​​​​​​​One in 10 primary teachers should have science master’s, MSPs hear

Attitudes towards Stem careers have already hardened before children start secondary school, committee will be told

​​​​​​​One in 10 primary teachers should have master’s in science, MSPs hear

One in 10 of all primary teachers should have a master’s-level qualification in science, MSPs will be told.

They will also hear that improving the experience of Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects in primary school is essential because attitudes towards science careers have hardened before pupils reach secondary school.

The Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee will grill several experts on Stem education at its meeting tomorrow morning, including Professor Ian Wall, former chair of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education Committee (Stemec).

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Stemec published a report in 2016 that Professor Wall cited extensively in his submission to the committee, including the proposal that there should be “a national programme of financial and practical support to assist a minimum of 10 per cent of all primary teachers to obtain a master’s in primary science and pedagogy”.

Professor Wall reiterated the report finding that “Scottish Stem education stands on a strong base and has much to be proud of but it needs further support and development.”

Lorna Hay, a class teacher at Pitteuchar East Primary School in Glenrothes, Fife, told the committee in her submission that she recently completed a postgraduate certificate in engineering Stem learning.

She cited 2013 research by Kings College London that found “children who do not express Stem-related aspirations at age 10 are unlikely to develop Stem aspirations by the age of 14, when they are making important subject choices”.

She added: “This is why early intervention at primary level is crucial.”

Ms Hay also said: “Toddlers are natural engineers; investigating, creating and problem-solving comes so naturally to them as they ‘tinker’. Yet, by the time they become teenagers, these natural engineering habits have in most cases diminished."

Dr Fiona McNeill, representing the Learned Societies’ Group on Scottish Stem education, said a “reduction in the number of subjects taken at National 4-5 in many schools may be leading to Stem subjects being squeezed out”.

She also said that pressure on schools to raise attainment might be steering students towards subjects with higher pass rates, and that the “significant gender imbalance” in many Stem subjects was not being sufficiently addressed.

Scottish Parliament statisticians have analysed national data for the committee, and they found “limited progress” in improving the gender balance at Higher level in physics and computing, and in the Stem subjects studied at college and university.

There has, however, been “positive progress” in the gender balance of Stem Foundation Apprenticeships in schools.

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