Publication - Minutes

STEM Strategy Implementation Group minutes: August 2018

Published: 6 Feb 2019
Learning Directorate
Date of meeting: 29 Aug 2018
Date of next meeting: 7 Nov 2018
Location: St Andrew’s House, Edinburgh

Minutes from the third meeting of STEM Strategy Implementation Group.

6 Feb 2019
STEM Strategy Implementation Group minutes: August 2018

Attendees and apologies

Members attending

  • Roddy McDonald [RM], Scottish Government (Acting Chair)
  • Professor Ian Allison [IA], Universities Scotland
  • Alan Armstrong [AA], Education Scotland
  • Julia Brown [JB], Scottish Enterprise
  • Eddie Follan [EF], COSLA
  • Morven Cameron [MCa], Highlands and Islands Enterprise
  • Ken Edwards [KE], Skills Development Scotland
  • Linda Leuchars [LL], Dundee Science Centre
  • Martin McGuire [MM], Colleges Scotland
  • Sue Pope [SP], Scottish Qualifications Authority
  • Paul Smart [PS], Scottish Government
  • Lorna Sweeney [LS], Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Michael Cross [MCr], Scottish Funding Council
  • Talat Yaqoob [TY], Equate Scotland
  • Matt Lancashire [ML], Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI)
  • Colin Robertson [CR], Scottish Government


  • Rodney Ayre, Developing Young Workforce
  • Robert Hynd, Community Learning and Development Managers Scotland
  • Hugh McAloon, Scottish Government
  • Kevin Mitchell, Care Inspectorate
  • Catherine Agnew, Care Inspectorate
  • Robert Orr, SDS on behalf of South of Scotland Economic Partnership


  • Sara Lightbody [SL], Scottish Government
  • Barbara Morton [BM], Scottish Government
  • Malcolm Pentland [MP], Scottish Government

Others attending

  • Ian Menzies [IM], Education Scotland
  • Douglas Brown [DB], Scottish Government
  • Irene Permaul [IP], Scottish Government

Items and actions

1. Welcome and introductions

RM (chairing in the absence of a specific Minister for Science at the timing of this meeting) welcomed members to the third meeting of the Implementation Group.

Members agreed that Sheila Rowan and Iain Hunter as co-Chairs of the External Advisory Group should be invited to attend future meetings of the Implementation Group. 

IA advised that he was stepping down from his role at Universities Scotland and discussions will take place as to a replacement.

Action: Replacement Universities Scotland representative for the Implementation Group to be identified.

2. Minutes and action points from the previous meeting

LS noted an error in the attendance list in the minutes as she was not present at the previous meeting. No other comments were received and the actions will be amended appropriately and published on the Scottish Government web page.

Action: Minutes of second meeting of the Implementation Group to be published on the Scottish Government website.

All actions from the previous meeting were noted as being complete.

3. STEM strategy progress:

SL provided an overview of the Highlight Report (paper 3.1) and Action Tracker (paper 3.2) which were circulated in advance of the meeting. It was highlighted that the majority of actions were on track, with just two milestones currently delayed.

Alongside the Action Tracker, a draft Progress Tracker (paper 3.3) was circulated to show progress against key milestones and timescales for each of the actions in response to comments at the last Implementation Group. Members considered that this provide a useful overview and were comfortable with the level of detail included -  recognising that this is a high level overview of progress rather than a fully detailed tracker of individual actions.

A query was raised around risks and it was confirmed that work was underway to produce a risk register and that this would be made available for the next meeting.  It was advised that no significant risks had currently been identified.

Action: Risk Register to be included with STEM Strategy Progress papers for next meeting of Implementation Group.

The following points of progress were also highlighted:


  • Action E16: Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board continue to meet and recently considered 4 mission statements.  This work will include close working with SFC and SDS, identifying skills gaps and ensuring alignment of skills projects
  • Action C9 – Following publication of the Learner Journey Review in May, planning for implementation in schools and colleges is underway


  • statistics for modern apprenticeships were published in June and there is an increase in the number of STEM Frameworks and numbers of learners


  • outcome agreement guidance due to be published early in September with clear focus on STEM provision


  • Science Centres and Festivals have increased footfall and great engagement


  • Action E2 - STEM Bursary applications are expected to achieve or exceed the target of 100 with the scheme set to close on 31 August


  • confirmed that SSERC were leading on a bid to run the Young STEM Leaders programme, with involvement of Science Centres and Festivals as well as others, and that more details would be available in the autumn


  • interim evaluation of RAISE has been positive and approval has been given to extend to a further five local authorities from December/January

Members were keen to stress the importance of developing and maintaining links across partners and work areas, and to ensure that equity was considered as a key thread across all actions.

The importance of communicating to all was also flagged, with the need to make sure that school teachers know what’s going on.

4. Key projects/developments

4.1. STEM hubs

MC provided an introduction to the STEM Hubs update paper (Paper 4.1) that was circulated in advance of the meeting. It was advised that 3 workshops had been held with 110 participants, and that named contacts had been identified in each of the 13 regions.  The need to maintain momentum was stressed with a number of emerging points identified:

  • geography: need bespoke approach by area
  • targets: need baseline from which to improve
  • funding: how to fund/promote STEM provision
  • connectivity: links with Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs) and other workstreams will be critical and it is important that partners assist in this

MM, who Chairs the STEM Hubs Steering Group, identified that the work was further ahead than expected to be with a further workshop of regional leads planned in October. The critical role of the STEM Advisors, work around Career Long Professional Learning, Employer engagement and links to the Developing Young Workforce (DYW) to the STEM Hubs was also flagged.

Members discussed the complexity of the environment and suggested a need to look at ways for DYW and STEM to engage better, including how to encourage more employers to engage.  The relationship with the RICs was also discussed, recognising that progress will be different across and within areas.

