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Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in Early Years Education

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

I am not a member of the Education and Skills Committee, but I take a keen interest in STEM whenever the opportunity arises. The committee and those who have provided evidence to it are to be congratulated on producing the report, which in many ways reinforces issues that have been around for a while.

The report probably hits the nail on the head at the outset when it talks about confidence within the profession in the four key areas in STEM—science, technology, engineering and maths. As other members have mentioned, if we separate those elements, we see a different picture emerging in confidence levels in teaching science and maths and in teaching technology and engineering.

Lorna Hay, who is mentioned in the report, highlighted the fact that confidence is not so high in teaching computer science and engineering, and that view seems to be supported by others who contributed. For me, the surprising thing about that is that anyone should actually be surprised by it. It has been an issue for a long time and regularly features as a discussion point when computing in the curriculum is mentioned. How should we train our teachers and early years practitioners about the wonders of computing and the possibilities that it can open up for our children, and for them, in the digital word that we live in?

I am pleased to see that the Scottish Government is aware of that and is taking action through its STEM professional learning grants, which seek to help 14,000 practitioners this year. How will we know whether those grants work? We will clearly have to see an improvement in confidence levels; I hope that we can look further than that at the impact of those grants on the children and young people themselves. Will they become more enthused with STEM, to such an extent that they feel that they want to stick with it in later years—particularly the girls?