continues to be extensive. As a result of regional working, strengthened relationships with local leads and schools has resulted in a significant amount of national support being delivered directly to schools and practitioners. In addition to the impact and reach of webinar events, during the period of March 2020 - March 2021, 651 hours of interaction, arising from 397 engagements with over 168 establishments were recorded. The core focus of these engagements included planning, delivering professional learning to enhance learning and teaching and supporting improvement through collaboration.

Learning for Sustainability
The links between STEM subjects and our cross-curricular theme of Learning for Sustainability are vitally important to this Strategy. The Scottish Government and partners in Education Scotland, SQA and other organisations have continued to work together to implement our Learning for Sustainability action plan. Much of this work reaches into STEM subjects in both the Broad General Education and Senior Phase, where the study of environmental science, the living environment, the Earth's resources and sustainability is so crucial to delivering on learners' entitlement to LfS.

Strong links between STEM and Learning for Sustainability exist in engineering and technologies, in particular when looking at energy production and distribution.

There has been a noticeable increase in taking STEM outdoors, demonstrated by the professional learning in STEM grants. The Royal Highland Education Trust has been delivering sessions on STEM in farming and food production across Scotland, as have Kemnay Academy in Aberdeenshire. Projects such as Aviemore Early Learning and Childcare Service in Highland, and Inverkip Primary in Inverclyde have focused on looking at STEM in their local environment in early and first levels. In addition, the Field Studies Council and the John Muir Trust have been supporting practitioners in developing the STEM by Nature project in Tayside.

STEM Grants
The STEM Grants Programme was launched in October 2018 to build the capacity and confidence of practitioners and to support the STEM Strategy. The grants are available to support practitioners across early learning and childcare, primary, additional support needs and secondary school, community learning and development and school-based technical support staff. 8,392 practitioners benefitted from the 24 projects funded through Round 1 of the grants programme.

The programme aims to increase access to STEM learning opportunities and encourage confidence in practitioners across Scotland. These focus on the sciences, maths and numeracy, digital learning, engineering and technologies.

Some examples of where project grants have been provided include:

  • The Institute of Physics planned to create three new professional learning hubs in rural areas in Scotland. These were to support high quality, bespoke professional learning for physics teachers and build relationships with schools and clusters in areas with deprivation in relatively remote and rural locations.
  • The Royal Society of Chemistry aimed to increase primary teacher confidence within STEM subjects and promote a seamless transition in learning from P7 to S1. This was to engage with practitioners to identify their professional learning needs and provide online opportunities for teachers in rural areas to participate in professional learning.
  • A project by East Ayrshire Council set out to inspire practitioners, build confidence, skills and knowledge in STEM subjects and help ensure equitable and engaging learning environments. Sessions were supported by staff from the Forestry Commission, the Environment and Forestry Network and the Collaboration Cluster Team. This resulted in five interdisciplinary lessons focusing on developing STEM skills.
  • Glasgow City Council supported planning for the extension of the successful STEM Glasgow programme of professional learning for practitioners to 3 interested local authorities within the Regional Improvement Collaborative. This enabled a greater number of practitioners to benefit from the Primary STEM Leaders Programme providing experiential professional learning for practitioners.



Back to top