STEM Strategy Implementation Group minutes: December 2017

Minutes of the first meeting of the STEM Strategy Implementation Group, held on 14 December 2017.

Attendees and apologies


  • Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science
  • Professor Ian Allison, Universities Scotland
  • Alan Armstrong, Education Scotland
  • Julia Brown, Scottish Enterprise
  • Andrew Bruce, Scottish Government
  • Lauren Bruce, COSLA
  • Morven Cameron, Highlands and Islands Enterprise
  • Sharon Drysdale, Scottish Funding Council
  • Ken Edwards, Skills Development Scotland
  • Eddie Follan, COSLA
  • Robert Hynd, Community Learning and Development Managers Scotland
  • Linda Leuchars, Dundee Science Centre
  • Martin McGuire, Colleges Scotland
  • Roddy McDonald, Scottish Government
  • Kevin Mitchell, Care Inspectorate
  • Paul Smart, Scottish Government
  • Lorna Sweeney, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Robert Quinn, Scottish Qualifications Authority
  • Talat Yaqoob, Equate Scotland  


  • Barbara Morton, Scottish Government
  • Michelle Wallace, Scottish Government
  • Frank Creamer, Scottish Government


  • Kevin Bevan, Chief Executive, SCDI
  • Michael Cross, Scottish Funding Council
  • Hugh McAloon, Scottish Government

Items and actions

1. Welcome and Introduction

1.1 Ms Somerville welcomed everyone to the first meeting of the STEM Strategy Implementation Group. She noted that the Strategy sets out a number of key challenges for the Government and other partners and follows extensive consultation and dialogue with stake-holders, including through the earlier STEM Strategy Reference Group. The challenge now is to take the Strategy forward in a collegiate fashion; working across Government departments and agencies. Whilst it is relatively easy to identify good practice in STEM, work is needed now to clarify what activity needs to be measured and over what time period.

2. Remit and Purpose of the Group

2.1 The remit of the Group will be to oversee delivery of the Strategy, identify where there are opportunities for collaboration, and pull together data to help oversee the process of implementation. The Group would also keep actions under review.

2.2 In relation to membership, it was noted that:

  • Robert Quinn would be the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) member, until a permanent STEM lead within SQA was appointed.

  • Ken Edward would represent the interest of the South of Scotland Economic Partnership until a permanent representative was in place.

  • Eddie Follan would replace Lauren Bruce at future meetings to represent COSLA.

  • Future meetings will include a representative from the DYW National Group.

2.3 Action: Ms Somerville noted that members of the group should let officials know if there are any gaps in the group’s membership.

3. Action Tracker

3.1 Andy Bruce noted that the tracker monitoring tool is the key document for reporting on progress with the Strategy. For each of the commitments it provides a lead official, and also an accountable representative on the Implementation Group. The work of the Implementation Group will be supplemented by regular meetings of an Action Officers Group, whose role will be to take forward the detailed outputs. Future meetings of the Implementation Group will highlight the RAG status of specific actions, and this will be the main focus of the discussion of this group.

3.2 Members commented that:

  • Many of the actions were weighted towards children and young people and more focus was therefore needed on the engagement of adults in the workforce.

  • It was encouraging that early learning and childcare featured in the tracker as its influence should not be under-estimated. However, in relation to action E5, work is needed which progresses beyond an online offering.

  • There was a need for greater recognition of the specific challenges faced by rural and remote communities. The new Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs) should be well placed over the coming months to address issues of rurality, and there were potential opportunities to work with Highlands and Islands Enterprise on this aspect of the RICs development.

  • It was suggested that STEM could be a helpful starting point for the RICs, pulling in colleges and universities. The ‘bottom-up’ model of school improvement driven through the RICs will require a clear and consistent message of the importance of planning for STEM to be communicated to Headteachers. It would also be helpful to target more actions on ‘alternative pathways’ for STEM, such as Foundation Apprenticeships.

  • Some of the actions in the tracker will have clear connections to activity already undertaken as part of other Scottish Government strategies. One of the challenges will be to ensure equalities issues, for example, feature throughout.

Ms Somerville commented that updating of the tracker needs to avoid a “circular loop”, where we refer to other strategies and we need to ensure that the actions are actually being taken forward. We also need to focus on those areas that are clearly identified as a priority.

  • While school and early years are important, emphasis also needs to be placed on the higher skills end and playing to Scotland’s strengths in its Universities and Innovation Centres. This includes the role and contribution of the Innovation Centres in supporting collaboration between universities and the business community.

  • Colleges are best placed to contribute in relation to the contribution of adult returners to the STEM labour market.

3.3 The Minister asked the Group if there were any gaps in the Actions Tracker, which should be included in the next version. She noted that there would be more detail added in relation to milestones for actions. It was suggested that an analysis of supply and demand on whether STEM job market needs were being met would be helpful. A data study was completed in parallel with the development of the STEM Strategy, managed by Skills Development Scotland, but it was challenging to track whether young people who studied STEM ended up in STEM-related jobs.

Action: Detail of data study to be circulated to the Group.

4. Key Performance Indicators

4.1 Ms Somerville noted that a paper on KPIs will be published before the end of the year. In the discussion, the following points were made:

  • The draft KPIs are not intended to cover all of the commitments made in the STEM Strategy, but look at the key improvements which will be made. Some of the KPIs offer numerical targets, but there are other areas where this was not possible or helpful. Every attempt has been made to use existing data sets for reporting purposes.

  • It was noted that Higher Physics and Higher Computing were chosen as qualifications on which to monitor performance on equity in view of the fact that the gender imbalance in these is particularly stark. It was considered that the target was challenging, but that being ambitious was necessary.

  • It was proposed that a target be set that considers the number of primary schools in rural areas that have access to STEM activities. However, in discussion it was agreed that rurality should be considered more generally as a cross-cutting issue.

  • On equity, it was noted that improving the gender balance in college was included, but universities were not. Also, gender balance should be considered throughout the whole apprenticeship family, rather than only Foundation Apprenticeships.

  • It was suggested that the Scottish Household Survey could be a useful tool to analyse perceptions by young people of STEM. Education Scotland will also consider, after two years, the publication of a thematic aspect report as a qualitative means of determining whether young peoples’ experiences of STEM are improving.

5. STEM Strategy External Advisory Group

5.1 Ms Somerville noted that the Advisory Group will be set up to provide support and challenge as the Strategy is progressed. It would meet 3 times a year. In discussion, the following points were raised:

  • It was suggested that the Chief Scientific Adviser was a potential Chair for the Group, and the Minister indicated that Prof. Rowan was keen to continue to assist with the implementation of the Strategy.
  • It was proposed that a representative from the education psychology service should serve on the Advisory Group along with someone from the science professional bodies and representing the widening access agenda.
  • In discussion it was agreed that a flexible approach was needed to membership to reflect the changing agenda. The Group could have a core membership, and then other organisations could engage with the group’s work depending on the issue being considered.

6. AOB

6.1 COSLA requested that the annual report on progress with the Strategy which is shared with Parliament also goes to their Children and Young People Board, which the Minister agreed to.

6.2 Meetings of the Implementation Group will dovetail with those of the Action Officers Group, and the Advisory Group. Meetings of the Implementation Group will be held 3 times per year, with minutes published on the Scottish Government website.

6.3 Officials will contact members about the next meeting date, which will be on a date to be confirmed in April.


Frank Creamer

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