Response 271755080

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Stuart Dunbar

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Questions

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

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Do you agree with the definition provided of STEM for the purposes of this Strategy?
In the main, although the use of the plural 'technologies' doesn't appear to be of merit, especially when the singular is used in the first paragraph on page 4. Keep it as the singular throughout. I'm glad to see that the second 'M' (Medicine) has not been included, and the acronym STEAM (including Arts) has been avoided too; for this latter one, 'Art-Science' is a much more suitable term in my view.

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

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Do you think the aims of this Strategy and the four priority themes are the right ones to address the challenges identified?
However, some other considerations may be to explicitly include 'families' in the 'communities...' label and to use the ASPIRES research (http://www.kcl.ac.uk/sspp/departments/education/research/aspires/aspires-final-report-december-2013.pdf) as a basis for considering 'science capital' and the influence of families on the next generation (as indicated later on page 9). Formal education alone is going to have some positive benefit, but engaging families and communities seems to be the way to go to enhance aspirations. There also seems to be an implied focus on young people and older, with young children (nursery upwards) not explicitly part of the strategy until page 9 onwards. Apologies if this isn't intended, but the implication appears to be there from my viewpoint. As recognised later in the document, attention needs to be given from the very beginning in supporting early years practitioners and primary school teachers in gaining the confidence to provide STEM-related experiences to young children upwards. STEM shouldn't be a scary or 'other' thing.

3. Are these success criteria right?

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No
If not, tell us what criteria we should use instead.
Merely a question: is gender the only characteristic in need of attention? Does ethnic diversity need consideration? Also, should the balance be more specific: at HEI level, there are more female students in biological sciences, but the balance in the physical sciences is very male-dominated.

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 appears to be general enough and aimed at children and young people. However, I think the priority should be on family-based learning and this should be mentioned first ahead of early learning/childcare/primary school, etc.

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.
There seems to be a good selection of actions. NB: p.21: "At national level we have and are:" - seems to be a mistake here.

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.
From a personal viewpoint (and in the spirit of full disclosure, this is biased due to my role in managing the group), I think there is an opportunity to support the regions beyond easy access to the science centres in a more structured way. The SCI-FUN Roadshow (www.scifun.ed.ac.uk) has the basic infrastructure still in place to prioritise the delivery of a science-centre experience to locations in Scotland that are more remote. Something similar to (or based on) this structure could fill the geographical gap that the stationary science centres are unable to. I am aware that some smaller workshops travel further afield, but these are usually focused on one element of STEM rather than across all parts of the STEM field. Also, science centres are fantastic for engagement of those who are already inspired by STEM - and should continue to be supported - but a mobile science centre has the benefit of going directly into communities where the majority of residents are unlikely to be motivated to go to the main science centres. Having a mobile science centre could/should almost be a 'fifth' centre - prioritising the geographically remote and disengaged - which would work in harmony with the existing centres and festivals, complementing the numbers who are engaged overall. Additionally, there are a number of initiatives aimed at supporting STEM education in schools and communities. It would be helpful for teachers (I think) to provide a centralised directory of these, or - preferably - point teachers towards directories that exist (STEM Directories or ScienceLive). If STEM Central was adequately resourced and maintained, perhaps this would be the vehicle to assist teachers.

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

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Do you agree with the principles set out for implementation?
Will there be a central evaluation/oversight group with a specific responsibility to explore the implementation of the strategy?

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?
Although this would require funding and time, perhaps consider a longitudinal research project looking into STEM attitudes and careers outcomes related to strategies that seek to engage families and/or support the teaching of STEM at early years and primary phases. Perhaps consider a research project that seeks young people's views on what worked for them in the science experiences they've had to date. (This is a tangential element of a project I have recently started: http://ypagdunbar.wordpress.com) Could these be the basis of an academic research project? Would these provide the evidence to demonstrate the relative impact of various approaches and indicate what works better in the Scottish context and therefore where future resource should be targetted? A lot of this strategy is aimed at children and young people and it's only right that their views are incorporated within the considerations at some stage.

