To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Viscount Younger of Leckie on 5 April (HL14870), what plans they have to ensure more people are encouraged to study entomology and soil science to help address the decline in insect populations and the degradation of soils.
As announced in the Industrial Strategy, the government is committed to growing the skills we need for a dynamic and modern economy. This includes developing a technical education system that rivals the best in the world and stands alongside our world-class academic offer. We recognise the importance of investing in the types of skills to secure the scientific grounding and technological aptitude we need to be successful as our economy changes. The government is encouraging more students into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and training at all stages, starting from an early age.
The early years foundation stage sets standards for the learning, development and care of children from birth to 5 years old. This includes helping young children understand the world, living things and the environment, as well as encouraging observations of animals and plants. Teachers are also encouraged to teach children about the natural, built and practical environments, for example, by providing small world equipment and taking care of flowerbeds.
We have committed substantial spending on STEM skills, specifically on mathematics, digital and technical education, to increase the take-up and better teaching of STEM subjects in schools. There are also GCSEs that provide students with background knowledge relevant to agriculture-related studies, such as how humans use, modify and change ecosystems and environments in order to obtain food, energy and water. In GCSE biology, pupils will cover topics such as photosynthesis, gene technology and living organisms, which can include insects. Additionally, we introduced an environmental science A level in 2017, which includes topics such as the conservation of biodiversity.
As agriculture moves towards a more technical, automated and digital mode, and demand for these skills increases, the sector has the potential to offer exciting and interesting careers. The government has committed to improving STEM careers advice in schools in the careers strategy, attached, which ensures that STEM encounters, such as with employers and apprenticeships, are built into school career programmes by updating school and college statutory guidance.
The government also funds a number of programmes that aim to inspire more young people to study science subjects, such as the STEM Ambassadors programme, and the CREST awards, which engages students in STEM related projects.