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Publication - Consultation Paper

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics – consultation on a strategy for education and training

Published: 8 Nov 2016
Part of:
Business, industry and innovation, Education

A consultation on a draft Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) education and training strategy for Scotland.

44 page PDF


44 page PDF


Science, technology, engineering and mathematics – consultation on a strategy for education and training
Our Strategy

44 page PDF


Our Strategy

This is a draft strategy for STEM education and training to be owned and delivered jointly across the Scottish Government and its delivery partners, education and lifelong learning providers, employers, and the wider STEM community.

The Strategy has been informed by what we have learned, and continue to learn, from our experience of working to improve STEM education and training provision. It has also been informed by the recommendations made in a number of external studies and reports. We have drawn on in particular the reports from the Science and Engineering Education Advisory Group ( SEEAG) [1] , the Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics Education Committee ( STEMEC) [2] , the Making Maths Count Group [3] and the Royal Society of Edinburgh's Tapping all our Talents report [4] .


A strategic STEM education and training offer has an important role to play in fulfilling the Scottish Government's Purpose for Scotland to be a more successful and fairer country, with opportunities for all to flourish. STEM will contribute to the two goals of our Economic Strategy of increasing competitiveness and tackling inequality as well as to all of the four areas for action.

The Four Priorities
The Four Priorities

STEM education and training also has an important role to play in:

  • Fulfilling the aspirations for a fair Labour Market [5] - tackling inequity, increasing competitiveness and fair work.
  • Delivering excellence and equity in Scottish Education [6] - for both raising attainment and closing the attainment gap.
  • Achieving our ambitions to prepare young people for the world of work and reduce youth unemployment - through our Developing the Young Workforce ( DYW) Programme [7] .
  • Realising Scotland's full potential in a digital world through our aspiration for everyone in Scotland to have the skills and confidence needed to live and work successfully in a technologically-advanced and digitally-inclusive society.

We have much to build on

Scotland has a world-leading reputation in a range of STEM sectors including life sciences, chemical sciences, games technology, engineering, astrophysics and cosmology.

Action is being taken nationally, regionally and locally through the DYW Programme, to ensure young people gain the STEM skills, knowledge and capabilities they need in the workplace. This action is being taken from early learning and childcare onwards, through school education, at college and in Modern Apprenticeships. This work is leading to more joined up pathways for young people from S4 (around age 15) onwards, which prioritise STEM subjects and courses.

There is a wide variety of STEM-related qualifications, courses and awards available to young people at school and college, as well as a range of stimulating and inspiring STEM learning opportunities available from the Science Centres and Festivals. A number of local authorities are taking a systematic approach to improving STEM across all their schools, working closely with colleges and employers, recognising the importance of STEM for raising educational attainment, closing the attainment gap and preparing young people for the world of work.

Careers Information, Advice and Guidance is actively positioning STEM careers as attractive choices for young people.

We have in place a skills planning system to assess national and regional skills needs, working closely with employers, to help them to meet the current and future workforce skills needs. Through this system, Scotland's colleges and universities are actively increasing the number of STEM-related courses and places they are providing. STEM places are also being prioritised in Modern Apprenticeships with our commitment to expand the number of places available to 30,000 by 2020 focusing on higher level and STEM opportunities. We are supporting colleges to develop STEM strategies. Strong examples of these can be seen in Fife and Edinburgh and in the Glasgow Regional STEM strategy. A number of colleges have secured STEM Assured Status.

Our Adult Literacies in Scotland Strategy [8] stresses the need for strong numeracy skills and the Statement of Ambition for Adult Learning in Scotland [9] emphasises the importance of digital literacy in order to enable adults to participate in digital civic society.

But there are challenges

We think there are opportunities for improvement in the following areas:

  • Addressing inequity. Achieving greater diversity across STEM courses and training programmes, in particular achieving a better gender balance and addressing the negative impact of social disadvantage, but also addressing the underrepresentation of minority ethnic communities, care leavers and disabled people.
  • Challenging perceptions. Inspiring, enthusing and improving information and understanding about STEM and the opportunities it can unlock.
  • Developing coherence. STEM education and training pathways that are clear and
    co-ordinated across early learning providers, schools, colleges, universities, employers, community learning and development and the voluntary sector, ensuring quality experiences and addressing skills gaps in the economy.
  • Building partnerships. Harnessing opportunities across sectors within the education, lifelong learning and skills system and with employers, and developing the capacity of education practitioners to deliver inspiring and relevant learning.

