Response 1051333224

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Questions

1. Do you agree with the definition provided of STEM for the purposes of this Strategy?

Please select one item
Ticked Yes
No

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

Please select one item
Yes
Ticked No
Do you think the aims of this Strategy and the four priority themes are the right ones to address the challenges identified?
I'm not sure equity is the right description of the gender and deprivation directed theme. Surely theme is equality... removing gender, class and deprivation from STEM participation to ensure all members of Scottish society have equal ability to participate in STEM related activities.

3. Are these success criteria right?

Please select one item
Ticked Yes
No

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?

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?
The scope is for the most part correct. The focus on primary and secondary education, the links and transition to tertiary education are important. But we need some emphasis too on life long learning. We want a STEM literate population able to understand the increasing complex STEM related problems that impact of us. The old "oh... I don't understand 'cause it's science and hard" is no excuse as we move increasingly in the direction of a online digital democracy and the ability to allow citizens to actively participate in making political decision. I personally wouldn't want someone to write off fracking or nuclear power for example without understanding the science and technology. We also need to consider beyond higher education and research. In general research schools in Scottish universities have around 25% fewer research students and staff than comparable institutions on the rest of the UK. Why is this? Funding could be one answer... institutions in England are free to put UG fees towards funding research studentships and research fellowships. But this inequality existing long before fees in the rest of the UK. It is something cultural in that Scotland is a net exporter of talented young people who could through appropriate reward remain in Scotland. We probably need to develop our own talent locally (as well as encouraging talent from elsewhere to come here). The point made in the question about training in employment is important and I would agree it should be included.

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.

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.
For the most part the actions already in place across the sectors fit well with the strategy and contribute positively. The only things where there might be weakness is in relation to the points made in 4 - life long learning and its encouragement; and the transition from UG to STEM researcher and the need to encourage our own talent not to stray through reward.

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

Tell us about activity currently ongoing – either included in this document or not – that you think could be adapted or stopped and why.
I don't think the issue is stopping some activities. Rather I think the issue is determining whether activities have an impact. This is badly done for the most part at the moment. We need more integration of STEM provision with sociological impact evaluation. The Bright Lights project (see https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLYmkj73NeZvIRUIg2wrXKbqIKgdCjycbF; http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1361-6552/52/1/015005/pdf) coordinated by Heriot-Watt University and funded by the Royal Society of Chemistry is one of the few where a parallel sociological study of the impact of the activity was carried out. The outcomes of this work we clear that students were more likely to engaged in further STEM activities if their engagement was rewarding and produced something they could be proud of. This kind of approach should be adopted more widely in the future.

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

Please select one item
Ticked Yes
No
Do you agree with the principles set out for implementation?
The KPI selected success indicators must have sound foundation and be agreed in consultation with STEM activity practitioners and not just from Scotland. We need to take a global view of this as we are part of a global market. Scotland can be too parochial for its own good!

