This report presents an overview of findings from an analysis of responses to the Scottish Government's consultation on development of a strategy for Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics ( STEM) education and training.
The Scottish Government consulted on a draft strategy for STEM education and training for Scotland. As the draft strategy highlights, STEM skills and capacities have a significant role to play in fulfilling the Scottish Government's Purpose for Scotland as a more successful and fairer country with opportunities for all, and demand for these skills and capabilities is increasing across Scotland's economy. While there is a range of action being taken to improve STEM education and training, a series of research reports and working groups have highlighted challenges in ensuring young people gain the STEM skills, knowledge and capabilities they need.
The draft strategy sets out an approach to STEM education and training which will continue to meet these challenges. This approach is based around two key aims (improving STEM enthusiasm, skills, and knowledge to raise attainment and aspirations; and encouraging uptake of more specialist STEM skills for employment in STEM economic sectors), and four priority themes to deliver these aims (Excellence, Equity, Connection, and Inspiration). The draft strategy also sets out specific proposed actions under each of the four themes, and a range of cross-cutting actions which will inform implementation of the strategy.
The consultation asked 20 substantive questions across various elements of the draft strategy. Respondents were invited to give their views on the definition of STEM on which the draft strategy is based, the strategy's scope and overall aims and priorities, on the extent to which the strategy is supported by current ongoing activity, and on the specific actions proposed. Five of the questions included a 'closed' yes/no element, and all had an open element inviting written comment. The consultation period ran from 8 November 2016 to 31 January 2017.
The Scottish Government also organised a series of five discussion events during the consultation period. Events were attended by stakeholders across all sectors, some of whom went on to submit a formal response to the consultation. Findings from the events have been integrated with consultation responses for the purposes of this report.
Overview of written submissions
The final number of submissions received was 192. Of these, 121 were submitted by group respondents (63% of all respondents) and 71 by individual members of the public (including some who referred to experience of working in the education, research and/or STEM sectors). A profile of respondents by type is set out in the table below.
Profile of Respondents by Type
|Education sector - Colleges||10|
|Education sector - Universities||11|
|Education sector - Schools/Other||6|
|STEM industry professional & representative bodies||17|
|Other STEM education, professional & representative bodies||10|
|Other professional & representative bodies||12|
|Local authorities and other public bodies||9|
|Third sector/Non-profit organisations||15|
Twelve broad respondent types have been used for the main analysis (eleven categories for group respondents, and one for individuals). A full list of group respondents is provided as an Annex to this report, and the main points to note about the composition of the groups are:
- Education sector accounted for a total of 27 respondents across schools, college and university sectors. This included a small number of private sector education and training providers;
- Academic or Research Institutes accounted for 5 respondents, with three of these having a specific STEM-related focus. As noted above, a number of individual respondents also appeared to have links with or experience of the academic sector;
- Science engagement accounted for 12 respondents including science centres, science festivals, museums, and third sector organisations with a focus on science engagement and STEM;
- STEM industry accounted for 14 responses across a range of industry sectors, and including some with a specific digital focus. As noted above, a number of individual respondents also appeared to have experience in the STEM private sector;
- STEM industry professional & representative bodies accounted for 17 respondents including representative organisations across the STEM sectors;
- Other STEM education, professional & representative bodies accounted for 10 respondents, most with a specific focus on STEM skills and education/training. This includes a mix of representative and professional bodies, and partnerships across education sectors and the STEM industry;
- Other professional & representative bodies accounted for 12 respondents, and includes a mix of public bodies and professional or representative organisations who do not have a specific focus on STEM;
- Local authorities and other public bodies accounted for 9 respondents, including six Scottish local authorities and three other public bodies; and
- Third sector/Non-profit organisations accounted for 15 respondents. This grouping incorporated a mix of organisation types including some with a specific education focus, membership organisations and campaign or equality groups.
Consistent with the diversity of respondents to the consultation, most responses considered the full range of STEM disciplines, although the importance of mathematics and digital skills was a theme for some respondents. Similarly, the strong response to each of the 20 consultation questions makes clear that respondents considered all parts of the draft strategy. There was some variation in specific focus across responses, for example reflecting respondents' anticipated role in delivering the strategy, or the extent to which questions focused on specific sectors. However, the majority of respondents provided a view across all consultation questions.
Across these responses, it is notable that resourcing emerged as a significant theme for many respondents. This included for example in relation to views on the strategy's outcomes (and the extent to which existing resources can support these), and on approaches to implementation of the strategy. We highlight the specific points made in relation to resourcing throughout the report, but it was clear that concerns around resourcing shaped a number of the responses.
Structure of the report
The remainder of this report presents a question-by-question analysis of submissions. Each section provides an overview of key points from the relevant section of the draft strategy, presents the results of any "closed" Yes/No questions by respondent group, and provides a summary of written responses for each question. This analysis considers respondents' views on the content set out in the draft strategy, including any issues or concerns raised. The report also summarises any suggestions from respondents in relation to additional aims, priorities or actions for the strategy.
It should be noted that the purpose of the report is to reflect the balance and range of views expressed through the consultation. It does not seek to provide any policy recommendations.
Email: Frank Creamer