Response 869595550

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About You

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Name
Graham Short MBE, TD, MA(Cantab), MEd

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Kilmarnock Engineering and Science Society

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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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Yes
Ticked No
Do you agree with the definition provided of STEM for the purposes of this Strategy?
There needs to be a clear reference to the environment and environmental sciences otherwise there is a danger that thoughts will be concentrated on the traditional scientific subjects of physics, chemistry and biology - thereby missing both important learning opportunities and the current greatest challenge to thought in the modern World. Also environmental sciences integrates the areas of physics, chemistry and biology and provide motivating and contextualised learning opportunities There also needs to be a focus on the attributes, skills and competences necessary to achieve success across the STEM area rather than specific subject knowledge.

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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No
Do you think the aims of this Strategy and the four priority themes are the right ones to address the challenges identified?
The priorities as identified on page 7 are appropriate, however the document is confusing in that it also states priorities on page 5. The page 5 priorities are too broadly stated to be useful in guiding focused and productive activity. The aims, as stated on page 8, are appropriate. It should be clearly recognised, however, that the central issues to be addressed relate to inequalities arising from gender and social disadvantage and opportunities.

3. Are these success criteria right?

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Yes
Ticked No
If not, tell us what criteria we should use instead.
Paradoxically the "outcomes" (success criteria) are process based. This is insufficient. Learners, of whatever age, must also be successful in STEM. This success can be measured either in terms of competence or mastery of concepts and skills, or in terms of interest and recognition of the worth of STEM. Competence and mastery requires to be measurable and measured in ways that are reliable and valid. A balance, however requires to be struck. Importantly, this issue requires to be approached more broadly than, for example, acquisition of national success in PISA. It is also the view of KESS that it is important that the general skills, aptitudes and interests common to the STEM area should be promoted, rather than the interests of particular academic subjects. This work requires to commence at the earliest stages of education and child development with a focus on skills and attributes rather than subject attributes.

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 basically correct. However, it should recognise that this is not an issue that can be tackled on a sector basis, and continuity between each stage of learning is as important as performance within each sector or organisational stage of the learning journey. It is also correct to encourage and support girls and women in the STEM area. It is however equally important to ensure that social disadvantage does not act as a barrier to boys and men in their aspirations; put simply males from SIMD deciles 1 and 2 are also entitled to aspire to, and be supported towards, a career in STEM up to University level. Such an approach recognising disadvantage will also be of advantage to girls and women.

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 is nothing wrong with the range of actions listed in the Annex of the consultative document, although there is perhaps a question of whether these form a coherent whole. Research by the South West Scotland Engineering Group into projects in schools concluded, for example, that the problem was not in lack of provision so much as a range of only loosely associated initiatives, giving a lack of focus and continuity and a landscape that was, to a degree, confusing. It is against this background that the actions listed underplay one of the central issues - the lack of confidence in STEM amongst teachers in early and primary education. This is the central issue which must be addressed, along with the perennial shortage of suitably qualified STEM teachers in the secondary sector.

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.
Kilmarnock Engineering and Science Society (KESS) has organised and delivered a wide and rich range of STEM activities in the East Ayrshire community. Its adopted school programme, specifically targeted on establishments in areas of social disadvantage is a highly valued partnership-based initiative. These activities have been highly motivating to children, teachers and the community alike. A Saturday Science Fair in Bellsbank, Dalmellington, East Ayrshire attracted 180 parents and children in an area of significant social disadvantage. This model could be more widely adopted or disseminated across communities. The Primary Engineer programme has proved motivating and is highly successful. Its comprehensive and imaginative model of delivery and teacher education coupled to the accreditation of young people's experiences works very well and is valued by children and teachers alike. Its methodology is embedded in Curriculum for Excellence, and the programme is rigorously evaluated. The Primary Engineer programme adopted in East Ayrshire has done much to enable effective STEM delivery in primary schools. Much might be learned by studying the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative of the 1980s which was highly successful in jump-starting this area of the curriculum, but which was supported by significant financial investment.

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

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Yes
Ticked No
Do you agree with the principles set out for implementation?
The second bullet point principle "Realise greater efficiency......activities and funding" is acceptable, because it is a principle, and is also valid. Unfortunately, the other two statements are not principles so much as process descriptors. If these stated principles are adopted then all that will be achieved is improved measurement of failure or mediocrity. There must be an aspiration related directly and ambitiously to improvement and tackling the effects of disadvantage thereby achieving "Excellence and Equity".

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?
The range of initiatives need to be brought together as a recognisable and branded programme with its own badge and impetus, much in the same way that the 1 plus 2 Languages, Gaelic Education, Music Education, or Sport has attracted specific political and national support. As presented in the consultative document it is apparent that STEM is seen as an agglomeration of problems, for which an agglomeration of responses has been developed. It would be much better if this issue was set as a firm priority, with a few well chosen objectives matched to a review schedule, and which is known by a recognisable name. STEM should not be seen as a "cameo" or "bolt-on", but should be integral to the core offering to learners of all ages. Time must be found, or created imaginatively, for this within current provision to integrate generic STEM learning attributes into provision. These attributes would include , for example, observation, independent note taking, and questioning skills.

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?
The issues are much more easily stated than the solutions. The strategy may well achieve the outcomes as stated in the document, but as given in answer to question 3, these outcomes are insufficiently ambitious. Nor is the central issue of the universal availability of the highest quality STEM experiences in nurseries, schools, colleges, universities and communities irrespective of geographical or social constraints prioritised with sufficient clarity together with the necessary actions to achieve this key component of equity.