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

What else should Government do to ensure a more coherent approach and maximise impact?
I'm not sure there is much else that the Government could do to ensure a coherent approach. Clearly the consultation encompasses schools, colleges, the universities, industry and so on. Though I am concerned about the Chief Scientific Adviser being the single conduit to the government. This is a broadly based strategy encompassing not just STEM but education, the economy and even entertainment. Maybe a broader pipeline to government is required. One of the key attributes that the private education sector is very able to deliver to its students is confidence in their own knowledge and abilities. This comes through participation in sports and other extra-curricular activities. It is probably the most important attribute that points to success in HEI and its development needs to be encouraged. We know this in HWU from the success of our Careers Service in getting our students jobs; it’s not their qualifications that matter but the way the students handle themselves. Our careers Service does an exceptionally good job in preparing our students for that. But the process needs to be started earlier. STEM outreach might help. Our Bright Lights project in 2015 (paper attached) clearly shows that we can build students self-confidence in school by working closely with them to deliver a product of which they are proud. That was a one-off project funded by the Royal Society of Chemistry. We need to repeat that success across the board, working with teachers to identify possible project themes that we could integrate into a programme of training for researchers in outreach with longevity. This would require funding. It would also help further break down the barriers between sectors and would encourage uptake of HE within schools where the students have lower expectations. STEM is not just for the elite but for all if you have the confidence to believe in yourself. Scotland has been steadily dropping down the OECD Pisa list for a number of years. We know in the HE sector there is a problem with mathematics competence in our students. To be honest we are nearly as bad a England in terms of the mathematical skills of our students and this has only happened in recently. The problem can be traced back to the 80s and 90s when two things happened. Firstly, arithmetic and mathematics were integrated into a single qualification in mathematics in the standard grade system (prior to that there were separate qualifications in arithmetic and mathematics at O grade and everyone did the former). Secondly, the requirement for teachers in primary education to have a higher qualification in mathematics was removed. Today we face a situation where arithmetic (which is the foundation of mathematics – skills learned doing arithmetic are generalised to basic algebra in mathematics) is probably under emphasised in the secondary system and is perhaps being taught by teachers who are not wholly confident in it at primary level. Poor arithmetic skills build into a poor foundation for mathematics. What’s the solution? Start early by making sure primary teachers are confident and competent in arithmetic by reintroducing a mathematics requirement for degree entry as a long term goal. In the short term, embedding teachers with competence and confidence in mathematics (perhaps obtained through a science background at first degree level) in primary education. Reinforce this with the reintroduction of a qualification in secondary schools in arithmetic. I think the public would like this as it could be sold as life skills mathematics… as it gets us back to delivering core 3Rs to all our population. That’s good for social mobility and integration. The university sector more generally needs to be proactive in recognising the potential that lies in the redundancy that is obvious in SCQF Level 7 with schools, colleges and ourselves delivering basically the same curriculum. This has advantages… well-qualified students at Level 6 with the confidence to take the next step early have the option of starting college or university but few take that step. There are also disadvantages… students coast in Level 7 at school when they are offered Level 7 entry to college or university. Those that don’t and engage in Level 7 courses at school often then coast in Level 7 (year 1) in HE unless they have opted for direct level 2 entry. Both can result in failure and reduced retention in HE on the back of this reduced engagement of the learner with their learning. Ideally we’d like to see progression for competent and confident students from Level 6 into college and university Level 7 and progression from school Level 7 to college and university Level 8. Cross-sector integration at Level 7 could address this issue by first offering a common qualification framework across providers based on integration of experience for potential students across the providers. Horizontal “progression” at Level 7 would still be possible for those who are undecided as to their pathways or fail to achieve the required qualification level.

9. Overall, do you think this Strategy is clear and action focused? Do you think that the actions that we propose to take nationally will achieve the aims and intended outcomes?

Overall, do you think this Strategy is clear and action focused? Do you think that the actions that we propose to take nationally will achieve the aims and intended outcomes?
Yes

10. Will this Strategy improve equity of outcomes? If not, tell us what else it should include, in particular for women and girls and other groups of people – disabled people, care leavers and minority ethnic communities.

Please select one item
Yes
Ticked No
Will this Strategy improve equity of outcomes? If not, tell us what else it should include, in particular for women and girls and other groups of people – disabled people, care leavers and minority ethnic communities.
This is more a but... I think for more equality to result then the comment in 8 about building the confidence in our young people is important; in fact crucial in my view. The strategy will only succeed in my view if steps are taken to build this into our education processes.

11. What could schools, colleges, universities, community learning and development, the voluntary sector, science engagement providers and museums do to support the areas for action?

What could schools, colleges, universities, community learning and development, the voluntary sector, science engagement providers and museums do to support the areas for action?
Integration is the key word... integrated activities involving multiple actors with appropriate role models in delivery. Delivery in multiple venues not just in house at university or providers venues but in school and in the media! Recognition (and reward)... especially in the university sector where lip service is paid by management to those who participate in this activity and want to encourage their colleagues to do so by highlighting the issue of recognition and reward for participation in such activities.

