Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in Early Years Education

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Daniel Johnson Daniel Johnson Labour

I thank the clerks and my fellow committee members for the work that has gone into the report. It is a useful and instructive report, which has been reflected in the debate. I thank fellow members for engaging with the outcomes of the work, because I joined the committee at the tail-end of the inquiry. Indeed, my main input was in taking part in the hackathon that the convener, Clare Adamson, referred to. It was great fun and, in a sense, it summed up what we need to do, which is to demonstrate that science, technology, engineering and mathematics are not about dry numbers but that what is important is applying them to achieve creative outcomes.

I will not cover all the following points, but there are four or five broad areas that have been covered by the report and members during the debate. Those areas are the undoubted importance of culture with regard to STEM; issues to do with teacher education and the structure of the profession; the structure of the institutions in support of STEM activities; access to STEM; and, above all else, the importance of measuring outcomes as we seek progress.

It is important to highlight the importance of tackling the cultural issues. A number of members, including the minister, the convener, Ross Greer and Willie Coffey, quite rightly pointed out that we need to demonstrate to people that science is for them. Our biggest task is to prevent people from thinking that science roles are not accessible to them or appropriate for them. Above all else, doing that work with girls is hugely important if we are to tackle gender imbalances.

Liz Smith spoke very well about teacher education and the structure of the profession, and some of those issues, which Beatrice Wishart and Jamie Greene also raised, are reflected in the report. We must treat with caution calls for initial teacher education to be altered. If we were to include everything that people have called for to be included in initial teacher education, we would never have any teachers entering the profession, because by the time they had finished their training, they would have to retire. However, we need to look at the content of continuing professional development and initial teacher education for STEM subjects.

Rona Mackay and others quite rightly pointed out the need to differentiate between the different elements of STEM, and that should take place as the basis of any structural change. The training of early years teachers is also important, particularly given the complex structure of that part of the education system.

We could have covered at greater length issues such as collaboration through school clusters, regional improvement collaboratives and the future role of SSERC. Alasdair Allan made some good points about the progress that has been made in literacy and numeracy, and the need to make similar progress in STEM.

I do not think that it is possible to address this topic without noting the geographical, social and financial issues relating to access. The concept of STEM capital, which a number of members mentioned, is useful when contemplating all those issues.

Above all else, we need to ensure that we measure progress. Given that the report is on science, it was only appropriate for the committee to take a scientific approach to its recommendations. Out of a total of 22 recommendations, nine require improved measurement of progress. I hope that the Government will take forward all nine of those recommendations in the report that it will announce next week.