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National Science Learning Centre White Paper

22 July 2013

The National Science Learning Centre White Paper about the future of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education, was launched at the House of Commons and sets out clear recommendations for action in seven key areas; where the support of policymakers will accelerate the improvements in STEM education that have begun in recent years. 

Speaking at yesterday’s House of Commons event, Graham Stuart MP, Chairman of the Education Select Committee said, “We need more good STEM teachers. We need to spread excellent practice more widely and we need to increase the appeal of science subjects to pupils – and girls in particular. So today’s report is a very welcome contribution.” 

The White Paper follows a series of consultation events, which the National Science Learning Centre held with headteachers, teachers, academics, scientists and representatives from business and industry, which looked at ways to further increase the numbers of young people pursuing STEM subjects through school, college and university and into STEM-related careers. 

Since 2004 several initiatives to improve the teaching and take-up of STEM subjects have contributed significantly to reversing the decline in the number of students opting to study STEM subjects in the later stages of their education. However, more needs to be done. The UK needs more scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians if it is to compete in an increasingly technological and global economy: a recent study by the Royal Academy of Engineering concludes that 100,000 STEM graduates a year are needed simply to maintain the status quo. Currently in the UK, 22% of all new degrees are awarded in STEM subjects; the equivalent figure in China (which awards 2.6 million engineering degrees a year) is 41%. 

The recommendations for policy makers are: 

  • Recruitment and retention of specialist teachers  commit to sustained funding of attractive bursaries for STEM graduates to train as teachers • provide placements in schools and colleges for STEM undergraduates, to encourage take-up of initial teacher training • dedicate long term core funding for subject specific Continuing Professional Development (CPD) 
  • Career pathways -establish clearly defined, long term career pathways for teachers and technicians • require STEM teachers to be engaged in subject specific CPD throughout their careers • recognise schools that enable STEM teachers to engage in subject specific CPD and hold those that do not to account 
  • STEM teachers as STEM professionals - require STEM teachers to keep up-to-date with developments in their fields • support the provision of funded opportunities for partnership working, including placements, sabbaticals or engagement in collaborative research with universities, business and industry 
  • Primary science -  ensure every primary school has access to a teacher who has specialist training in primary science • provide long term support for specialist training to develop primary teachers as leaders of science 
  • Accountability measures - incentivise schools and colleges to provide an enriched and enhanced STEM curriculum, including links with employers, quality practical experiences, and research in schools, in order to maximise positive impacts on pupil achievement • ensure national assessment includes students’ abilities to solve problems, apply scientific principles and carry out practical work alongside their core bodies of knowledge
  • Leadership and governance - encourage STEM teachers into strategic leadership roles in schools and colleges • articulate clearly to STEM businesses the benefits of employees taking active roles in school and college governance • require governors to monitor a range of accountability measures including quality of careers advice and progression routes to a full range of post-16 provision

Context and careers - ensure all schools and colleges provide high quality, age-appropriate careers information and advice • embed the applications and relevance of STEM throughout the curriculum, from primary to post-16 • include all post-16 routes in progression measures 

Full details of the recommendations and the background material are included in the White Paper, which is available for download. 

For further information or to speak to Yvonne Baker, Chief Executive of the National Science Learning Centre, please contact Claire Bowers or call 01904 607837.