I am grateful to the Education and Skills Committee for securing time for this debate, because STEM skills have never been more relevant, and embedding them across the learning journey will be integral to Scotland’s future. That is why our STEM education and training strategy is supporting people of all ages to develop their STEM skills. We welcomed the input from the committee’s inquiry into STEM in the early years and have responded to its recommendations.
The committee’s report underlines the importance of nurturing STEM skills from the earliest stages in the learning journey. Skills such as curiosity in the natural world, investigation, inventiveness and exploration can be nurtured by play-based, active learning in early learning and childcare and early primary. I admit that, as a science graduate, there is nothing that I like more than practising my pipetting skills at nursery.
The expansion of funded early learning and childcare from 600 to 1,140 hours in August 2020 will be characterised by precisely that sort of learning. It is a truly transformational investment that brings an important opportunity to enhance early learning in STEM skills. Crucially, it includes a focus on the need to ensure that we have a well-trained, skilled workforce with a shared understanding of how children can best learn in their early years. The investment also increases access to high-quality training resources for that workforce in order to help them to deliver the best ELC experience for our children. That includes access to high-quality training in how to support learning in early STEM skills.