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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
Annex A - Current Stem Context and Action Already Underway

44 page PDF


Annex A - Current Stem Context and Action Already Underway

Early Years and Schools

We are committed to an education system that delivers excellence and equity for all. Our Delivery Plan for Scottish Education [12] sets out the steps that we will take, working with others, to achieve that. We are committed to more support for closing the attainment gap, including through supporting practitioners to network and learn from each other, and support for family learning. We are also committed to ensuring that there is a broad and engaging curriculum in place in schools for children and young people which ensures they make the right progress in learning. We will ensure unnecessary and unintended workload is removed from the classroom. We have launched an Education Governance Review [13] to seek views on how teachers, parents and communities can be empowered to have a stronger voice in the running of their schools, and on commitments to establish new educational regions and how collaboration through school clusters can be improved; and on how funding can be made fairer.

The quality of teaching and school leadership are the most important in-school factors in a child's outcomes and, when parents and carers are fully involved in a child's learning and in the life and work of a school, we see better outcomes for children, parents and schools.

The early and primary years are particularly crucial for STEM, both for providing a secure foundation in STEM skills for young people to build on as they go to secondary school and to inspire and develop their enthusiasm to take this further. Engagement and support from parents and families is extremely important to encourage young people's confidence and aspirations in relation to STEM. Building STEM capital within families is crucial if we are to promote positive perceptions of STEM and address issues of gender stereotyping and inequity. Parents and families can also bring in external expertise to broaden children's STEM experiences at school.

Strong partnerships between schools, employers, colleges and universities are also important to build young people's aspirations around STEM, bring learning to life, ensure connections between the curriculum and the world of work, and build awareness of the diverse pathways for young people to follow.

The existing STEM Ambassadors programme already provides a way for schools to bring in STEM experts from a range of fields into schools. Wider learning opportunities, such as the Young Engineers and Science Clubs and coding clubs help young people develop STEM skills and increase their enjoyment of STEM.

Leadership and support for STEM at local level is crucial. Our work with selected school clusters has shown that whole-school and cluster approaches are important in ensuring children and young people progress successfully with their STEM learning and that there is a learning community approach to STEM.

At national level we have and are:

  • Providing career long professional learning to teachers through our own investment in the Scottish Schools Education Research Centre and the National Numeracy and Mathematics Hub and working in partnership and collaboration with others to provide support to teachers and schools, for example, through the Wood Foundation's primary science programme, and the Barefoot computing programme in partnership with BT and the British Computing Society.
  • Investigating and developing new strategies to tackle gender stereotyping in STEM education through our collaboration with the Institute of Physics.
  • Implementing a Digital Learning & Teaching Strategy with a focus on enriching
    education through the use of technology and actions to develop the skills and
    confidence of educators, improve access, enhance the curriculum and qualifications
    and empower leaders.
  • Developing the Digital Xtra Fund to provide a coordinated framework for supporting computing related extra-curricular activities. Going forward, the ambition is that Digital Xtra will become an annual fund and will become sustainable by levering industry sponsorship. Digital Xtra will supersede our previous approach which has been to support these digital activities on an ad hoc basis. All future funding of this nature will be driven through Digital Xtra.
  • Delivering a successful teacher recruitment marketing campaign with a focus on STEM subjects. We are working with the teacher education institutions to develop new and innovative routes into teaching, particularly in the hard to fill subjects, including STEM and in geographical areas that have difficulty recruiting teachers.
  • Continuing to liaise with stakeholders to review the STEM qualifications landscape and ensure it continues to be fit for purpose. As part of this SQA will continue to equality impact all qualifications, including to promote gender equality and support the development of new STEM related qualifications when there is a specifically defined need identified.
  • Improving Careers Information, Advice and Guidance through Skills Development Scotland's ( SDS) recently launched 'Future Me' campaign to support STEM careers information and guidance and provide parents, teachers and pupils with a range of STEM specific careers advice prior to
    subject choice.

All of this work is underpinned by our National Improvement Framework [14] .

Youth Employment Strategy - The Developing the Young Workforce Programme

Through our Youth Employment Strategy, Developing the Young Workforce, we aim to reduce 2014 levels of youth employment by 40% by 2021.

Developing the Young Workforce is a seven year national programme, which includes steps to enhance work related learning for young people in Scotland, giving them the skills for the current and anticipated jobs market.

To help achieve this, we are working with partners to increase the breadth of opportunity and uptake of senior phase vocational pathways. This includes the roll out and expansion of the new Foundation Apprenticeships.