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?
"Develop a programme of new and enhanced career-long professional learning for practitioners, with a focus on early learning and primary school through strengthened partnerships and collaboration across the education and training system." "Extend the Read, Write, Count campaign, that supports parents to continue learning outside of school, into P4-P7 in areas of high deprivation from April 2017" Both the above seem particularly important. As indicated previously, I think a mobile science centre to complement the geographical reach of the existing centres would enhance this provision and has greater potential for taking STEM to more disengaged groups and could signpost to other approaches within the strategy and not just be a one-off 'intervention'.

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.

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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.
Solely from this document, how less-engaged groups will be engaged is not clear to me. Bringing experiences into communities should be highlighted. Further, have groups such as ScienceGrrl and WISE provided advice on what can be done to enhance numbers of girls into STEM? There doesn't seem to be specific steps - if there are, then I'm afraid these weren't obvious to me.

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?
Universities may be able to provide CPD aimed at early years and primary school teachers directly related to new STEM advances. Encouragement is required from secondary schools to also improve confidence in STEM in early years practitioners and primary school teachers. (From my own experience in an English primary school, I personally know the fear/uncertainty that some teachers can have. Some teachers in Scotland have also told me similar anecdotes.) An approach based on the SCI-FUN Roadshow may be able to contribute to the geographical spread of the strategy, as well as improve the diversity of engaged audiences. The larger science festivals - such as the one in Edinburgh - could be funded to reach out to local communities where fewer people are likely to attend their events. Having a 'Fringe' style, smaller events could take place in community centres outside the main festival hubs. These smaller events will of course not reach the same large numbers the festival usually engages, but they have a greater chance of increasing the diversity of those engaged, which is a priority of this strategy. Also: what do children and young people want in terms of their science experiences?

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
I do not feel in a position to comment.

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?
I'm not sure what more they can do, apart from sacrificing pure engaged numbers in order to prioritise certain communities. Emphasis has been given to 'bums-on-seats', but this pure number does not measure the effectiveness of an event: a five-minute talk to 800 people is seen as better than a two-hour interactive experience for 5 people - but which has the greater impact? A better way of recording these experiences needs to be used so that the relative quality of each is included in the metrics. If this is proposed and accepted, then this will allow festivals/centres greater freedom and motivation to reach hard-to-engage groups. Even if these numbers are recorded separately, this is something!

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?
Having local champions to support colleagues and embed STEM is one way forward after speaking to early years practitioners recently. A document on its own could reinforce the fear and continue the view of STEM being something 'other' rather than everyday. The opportunity for clusters to support each other and build on local expertise is essential: the expertise needs to be shared and not dependent on an enthusiastic individual.

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?
With the pressure of the REF, I wonder how this proposal will be accepted by science/engineering departments in universities. However, the same REF process may actually lead to some teacher training departments seeing this model of collaboration as extremely beneficial, aligning with their own objectives. It will be interesting to see how these agendas can align.

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?
Why have a separate STEM Ambassador network? This seems like duplication of effort and therefore only results in confusion and angst. (See: STEM Directory - based in Aberdeen in 2009 approx - and STEM Directories - still running; when both were operating, they caused more problems than were solved.) If the current system has issues, then seek to improve these rather than create a separate one which is similar.

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?
Groups like WISE / ScienceGrrl should be engaged from the perspective of gender equality. Other similar groups for other inequalities.

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 manage the activities of the SCI-FUN Roadshow - involving University of Edinburgh students to engage and inspire secondary school pupils and local communities with STEM concepts through hands-on, interactive exhibits. Setting up a young person advisory group (http://ypagdunbar.wordpress.com) to explore young people's preferences for public engagement with science in a co-production process. Supporting STEM researchers with public engagement ambitions - to develop events, activities, and processes that engage publics beyond academia in various ways. Sharing engagement opportunities with colleagues to enhance awareness of possibilities.

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?
I am not in a position to comment.