4.2. Career long professional learning (schools, early years and CLD)

AA and IM introduced the Career Long Professional Learning paper (Paper 4.2) that was circulated in advance of the meeting.  This outlined a coherent package of CLPL, taking into account experience of what is known to work best with a teacher and system led approach.  The enormous scale of this work was emphasised.

It was highlighted that feedback from extensive engagement had indicated that CLPL needed to be – collegiate; local; online; modular; high quality.  It was identified that there were different priorities by sector – EY, primary, secondary – and that the focus needed to be on building/increasing capacity, providing contextualisation, innovative approaches.  Options are accreditation are also being considered but was indicated that these would be course dependent.

Members agreed the approach and discussion was held around plans for workforce and lifelong learning.  The place of Science Centres in learning was also highlighted with plans to bring Science Centres and CLD together on this.

IM informed members of surveys by Education Scotland around CLD and also with technicians and maths practitioners. 

4.3. Regional STEM advisors

AA and IM provided an introduction to the paper on Regional STEM Advisors (Paper 4.3) which outlined the intended roles and responsibilities for staff currently being recruited. It was flagged that these roles would be part of a wider team alongside leads on numeracy, DYW, employability, NIF etc and would be key to making links across to other national initiatives such as the RICs and DYW.  The roles would have a focus on co-ordination of CLPL and the STEM agenda, promoting partnership working. It was confirmed that these would be permanent posts rather than secondments, with costs being met from within Education Scotland’s core budget.

Members were content with proposals and discussed the extent to which these roles can make a difference given the limited numbers and there was recognition that roles will need to be flexible to meet different needs across the local authorities.  The importance of maintaining an awareness of linked areas such as the learner journey work was also flagged.

The role of STEM Advisors around equality was queried and members were advised that Education Scotland are also currently undertaking a recruitment of STEM Equality Officers with a focus on gender, including gender balance training.

4.4. Annual report and STEM definition

Annual report

SL provided an introduction to the draft outline Annual Report (paper 4.4a) that was circulated in advance of the meeting.  It was identified that, as part of the Strategy, Ministers committed to producing an annual report to demonstrate progress against the individual actions and aims of the Strategy and that this is due to issue by end of November.  The purpose at this stage was to agree an outline with a fully populated report to be provided at the next meeting of the Implementation Group to allow comment on data presentation options and final messaging.

Members agreed with the proposal to keep the report as concise as possible with an appropriate mix of narrative, data and infographics and that KPIs should be pulled forward within the report.  It was flagged that there was a need to be mindful of the different audiences, and members emphasised that the narrative was critical with the following suggestions received:

  • introductory paragraphs should be kept to one or two maximum to grab attention
  • need clarity on status of project and priorities with individual actions progressing at different rates and expectations for Year 1, 2 3 … of strategy
  • messaging should acknowledge that STEM is one of a number of strategies that are mutually dependent
  • emphasise how related to the National Improvement Framework outcomes and growth of the economy
  • need to include a professional judgement of what is happening and ‘how it feels’ at this point in the delivery of the strategy
  • include case study examples
  • combine different forms of media including video and blogs

Reference was made to a commitment to put the report in front of the COSLA Board and agreed that liaison would take place around this.

STEM definition

BM provided an introduction to the STEM Definition paper (Paper 4.4b) that was circulated in advance of the meeting. It was recognised that much work had previously been undertaken which had resulted in the definition used for the evidence base report published at the same time as the strategy.  Following review some refinements are being proposed with varying approaches by sector.

Paper 4.4b discusses some proposals and Barbara will take us through that.  Further work to finalise this will be progressed as a matter of urgency.  A fully populated report would then be shared for the next meeting which will allow comment on data presentation options and messaging.

Members were, on the whole, comfortable with the proposals although there was some concern expressed around why dental nursing would not be included in the KPI on increasing the proportion of people completing a STEM qualification at college given it was considered a key element in college provision.  It was also agreed there needed to be an element of consistent for comparison across sectors and how the data was presented would be critical.  The importance of disaggregating information by sector, particular to demonstrate differences on gender and other characteristics, was also flagged with the need for a robust narrative on this.

It was suggested that discussion would be needed on Early learning and Childcare, outlining what is being learned at this date that comes together to become STEM to allow a shared understanding.

4.5. Communications

DB  provided an update on STEM Engagement Campaign and flagged that a new team member was due to start on 24 September to drive this work forward.

SL provided an introduction to the draft Communications Plan (Paper 4.5) which was circulated in advance of the meeting. 

Members agreed with the proposal and that further work should be undertaken to develop branding and core messaging as well as collating information across partners of planned activity.  The difficulty around the term STEM was recognised and the need to adopt approaches that promoted STEM to different demographics.  It was also flagged that efforts need to be made to integrate with communications strategies across other key programmes and to make use of existing channels and activity rather than reinventing good work already being undertaken.

5. Any other business and date of next meeting

Members discussed the recent SQA results and the disappointing figures for National 5 which are anticipated will carry through to next years’ Higher figures. Hope was expressed that the RAiSE programme and other activity within the strategy will help to reverse this decline.

ML highlighted that SCDI have committed to host an event 31 October 2018 looking at Schools for the Future and that outcomes from this would feed in to a research report.

AA flagged that the Scottish Learning Festival will take place on 19/20 September 2018 with the second day having a STEM focus.

JB noted the discussions at the External Advisory Group around industry membership and it was agreed that discussion should be held with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise so see if any additional potential employer/industry representatives could be identified.

Action:  SE/HIE to identify any potential industry/employer representatives for the External advisory Group.

Members were advised that the date for the next meeting was provisionally set for Wednesday 7 November 2018.