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Quality of post-16 Stem courses 'undermined' by lack of staff training time

The quality of post-16 courses in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) is being “undermined” by a lack of time for staff to develop their skills and knowledge, a new report claims.

In a consultation carried out for the Education and Training Foundation, staff from FE colleges, sixth-form colleges and learning providers told the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) that funding cuts made it difficult for them to take part in continuing professional development (CPD) to improve and update their skills.

They also reported poor awareness of Stem careers among young people, causing a fall in demand for Stem courses, and that access to high quality Stem-related CPD was limited.

The report recommends that the ETF support the recruitment and retention of Stem staff, provide Stem-related CPD and opportunities to share best practice, and support greater involvement from employers.

It follows a report earlier this year by think tank NEF: The Innovation Institute, which called for a “radical overhaul” of Stem-based FE courses to avert a “wholesale crisis” in industry.

An NEF survey found only 23 per cent of companies that rely on Stem skills were able to recruit people with the right experience and qualifications.

Sheila Kearney, head of research at the ETF, said the latest report adds to the “growing evidence” about what needs to be done to improve standards of Stem provision.

“Today’s findings will help us to build on this and kick start a culture change in Stem provision across our sector by highlighting the key challenges we face,” she said.

“These include: improving opportunities for staff to develop their expertise and to share learning, effective practice and resources; tackling the lack of high quality Stem-related CPD; supporting staff in keeping their knowledge and skills up-to-date in a fast-paced, constantly changing industry; and engaging more effectively with employers.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “The government’s Careers Inspiration Vision encourages schools and colleges to work more with employers to increase understanding of the world of work for pupils, students and staff. 

“By working with employers in Stem areas teachers and lecturers will be inspired themselves, get a better view of latest technological developments and skills requirements and be better able to link delivery of curriculum to the world of work.”

Related stories:

FE science and technology courses need 'radical overhaul' to avert industry crisisMarch 2014

 ‘Step up’ to engineer a solution to skills gap – June 2014 


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