We have also invested in offering careers advice at an earlier point in school to inform choices. We published the Career Education Standard (3-18), a new Work Placements Standard, and Guidance for School/Employer Partnerships. This will help to enhance the quality, consistency and availability of work related learning. We have also established employer-led Developing the Young Workforce Regional Groups to bring employers and education closer together.

A focus on STEM, as a key area of current and future labour market opportunity, is central to Developing the Young Workforce. This is evident in activity across the school, college and training system.

Apprenticeship Opportunities in Stem Occupations

Modern Apprenticeships

Developing the Young Workforce sets out our ambitions to grow, widen and enhance our successful Modern Apprenticeship programme, providing 30,000 new opportunities each year by 2020, focusing on higher skill level and STEM opportunities. Last year, the first step in our move towards this target, we delivered over 25,000 Modern Apprenticeship starts of which around 34% were STEM related. We are working with partners to increase this proportion at the same time as we expand the programme. We are committed to improving gender balance in Modern Apprenticeships and participation by minority ethnic communities, care experienced and disabled people.

A dedicated website ( has also been established to enhance and support our apprenticeship offer to employers, young people and their influencers.

Foundation and Graduate Level Apprenticeships

We are also introducing new apprenticeship opportunities through Foundation Apprenticeships and Graduate Level Apprenticeships - with early activity focusing on
STEM occupations.

Based upon existing Modern Apprenticeship frameworks, Foundation Apprenticeships have been developed to allow young people to undertake elements of a Modern Apprenticeship while still in school alongside other subject choices like National 5s and Highers. Available to pupils in their senior phase, Foundation Apprenticeships typically last for two years and are set at SCQF level 6 (the same level of learning as a Higher). During their Foundation Apprenticeship young people spend time out of school at college and with local employers, gaining knowledge, skills and experience, and demonstrating competency which is assessed in the workplace. Depending on the Foundation Apprenticeship studied, young people will be able to gain a range of industry-recognised qualifications comprising units from Scottish Vocational Qualifications ( SVQs), National Certificates ( NCs) and National Progression Awards ( NPAs). Foundation Apprenticeships are already available in Civil Engineering, Engineering, Financial Services, Hardware and System Support and Software Development.

Graduate Level Apprenticeships provide a new way into degree-level study for individuals who are currently employed, or who want to go straight into work. Graduate Level Apprenticeships are being developed as a way that employees can develop higher levels of academic learning and industry accreditation at the same time as allowing employers to develop their workforce with industry-recognised standards designed around the needs of industry. Through this new offer Apprentices can progress to the highest level of professional qualifications with a range of entry and exit points from a Higher National Diploma ( SCQF level 8) to a Master's degree ( SCQF level 11).

Skills Development Scotland ( SDS) has worked with Strathclyde, University of the Highlands and Islands, Robert-Gordon University, the Open University and Forth Valley College/Herriot-Watt University to develop Graduate Level Apprenticeships in engineering. The first Graduate Level Apprenticeships began in 2016 with an initial focus on Civil Engineering. Similar work will commence for the other sectors, initially including ICT/Digital, and Engineering.

Employer Engagement

In expanding apprenticeships across Scotland it will be vital to work with employers to increase the STEM opportunities. The introduction of the Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board will provide direct employer input into the ongoing expansion and improvement of the apprenticeship offer in Scotland including consideration of the recommendation from DYW to ring-fence a proportion of Modern Apprenticeship starts in STEM.

Colleges and Universities

Colleges and universities are primary providers of STEM courses and are already prioritising STEM provision and linking their STEM education and training offer to labour market needs.

Public funding for Colleges and Universities is channelled through the Scottish Funding Council ( SFC) and is governed by the SFC's Outcome Agreement ( OA) process. This process is intended to support and complement an institution's own strategic ambitions in response to Scottish Government priorities. The OA details the institution's baseline position, current progress and future ambitions against Government priorities, and SFC utilises the OAs to support and evidence institutions prioritisation of STEM.

The College sector has strong foundations to build upon in relation to STEM provision. In 2014-15 there were around a third more Full Time Equivalent ( FTE) students on engineering, science and maths courses at colleges compared with 2006-07. This included 1,019 more (+39%) science and maths FTE students and 3,737 more (+33%) FTE
engineering students.

In the university sector, the SFC has funded 1200 additional undergraduate places over the 4 year period from 2012-13 to 2015-16 specifically for STEM subjects. We have allocated 342 additional places for undergraduate skills places, primarily for life sciences and energy related courses. Universities have been successful in filling these places and many of the students are offered an opportunity to undertake work experience as part of their studies.

