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.


To help create a strong pipeline of STEM talent into the labour market and ensure that everyone develops STEM skills and knowledge we will promote Inspiration for STEM by:

  • Creating positive STEM role models, mentors and coaches.
  • Promoting the opportunities and benefits of STEM learning and careers.
  • Recognising and celebrating success.
SCQF Level 6 Passes - 2016-2020
Scottish Domiciled Applications to all UK HEIs by selected subject group
  2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 % change 2019 - 2020
Biology 5,167 5,480 5,376 5,593 6,314 12.9%
Chemistry 7,710 7,718 7,679 7,616 8,865 16.4%
Human Biology 4,122 4,209 4,165 4,347 5,878 35.2%
Physics 6,788 6,806 6,281 6,242 7,271 16.5%
Other Science 238 258 274 268 322 20.1%
Computing Science 3,153 2,898 2,817 2,069 2,824 36.5%
Mathematics 13,906 13,978 13,990 13,485 15,984 18.5%
Technology 9,475 9,776 9,340 7,989 9,998 25.1%
Total 50,559 51,123 49,922 47,609 57,456 20.7%

In March 2020 it was announced that the 2020 exam diet could not go ahead and that an alternative certification model would be developed. Under the revised approach to certification, candidates received teacher estimated grades except where these estimates were moderated upwards by the SQA. In these cases candidates received the moderated grade. SQA have noted that the 2020 results should be seen as unique, due to the disruption caused by COVID19 and the cancellation of the exam diet.

Young STEM Leader
The Young STEM Leader programme is inspiring and rewarding excellence of young people to create and lead inspirational STEM activities. Since the launch of the Young STEM Leader online programme over 700 trained Tutor Assessors, over 380 delivery centres and an estimated 2,500 Young STEM Leaders (YSLs) have engaged across all local authority areas.

The Project Team from SSERC will, over the academic year 2021-22, provide Tutor Assessor training to a minimum of 1,500 teachers, youth and community workers who will subsequently deliver STEM leadership training to a minimum of 7,000 YSLs. The aim is to inspire young people to develop a greater interest in STEM and consider these areas as potential future pathways, as being enthused about those subjects at school.

Young people involved in the programme complete a digital "log" of their experiences that is assessed by trained Tutor Assessors. The impact of the programme is currently being evaluated by a research team from the University of Stirling. Despite some of the inevitable challenges associated with COVID-19, the programme has continued to grow over the past year and further growth is anticipated. The award is split into formal and non-formal versions and is a valuable opportunity for young people to gain an insight into the world around them in a fun and engaging way.

North Ayrshire Council: Family Learning Team

Across ten primary schools and one secondary school in North Ayrshire Council, the Local Authority's family learning team have been working with select groups of young people to achieve the Young STEM Leader Level 2 award. The aims of the family learning work are threefold:

Achieving: Parents and carers know how their child learns in school and how to support learning at home;

Nurtured: Family interacts positively through play/interactions;

Included: Family feels included in the school community.

Kilcreggan Primary School, Argyll and Bute

In a bid to improve STEM capital across the school, a website was set up to promote interaction between classes for the benefit of pupils and teachers: peer-to-peer mentoring, digital exchanges of information and resource sharing. This website was created and maintained by a group of digital leaders in the upper school, who then went on to achieve the Young STEM Leader 2 Award.

Peebles High School, Scottish Borders

As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a team of five S6 pupils set up a group to support girls to challenge discrimination they may face in STEM. Through delivering careers talks, supported study sessions and social media campaigns, the STEM Girls are working towards their Young STEM Leader Level 6 award. Using their own experiences, the STEM Girls are advocates for gender equality in STEM and are inspirational role models showing student-led action within their learning community.

Linlithgow Academy, West Lothian

Throughout the first year of delivery, the Young STEM Leader Level 6 Award is timetabled at Linlithgow Academy as part of a careers pathways class for S5 and S6 pupils. Working around COVID-19 restrictions, the young STEM leaders worked with pupils from local primary schools to improve STEM knowledge, understanding and engagement. In order to lead STEM

activities, events and interactions virtually, the YSLs filmed a series of "how-to" videos explaining various science experiments that could be performed by their audiences remotely.

In completing the award, more than 100 Young STEM Leaders were supported to deliver STEM activities, events and interactions to their household groups. By delivering video career profiles, guided sensory nature walks, kitchen science experiments and more, YSLs were able to actively involve their family groups in their leadership journey whilst together engaging more deeply with STEM.

