Digital Skills (Education Curriculum)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 11th November 2021.

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Photo of Pam Gosal Pam Gosal Conservative

6. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure that the education curriculum provides pupils with sufficient skills to build a digital economy. (S6O-00358)

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

Curriculum for excellence experiences and outcomes for the technologies have been reviewed to ensure that all young people are learning up-to-date computing and digital skills in primary and secondary schools. In addition, the Government has committed to fully implementing the Scottish technology ecosystem review, which was carried out last year by Mark Logan. That review includes the Scottish teachers advancing computing science—STACS—initiative, which was announced in our programme for government. STACS will be run for and by computing science teachers, and it will help them to share best practice in computing science across all schools, promote digital sector career opportunities and develop innovative teaching materials to be used by extracurricular computing clubs.

Photo of Pam Gosal Pam Gosal Conservative

Official figures have revealed that there were 766 computing science teachers responsible for 25,000 pupils in Scotland in 2008 but that, by 2020, there were 595 teachers educating fewer than 10,000 pupils, of whom fewer than 2,000 were female. What action is being taken to address the gender divide in computing science studies?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

Some of the discussion that we had on a previous question touched on the work that the Logan review has proposed. As I said in my answer to that question, Education Scotland and other agencies are already taking a great deal of action on that. That includes our work to increase capacity for initial teacher education in computing science, support for coding clubs and work to make it easier for schools to work with industry and bring industry voices into school. In response to the Logan review, we are taking forward the STACS proposal to establish that teacher-led group.

There is concern about the gender issue that Ms Gosal rightly points out in all areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It was addressed in the STEM education strategy that the Scottish Government produced, and we are determined to take further action, as we did in the strategy, to deal with the gender divide.

Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party

Does the cabinet secretary agree that investment in new facilities can also be a catalyst for improving interest in, and the skills set for, the digital economy, which makes the case for a new-build West College Scotland campus in Greenock even stronger?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

I agree that good-quality learning opportunities that develop digital skills in our young people are vital at all stages of the education journey, including in our colleges.

I understand that the Minister for Higher Education and Further Education, Youth Employment and Training visited the Greenock campus of West College Scotland with Mr McMillan in September and heard at first hand about the benefits that a new-build campus could bring. Of course, Mr McMillan will be aware that the Scottish Funding Council has been working on a medium-term college estates strategy, which will help to set priorities for investment should funding become available in the college sector. We will work closely with the funding council on taking that forward.

Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Labour

Will the cabinet secretary tell us how many high schools are offering higher computing this year?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

If the member agrees, I will write to him about the particulars of that. I am not sure that the exact figure is in my briefing.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Question 7 has been withdrawn.

I call Christine Grahame to ask question 8. [

Interruption

.] Can we have some assistance for Ms Grahame? [

Interruption

.] Expectations have risen to an almost unsustainable level.