The SFC has developed and is implementing a gender action plan which aims to address gender imbalances in university and college courses.

At national level SFC is taking the following actions through the OA to enhance and support STEM opportunities:

Through the Outcome Agreement process, the Scottish Funding Council asks that colleges:

  • Work to ensure young people understand and are encouraged to pursue pathways through school and college learning on to employment. In our discussions with college regions we consider progress in the development of good linkages between schools, colleges and employers to provide these pathways.
  • Work with local authorities and schools to map STEM provision in their area and where appropriate, prioritise the development of relevant new vocational pathways in this area. These pathways should focus on labour market need (drawing on information from Skill Investment Plans ( SIPs) and Regional Skills Assessments ( RSAs) and direct engagement with employers); prioritise STEM subjects if there is an identified skills gap in the region; and be developed in a way that achieves gender balance and supports key equality groups.
  • Map STEM pathways in their regions and in identifying practical action that supports the prioritisation of STEM - in order to identify any areas of duplication, gaps or unmet need.
  • Report on the volume and proportion of Credits delivered to learners enrolled on STEM courses and set out their aspirations for the future. We ask them to report on the volume and proportion of Credits relating to learners from different protected characteristic groups and care-experienced learners.
  • Outline their key ambitions to tackle gender imbalances at a subject level within their Outcome Agreements and to identify and address under-representation from protected characteristic and socio-economic groups.

Through the Outcome Agreement process the Scottish Funding Council asks that Universities:

  • Adjust and adapt their curriculum in response to evidence of current and future skills needs of employers and the economy, particularly those of priority sectors ( e.g. ICT/digital and low carbon sectors).
  • Report on the number and proportion of Scotland-domiciled undergraduate entrants to STEM courses.
  • Evidence how the institution meets the needs of current and future skills requirements of employers as outlined in the Sector Skills Investment Plans, other available labour market information, and through their partnerships with employers.
  • Detail the level and extent of employer engagement within curriculum areas and outline how this engagement impacts on student experience and employability.

Through the outcome agreement process SFC will have prioritised curriculum alignment
and articulation with college STEM HNs supporting and promoting articulation.

SFC funds access to STEM SWAP courses which provide guaranteed progression to year
one of any STEM degree course.

SFC also provides significant levels of support for STEM engagement, development and research including:

Research Pools

Continued investment in research pools which are STEM focussed, including SUPA (pooling of physics research and post-graduate education in 8 Scottish universities); The Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland ( MASTS) is a consortium of organisations engaged in marine science; SAGES pools world-leading expertise in geoscience and environmental science from across Scotland's research base, creating a multi-disciplinary alliance at the forefront of earth and environmental research; Scottish Research Partnership in Engineering comprises a collaboration between three regional research partnerships; Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance ( SULSA) which makes Scottish bio-research more globally competitive by pooling resources from the leading universities in the Life Sciences; Scottish Imaging Network (SINAPSE); SICSA and e-Placement Scotland.

It is widely acknowledged that employers require graduates with good technical ability combined with business awareness and communication skills. It is recognised that the best way to consolidate employability skills is in the workplace. Our funding of e-Placement Scotland is a partnership project in conjunction with Edinburgh Napier University and ScotlandIS (industry trade association) funded by the Scottish Funding Council designed to increase the number of paid placements for computing and IT students studying at Scotland's universities and colleges. SFC's investment in this initiative totals £1,372,000.

Innovation Centres

The Innovation Centre programme, developed in partnership by SFC and the enterprise agencies, was launched to support transformational collaboration between universities and businesses across Scotland's key economic sectors. Many of the sectors represented by the Innovation Centres fall within the STEM subject areas and the skills provision on offer from the Innovation Centre programme has been carefully crafted to support the relevant industry's skills needs. For example, The Data Lab works closely with industry and academia to create a pipeline of talented data scientists, through a portfolio of education programmes such as their MSc programme and through their online learning and continuing professional development. A key area of focus is industrial engagement through workshops and projects with industry and public sector participation to ensure an appropriate fit to the future skills needs of the industry. Another example of raising the levels of STEM skills and knowledge exists in PhD projects currently on offer jointly by the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre ( IBioIC) and the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre ( SAIC). This provision will benefit two of Scotland's key sectors - aquaculture and industrial biotechnology. These projects will offer doctoral students connections to relevant industry, thus boosting the students' employability whilst also enabling the industry in Scotland to benefit from graduates with relevant skills and experience.