12. What could professional organisations and bodies and third sector organisations do to support the areas for action? This includes, in particular, the General Teaching Council for Scotland, the CLD Standards Council, the teaching unions and representatives and the Learned Societies.

What could professional organisations and bodies and third sector organisations do to support the areas for action? This includes, in particular, the General Teaching Council for Scotland, the CLD Standards Council, the teaching unions and representatives and the Learned Societies
Two things here... Arithmetic and Mathematics teaching and primary school teachers; and the Level 7 issue!

13. What more could science centres and festivals do to complement and enhance STEM formal education, to inspire scientists of the future, and to ensure their activities support those of the Scottish Government and its agencies?

What more could science centres and festivals do to complement and enhance STEM formal education, to inspire scientists of the future, and to ensure their activities support those of the Scottish Government and its agencies?
Not a lot more I think though working with colleagues in universities to deliver activities around frontiers research might push out some of the enthusiasm that we engaged in that research have for what we do!

14. Should this Strategy identify more actions for particular sectors, for example in relation to workplace and work-based training and development? Please make suggestions on what these actions could be.

Should this Strategy identify more actions for particular sectors, for example in relation to workplace and work-based training and development? Please make suggestions on what these actions could be.
I think the media has a key role to play. Both the print media (newspapers etc.) but also TV and online media. This strategy has almost excluded them as far as I can see. But they have an important role to play in setting public attitudes.

15. Tell us what you think about this Improvement Framework. How can we best ensure uptake of this Framework in early years learning settings, schools and clusters?

Tell us what you think about this Improvement Framework. How can we best ensure uptake of this Framework in early years learning settings, schools and clusters?
Excellent idea and possibly an excellent opportunity to involve the media to help engage parents with their children's early years learning and educational growth. Re-instilling that social responsibility that used to exist across Scotland.

16. Tell us what you think of our proposal for developing a model of collaboration between schools, colleges, universities and employers. How should we now take this forward?

Tell us what you think of our proposal for developing a model of collaboration between schools, colleges, universities and employers. How should we now take this forward?
This would fit very well with a review of the issue of school-college-university transitions if the goal is to keep individual learners' choice of pathways open while improving learners' success.

17. Tell us what you think of our proposals for a Scottish STEM ambassador network. How should we now take that forward?

Tell us what you think of our proposals for a Scottish STEM ambassador network. How should we now take that forward?
Good idea... but do this from the ground up. Seek out role models from people in STEM with connections to local schools and enthusiasm... Don't overly involve learned bodies or universities who might want to set their own agenda. Offer secondary schools and their cluster primaries the support to act as the focus in developing this!

18. What other groups, organisations or people need to be involved in delivery of this strategy?

What other groups, organisations or people need to be involved in delivery of this strategy?
The media!

19. Tell us about what you are doing in your organisation, establishment or community that supports the aims and priorities of this Strategy.

Tell us about what you are doing in your organisation, establishment or community that supports the aims and priorities of this Strategy.
I've been involved in STEM outreach for nearly 30 years as an academic. I've operated in-house STEM activities in institutions across the UK and have delivered such activities in schools, public fora such as shopping malls, museums, science centres and theatres. I've even been involved in activities in Europe. I continue to support and deliver activities in Scotland in my position as Outreach Coordinator in the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Heriot-Watt.

20. What could employers do to attract and retain more diverse STEM talent?

What could employers do to attract and retain more diverse STEM talent?
Bluntly... not a lot in my view. STEM talent is mobile and can find reward easily anywhere in the world. Case in point my own first academic appointment (at 25) was as a lecturer at the University of East Anglia... I only returned to Scotland in my late 40s when I saw the opportunities offered by research pooling (and, as a professor at the University of Nottingham by then, already knew my worth in the HE sector).