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.
The strategy is unlikely in its own right to improve equity of outcomes; this is a much wider and long term issue (see also response to question 9) . Issues of equity will only be addressed by dealing constructively with the issues of deprivation in our communities which requires a much broader and multi-agency response, including by society itself. This goes well beyond STEM. These are not new or recently discovered issues, nor is the solution susceptible to short term planning. Central to this issue is the attitude of parents and carers who require confidence that their children can achieve at the highest level, and that it is highly appropriate for girls to pursue STEM based studies and careers. This issue should not be divorced from a need to encourage boys into caring roles, which will also encourage a change in attitudes and reduce stereotypes.

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?
Colleges and Universities do require to engage much more proactively with schools, nurseries and communities particularly where they have non-stereotypical role models who can be deployed to raise parents' and young people's expectations and horizons. The physical resources and facilities of the tertiary sector could also be used better to give young people better quality STEM experiences. Care is however required to ensure an equity of such support, as the tertiary sector does not instinctively locate its activities in support of peripheral communities or disadvantaged areas. Community Leaning and Development needs to ensure it has the correct balance of skills and professional dispositions to work positively with families and communities to reduce the effects of stereotyping - including social stereotyping in the context of STEM.

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
The question must be asked, particularly of GTCS whether its professional standards, however well suited to sectoral and the professional interests of the teaching profession are sufficiently flexible for the modern world. There must be more focus towards creating flexibility by actively promoting interdisciplinary, cross-sectoral work and improved continuity at transition promoting a seamless learning journey. The possibilities of alternative routes into the profession through initiatives such as Teach First should not be dismissed without careful reflection. The teachers' and headteacher's unions also need to be encouraged to play a significantly different role than hitherto. This requires their support in the working of the GTCS. More importantly it needs them to recognise that their unrelenting projection of schools as being challenging places to work, and that teachers are overworked, undervalued, underpaid and working under conditions of stress both lowers morale and discourages high quality recruits to the profession. This is particularly the case given the availability of alternative careers for genuinely high quality STEM graduates elsewhere. The Scottish Government also needs to play a role in its positive projection of education, and needs to be much more circumspect in its use of sound-bite data such as the recent launch of the National Improvement Framework and PISA results. Again, quality people will not be encouraged to enter a profession that is assessment-driven, or indeed presented as failing, when they have excellent career alternatives.

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?
These have an important role. They need to be given good media coverage however to have a maximum positive effect. Many young people were encouraged into science by the Science Fairs run, and televised, nationally during the 1970s. Another example in a related area is the significantly increased interest in the field of archaeology following some excellent TV series on this subject. There is a need though to ensure that there is engagement with teachers and pupils, for example by "adopting schools" using the KESS model identified elsewhere in this response. The Glasgow Science Centre outreach facility is highly effective..

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.
STEM should not be seen, or presented, as a solely vocational issue with an over-dominance of job-related orientation and focus. A broadly-based approach, particularly in the earlier stages of learning, is preferable. It would be better to concentrate on a few priority and "quick return" actions rather than dissipate energy in a fragmented approach.

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?
The improvement framework would be acceptable if that was all nurseries and schools had to do, but it is not. For example, the proposal to have a "named person" however worthwhile is likely to provoke an adverse reaction given "named person" requirements under GIRFEC which have already been well rehearsed in the media. STEM improvements need to be contextualised in the overall system of improvement planning. This imposed, centralist, "top down" approach is taking the service back to a pre 1980s position, and will fail as a consequence. It is incompatible with the types of statement on school-based decision making being made by the Scottish Government in its consultation on the governance of education. Is there not already a general "National Improvement Framework" for education? It is easy to see how headteachers, teachers and parents are getting confused. There needs to be an integrated and properly focused and prioritised approach. STEM cannot bee addressed in isolation.

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?
Again, there is a lack of joined up thinking on the part of Government. This issue has already been posed as an open question as part of the wider Governance Review. Should not the outcome of this latter exercise be clear before any model, the feasibility of which is presently indeterminate, is developed ? In the tertiary sector, universities are increasingly separating research and teaching activities. There is a need to ensure that the teaching and learning activities of Universities and elsewhere directly benefit from research, knowledge transfer and scholarly activities. Employers would benefit from more attention to a detailed individual student transcript (achievement profile) which would highlight strengths and weaknesses of students as against the present over-simplified degree classification system.

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?
There is already a highly effective STEM Ambassador programme in Scotland. Duplication would not be necessary or helpful. It is possible to enhance the current arrangements through developing a distinctive Scottish approach, but there should be no new or replacement provision. For community groups it would be helpful to have a national register of high quality speakers who are prepared to contribute to public engagement activities .

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 work of existing societies such as our own - the Kilmarnock Engineering and Science Society - requires to be acknowledged, and the model more widely promoted, as offering considerable potential for enhancing young (and older) people's experience of STEM.

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.
Kilmarnock Engineering and Science Society offers a range of acivities directly supporting the aims and priorities of the strategy, including: * An adopted schools programme focused on young people in remote and disadvantaged areas, including children with additional support needs. *The adopted school is inclusive of children who are more artistically oriented by use of an art project related the scientific and industrial heritage of their home area. * Support for the activities in British Science Week * A winter community-based lecture programme featuring speakers of the highest quality * Annual events supporting young people aspiring to a STEM university course * Awards to top performing students in STEM in the East Ayrshire area * Specific events related to local STEM interests and developments * Field excursions and visits * Creating publicity opportunities for STEM and related activities.

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?
Employers need to be more proactive in promoting the availability and diversity of STEM based careers. This is done better in some subject areas than others.