Aims, Priorities, Outcomes and Scope


The Strategy has two key aims:

  • To improve levels of STEM enthusiasm, skills, and knowledge in order to raise attainment and aspirations in learning, life and work.
  • To encourage uptake of more specialist STEM skills required to gain employment in the growing STEM sectors of the economy, through further study and training.


To address the challenges identified we have developed four priority themes for the Strategy:

  • Excellence. Raising the levels of STEM skills and knowledge (including numeracy and digital skills) for all throughout their education, lifelong learning and training experiences.
  • Equity. Taking action to reduce equity gaps, particularly in relation to deprivation and gender.
  • Inspiration. Ensuring young people and adults are enthused and inspired to study STEM and to continue their studies to obtain further, more specialised, skills.
  • Connection. Matching the STEM education and training offer to labour market need both immediate and in the future to support improved productivity and inclusive economic growth.

Aim 1 & Aim 2
Aim 1, aim 2

Consultation Question - Aims and Priorities

2. Do you think the aims of this Strategy and the four priority themes are the right ones to address the challenges identified?


We will know we have been successful if:

  • All children and young people experience relevant and engaging STEM learning across all the STEM disciplines.
  • All young people and their families, irrespective of background and circumstance, understand the importance and relevance of STEM to their future success in life and work.
  • There is improved gender balance across STEM qualifications and courses at school, college and university, and Modern Apprenticeships in the workplace.
  • There are a wide range of STEM pathways through further and higher education and other training that young people and adults can follow, well-matched to labour market need and their needs and aspirations.
  • Employers are confident about the STEM skills and capability of their current and future workforce.

Consultation Question - Outcomes

3. Are these success criteria right? If not, tell us what criteria we should use instead.


A key focus of this Strategy is children and young people as they move from early learning and childcare, through school and on into further and higher education, other training or employment. Within this, particular emphasis is placed on learning in the early years, at primary school and with families. These years are crucial for building enthusiasm and aspiration for STEM, as well as foundational STEM skills and knowledge.

It also extends to programmes of learning, work based learning, training or re-training for adults in community settings, colleges, universities, apprenticeships (including Modern Apprenticeships, Foundation Apprenticeships and Graduate Level Apprenticeships) that enable people to go into, return to or progress within STEM careers later in life, including specifically girls and women.

Consultation Question - Scope

4. Do you think the scope of the Strategy is right? Tell us if you think it should exclude something or include anything else. For example, should it include training and development that employers provide for their workforce?

Current Actions

Annex A at the back of this document provides a comprehensive picture of the context for current STEM activity in Scotland and sets out the actions that are already underway. We anticipate that those actions will have an important part to play in the success of this Strategy, but would welcome your views on whether those actions will continue to have a positive impact and contribution in the context of the proposed aims and priorities of this Strategy.

Consultation Questions - Current Actions

5. Give us your views on whether you think the actions already underway across the sectors on STEM fit well with the Strategy and will contribute positively to it.

6. Tell us about activity currently ongoing - either included in this document or not - that you think could be adapted or stopped and why.

Proposed Actions and Implementation

In implementing and ensuring the success of this Strategy, we are proposing a number of areas in which we could take new or scaled-up action. In shaping and taking these ideas forward we will learn from what works including international best practice. We will seek to build on local regional approaches to improving STEM education, training and lifelong learning that are already in place. We will listen to your views about how the actions proposed here should be developed and implemented, seek help and support to deliver
in partnership, and evaluate progress and impact.

Key principles in implementing the Strategy will be to:

  • Continue improving our data and understanding of what STEM skills are needed in the labour market, how these are being met by the education and training system, and how this might be improved, including the identification of barriers for particular groups.
  • Realise greater efficiency and value for money from publicly-funded programmes through simplifying and streamlining activities and funding.
  • Set meaningful key performance indicators for Government and our agencies that drive delivery of the Strategy.

We will consider carefully the most appropriate governance mechanism for overseeing the implementation of the Strategy, including whether existing arrangements are sufficient or if new arrangements need to be developed, in particular to take account of adult skills.

The Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sheila Rowan, will act as a conduit between the Scottish Government and the wider science sector in terms of the delivery of the Strategy.

Consultation Questions - Implementation

7. Do you agree with the principles set out for implementation?

8. What else should Government do to ensure a more coherent approach and maximise impact?