Energy Skills Partnership

SFC and SDS fund the Energy Skills Partnership ( ESP) which aims to increase Scotland's capacity to deliver skills and prevent duplication of effort and investment for the energy sector by ensuring capacity, quality and affordability. The ESP vision is of a college sector which works collaboratively to deliver the right skills, in the right place at the right time for the energy sector, maximising Scotland's economic development and the generation of industry capacity for jobs growth. The partnership's scope includes the development and delivery of education and skills provision across identified industrial themes including engineering, renewables, power generation, transmission and distribution, oil and gas, advancing and emerging technologies, energy management and efficiency and construction. The ESP has aligned its workplan with the Engineering and Construction SIPs and has published a STEM framework and provision map with the purpose to help employers and network colleges to be better informed about what colleges offer and where.

Meeting the Stem Skills Needs of Employers

Skills Development Scotland works closely with employers, industry bodies and partner agencies to build a comprehensive understanding of skills demand and challenges across key sectors. This is based on the Skills Planning Model which aims to improve the response of the skills system to the needs of industry, and to bring about a progressive alignment of supply and demand. For STEM, this entails enhancing and strengthening the evidence base for both skills demand in a number of STEM sectors (including energy, ICT/digital, engineering, construction, chemical and life sciences) and for STEM occupations in other sectors of economic importance. SDS deploys this understanding of skills demand through its work with schools, further and higher education and other training providers so that its offer is shaped by these demands.

The Skills Planning model
Making Skills Work for Scotland

The Skills Planning model Making Skills Work for Scotland

Skills Investment Plans

To articulate the skills needs of the current and future workforce, and to outline how these needs will be addressed, SDS works with industry to produce sector specific Skills Investment Plans ( SIPs). For STEM sectors, SIPs have been published for the Chemical Sciences, Construction, Energy, Engineering, ICT/Digital and Life Sciences. They describe the skills challenges and opportunities in these STEM sectors and convey the economic and labour market situation, trends in skills and qualification supply and employers' perspectives on the big issues affecting sector growth. SIPs are created through a process of labour market and skills supply research and analysis, industry consultation, and action planning with industry and partners across Scotland's education and skills system.

SIPs are endorsed by the relevant Industry Leadership Group, and submitted to the Skills Committee (a joint committee of SDS and SFC) which makes recommendations on the resource needed to ensure that SIPs can be implemented.

Each SIP has an action plan which details key service improvement measures aimed at supporting the growth and ambition of the sector, and includes actions in relation to:

  • Inspiring and preparing young people to engage in the opportunities provided by these STEM sectors;
  • Developing pathways to enable more people to enter these STEM sectors with a focus on youth employment;
  • Continuing to strengthen and enhance the intelligence on current and future skills needs for these STEM sectors; and
  • The plans also outline expected outcomes from these measures, identify responsible stakeholders and partners and set timelines. SIPs are refreshed approximately every three years in order to ensure they continue to reflect the specific needs of the sector.

Regional Skills Assessments

Regional Skills Assessments ( RSAs) present a robust picture of the evidence on current and projected skills demand, supply and investment in each region. They are formulated by SDS using 60 different labour market indicators.

SDS collaborated with Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Funding Council and the Scottish Local Authorities Economic Development Group to develop and launch RSAs in 2014. An RSA steering group, comprising these bodies and HIE, is in place to provide oversight, meeting approximately five times a year.

Following feedback from partners, the most recent RSA refresh (2015) comprises 46 RSAs providing comprehensive data at a range of geographical scales:

  • Regional Outcome Agreement Areas
  • Local Authorities
  • City Deal Regions
  • Scotland-wide level.

As part of our commitment to innovation and continuous improvement in response to partner feedback, this year the RSAs will be strengthened by the inclusion of bespoke future forecasting analysis. Another development is the inclusion of Participation Measure data, broadening the intelligence on individuals in RSAs.

With their comprehensive capture of local skills evidence, RSAs will help to:

  • ensure that services are locally responsive and better targeted;
  • support the SFC and regional colleges in negotiating Regional Outcome Agreements for 2017-2020;
  • provide a framework for aligning SDS investment in individuals and businesses;
  • assist partners in planning their strategic investment in skills; and
  • highlight gaps in national and regional skills evidence.

