STEM Learning

– in the Scottish Parliament on 23rd June 2022.

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Photo of Clare Adamson Clare Adamson Scottish National Party

7. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the future of science, technology, engineering and mathematics learning in Scotland. (S6O-01274)

Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party

The latest annual report on the Government’s STEM education and training strategy was published on 26 May. The report demonstrates that, despite the restrictions that were required as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, the majority of STEM education partners were able to continue to deliver programmes of professional learning and related activity.

As the next step, we plan to improve the strategy, governance, and performance monitoring arrangements in the coming months. The aim is to focus on priority areas such as upskilling computing teachers, which will help to ensure that inequalities in access to STEM continue to be addressed and that STEM education effectively contributes to the Government’s net zero ambitions for Scotland.

Photo of Clare Adamson Clare Adamson Scottish National Party

This week, Equate Scotland’s annual conference discussed STEM through an intersectional lens. Understanding existing power structures and the contribution that they make to inequality is key to intersectionality. Does the minister agree that we have to continue to improve diversity in STEM, in order to ensure that we benefit from the vast potential in the sector?

Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party

Yes, I agree with that. I place on record my thanks to Equate Scotland for all the work that it does; it plays a tremendously important role in highlighting those issues. We cannot fulfil our potential as a country if we do not allow everyone to make the best use of their talents—STEM is no different in that regard.

Since 2019, Education Scotland’s improving gender balance equalities team has been working with schools and local authorities to effect culture change in schools and to tackle stereotypes and unconscious bias. That work continues to be supported. Since the team was established, it has engaged with more than 1,100 educational establishments. This is an important area, and that work will continue.

Photo of Pam Gosal Pam Gosal Conservative

More than one in 10 jobs in Scotland are now in the digital sector, with an average salary of more than £52,000. However, the number of STEM secondary school teachers has declined since 2008, and there is a downturn in the number of pupils who are choosing STEM subjects. What is the Scottish Government doing to ensure that pupils are leaving school with skill sets that are aligned with high-growth sectors?

Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party

Ms Gosal speaks simultaneously to the opportunity and the challenge—the challenge being that we require to ensure the steady supply of such individuals to take up the opportunities that are in place. Where we have that lack of supply, there are many opportunities for people to take up other jobs in the sector, which can cause challenges in recruiting people for teaching.

That is why we have our £20,000 bursary for career changers, to try to support those who are qualified in STEM areas to come into the teaching profession, why we are continuing to take forward the recommendations that Mark Logan made in his Scottish technology ecosystem review. That includes supporting the teacher-led Scottish teachers advancing computing science project at Glasgow university, along with the provision of additional resources of £1.3 million in the last financial year for schools to transform the teaching of computing science.