The development phase of the YSL Programme is complete and all six levels of the award are now available to young people in Scotland. Three levels in the non-formal version of the programme are aligned to Curriculum for Excellence Second, Third and Fourth Levels. The levels in the formal version of the award are offered at SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6 and are credit rated by the Scottish Qualifications Authority. There are now an estimated 2,500 active YSLs in Scotland representing an excellent demonstration of how to inspire young people into STEM.

Parental Support
We are aware that COVID-19 and the associated disruption to education creates a number of challenges for parents and for parents' involvement in schools. The experience of school closures has further reminded us of the vital role that parents play in supporting their children's learning. Communication between school and home has remained vitally important at this time. Advice was published on how local authorities and schools should involve and engage parents during this period. In relation to STEM, Education Scotland continues to promote and support a range of family learning resources associated with STEM and the National Parent Forum's STEM in a Nutshell guide provides information to parents about STEM careers and subject choices.

Maths Week
The fourth annual Maths Week Scotland took place from 28 September to 4 October 2020. Despite the challenges of 2020, the week was a huge success with a greater emphasis placed on virtual and outdoor activities, as well as an enhanced social media presence. 2020 saw Maths Week Scotland trending at #1 or #2 in all cities across Scotland at the start of the week.

Many local activities were funded by the Maths Week Scotland Small Grants Fund, established by the Edinburgh Mathematical Society, the Glasgow Mathematical Journal Trust and the Scottish Government to encourage innovation and participation. Around 40,000 pupils registered as taking part in Maths Week Scotland via the website from every local authority in Scotland. The outdoor maths theme was really embraced by teachers this year and maths trails, take-home kits and resource packs meant that outdoor learning, learning at home or socially distanced learning were all accommodated within the programme. For example, a new collaboration with Science Skills Academy saw the creation of Outdoor Maths kits for primary school pupils with a total of 174 kits delivered to every primary school in the Highland Council area, supported with online training for teachers.

Online sessions during the week for pupils were well attended and featured well-known mathematics communicator Dr Hannah Fry, and several other individuals using maths in a variety of unexpected settings. Olympic athlete and mathematics graduate Eilish McColgan shared how she uses maths in her training with primary school pupils in Stirling, while Amar Latif shared how maths has impacted his life, from measuring ingredients in MasterChef to setting up his own business.

Focusing on maths in careers, a social media campaign #ShowYourWorking ran on Twitter across the week encouraging people to share how they use maths in their work, with many organisations taking part. Various organisations hosted online public events with hundreds of people virtually attending. The LMS Popular Lecture by Dr Diana Davis, Billiards on Regular Polygons, hosted by the University of Glasgow, was well attended, as was a headline talk from Marcus du Sautoy, sponsored jointly with the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences and Heriot-Watt University, on whether algorithms can create works of art.

Additional talks throughout the week covered topics such as virus spread, coding and origami. Despite restrictions there were some in-person family day activities at informal learning centres such as Scottish Maritime Museum and the National Mining Museum. The national Maths Week Scotland challenges returned, including the photo contest Maths Inside, Maths Week Scotland competitions from Sumdog and Mangahigh, the Deputy First Minister's Challenges and the Maths Wi Nae Borders competition.

STEM Nation Award
The STEM Nation Award Programme and Young STEM Leaders Programme (described earlier) are two new programmes that have been trialled and developed to increase leadership opportunities in STEM for young people and to help education settings develop coherent whole-setting approaches to STEM. These will continue to play a key role in supporting the ambitions of this Strategy, including in relation to equity and equality.

The STEM Nation Award was developed by Education Scotland to celebrate, promote and build on effective practice in STEM education within and across sectors. All early learning and childcare settings, primary schools and secondary schools are eligible to apply for the STEM Nation Award. Settings may apply for an individual element or any combination of elements. Settings which achieve all five elements within a three year period will be eligible for the full STEM Nation Award. 19 settings and schools were the first to gain the full STEM Nation Award in October 2020.

STEM Nation Award materials are now live and available for use. Equality and equity are central to the new STEM Nation award and form one of five central elements (above) that schools must achieve before a full award can be granted. The award programme is open to early learning and childcare settings, primary, ASN and secondary schools and community learning and development settings.