Both the SIPs and RSAs will contribute to the strong evidence base needed to shape future actions and activity in STEM. They will support the 'excellence' theme actions to ensure colleges use SIPs and RSAs information to expand STEM courses in their general provision and prioritise STEM subjects in developing new senior phase vocational pathways with local authorities. They will also support the proposed action on developing an enhanced and robust evidence base under the connection theme where SDS will lead on producing a comprehensive evidence base for STEM to inform strategic action.

Science Centres and Festivals

Scotland is unique in terms of STEM engagement. We are the only part of the UK to provide comprehensive support for science engagement activity through our funding for Scotland's Science Centres and Science Festivals.

STEM engagement plays an important role in empowering people of all ages to make informed decisions and positive behavioural changes in terms of STEM-related issues, for example health and wellbeing or the environment. Our STEM engagement activities support and enhance formal learning; they encourage young people to study STEM subjects at school, college or university; and they raise awareness of STEM-related career opportunities.

Science Centres deliver science engagement experiences in an accessible, imaginative and thought-provoking way and Scotland is fortunate to have four Centres located in each of our major cities:

  • Aberdeen Science Centre
  • Dundee Science Centre
  • Dynamic Earth (Edinburgh)
  • Glasgow Science Centre

All our Science Centres take a unique approach to promoting and encouraging engagement with STEM, not just through their fixed exhibits and facilities but also their extensive learning programmes, outreach activities and in-house events programmes, and online resources. These include:

  • Learning programmes and activities for nursery, primary and secondary school pupils that complement and support Curriculum for Excellence principles, capacities, experiences and outcomes. Also extra-curricular activities including weekend or holiday science clubs and STEM careers events.
  • Teacher career long professional learning ( CLPL) - delivering workshops for teachers on a range of STEM issues on an in-house or outreach basis. Online resources for teachers are also available.
  • Targeted programmes to engage with 'harder to reach' audiences in deprived or rural communities. This involves working with local community groups and other agencies to deliver relevant and accessible STEM-related outreach activities.
  • Showcasing Science by working with Scotland's research community to develop and deliver exhibitions, shows, workshops and 'Meet the Expert' events which reflect cutting-edge research and development in STEM in a context which is relevant to learners of all ages.

Science festivals in Scotland range from small community-led events in rural areas to larger events in towns and cities. They deliver a wide range of STEM-related activities from lectures, exhibitions, workshops, live demonstrations, guided tours and panel discussions to cultural events such as plays or musical productions.

Each festival has a distinct local flavour, but all provide stimulating and fun opportunities to explore STEM in informal surroundings, as well as providing support for classroom learning, role models for careers in STEM, and opportunities for researchers and others working in STEM to explain, share and debate their work.

Community Learning and Development

Community learning and development ( CLD) is a way of working with individuals and communities to increase their skills, confidence, networks and resources to tackle issues and grasp opportunities.

Community learning and development is delivered by a range of bodies including national organisations, local authorities, and community groups. The focus for this work is derived from understanding the needs of these communities which is guided by the CLD Regulations for Scotland. [15]

CLD can make a significant contribution to STEM through:

  • improving adult skills levels in numeracy and digital literacy;
  • improving employability through inspiring people to develop STEM skills;
  • improving young people's understanding of STEM through youth work activities such as outdoor learning, digital media and citizen science;
  • improving parental knowledge and understanding of STEM careers through adult education and family learning;
  • articulating the science in community led initiatives such as recycling, allotments/community growing, beach/community clear ups etc.;
  • empowering communities, to take control of the issues that matter to them to improve local outcomes, such as engaging in decision making;
  • engaging with employers to raise their awareness of STEM skills and to support employees through investing in work based learning; and
  • Education Scotland's role in supporting the above is to lead the development and implementation of CLD policy, to build capacity and support improvement and provide public accountability through scrutiny.

Examples of CLD policies that link closely to the STEM aims:

The Adult Learning Statement of Ambition emphasises the importance of developing digital literacy to participate in digital civic society. Exemplification of this in the sector is the Digitally Agile National Principles for CLD [16] aims to ensure that young people, adults and communities are better able to access and use new technologies and social media as part of their individual learning journey and for social action, through the improved knowledge, confidence and competence of CLD practitioners.

The Adult Literacies in Scotland strategy emphasises the importance of improving numeracy capability through the development of number skills in a range of contexts. An example of materials that have been developed to support adult learners in numeracy is the 'Counting on a Greener Scotland' ( COGS) pack. The COGS pack was developed by the Workers Educational Association, Education Scotland and Heather Reid, OBE. The pack provides opportunities for learners to develop their knowledge, skills and understanding of numeracy in the contexts of weather, climate change and energy and their impact on everyday lives.