The five elements are:

  • Leadership in STEM – celebrates effective leadership at all levels including children and young people leading STEM learning;
  • STEM family learning – recognises commitment to family learning and practice which is helping to build the STEM capital of learners and their families;
  • Employability and STEM partnership working – celebrates sustained collaboration between settings and their STEM partner(s) to develop learners' STEM and employability skills;
  • STEM curriculum and learner pathways – recognises the work of settings in developing an inspiring STEM curriculum and associated learner pathways;
  • Equity and equality in STEM – celebrates the work settings are undertaking to address the issues of equity and equality in STEM.

Science Centres
Following from the previous positive impact of the community subsidy, science centre funding levels for 2020-21 have been maintained. Although face to face engagement with community groups has not been possible, all science centres have continued to engage with community groups. This engagement is crucial at a time when other learning and support services are limited and many people in deprived communities have been particularly affected by the impacts of COVID-19.

Glasgow Science Centre
From January last year to February 2021, the Centre's Community Learning and Development team delivered 79 learning opportunities to 1,845 individuals. This year the Centre has been involved in a foundation apprenticeship programme to provide opportunities to young people when they needed it most. Since last October the Centre has had 15 young people taking part in a foundation apprenticeship virtually. Topics being studied include Engineering, Creative & Digital Media, Business Administration, Scientific Technologies & Finance.

Dynamic Earth
At the start of the pandemic, Dynamic Earth launched #DynamicEarthOnline across their social media channels and website. This was aimed at both schools and families, to support blended and home-learning and included five daily strands delivered on a weekly basis. STEM learning content, in the form of videos, activity and experiment ideas, profiles of scientists and thought-provoking environmental content was posted on social media and linked to downloadable resources. Special events such as Earth Day, World Oceans Day, and Scottish Climate Week were marked with themed content.

Aberdeen Science Centre
Feedback from a survey of head teachers and practitioners found that nearly 73%, preferred virtual engagement. The two most effective methods were pre-recorded videos of shows and workshops (87%) and Live Virtual Sessions streamed into the classroom (64%). This evidence formed the basis of the Centre's digital offer for schools.

ASC in your classroom is the offer for schools to engage with the Centre virtually. The aim is to provide support to teachers and practitioners with STEM in their classroom. The programme supports delivery of Curriculum for Excellence through fun, inspirational and enjoyable activities, promoting curiosity and using question-led investigations.

Dundee Science Centre
The Centre launched their Digital Home Learning Programme in March 2020. Since lockdown the Centre has reached 99,200 children with a meaningful interaction. The programmes align with the themes of the Centre's exhibition zones. The digital programme saw collaborative efforts with STEM Ambassadors, educational institutions and companies. Having launched this initiative, the Centre decided to bring science directly to the home through their Science@Home Activity Boxes. The aim is to bring science activities to children who might otherwise not have had the opportunity. The initial phase saw weekly boxes, delivered locally alongside weekly food bags, giving children and their families a real boost, a focus and some fun while keeping up some science learning in the process. This is now a Centre legacy project reaching 1,250 children throughout key holiday periods.

We have required Science Festivals to promote at least one event specifically targeted towards women and girls since 2017-18 as a condition of funding. This requirement was maintained for 2019-20 and 2020-21 and includes festivals being delivered online and those delivered as physical events. Evidence shows that events have been well received and are varied in type. The move by many festival organisers to online delivery brings opportunities to involve more girls and women in the delivery of the festivals, whilst also increasing the reach of the events to wider geographical areas. All of the festivals planned for Spring 2020 were affected by restrictions, however many festival organisers have adapted and delivered online events.

STEM Engagement
The 'Aye For Ideas' national engagement campaign is to run for the duration of the STEM Strategy. Campaign resources have been produced and branding and social media hashtag are being utilised positively by stakeholders. For example, science centres and science festivals are currently using them in a range of ways, including featuring the branding on printed promotional materials such as brochures and posters and across social media and online posts to promote activities and events with a particular focus on community engagement.

My World of Work Live
My World of Work Live is a set of fun, interactive activities to help young people understand future careers. Aimed at 8–18 year olds, activities are designed and delivered by experts with a passion for education and learning. As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, My World of Work Live successfully shifted to virtual delivery, delivering hands on, interactive sessions to over 3,330 young people across Scotland. They use the latest technology to engage and inspire, bringing school subjects to life. Activities are:

  • Designed to support the delivery of experience and outcomes in Curriculum for Excellence;
  • Aligned to the Career Management Skills framework and support the realisation of self, strengths, horizons and networks.



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