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Written Statement - STEM in education and training: a delivery plan for Wales

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This plan sets out how we will work with the regional education consortia and key partners to support the provision of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for learners in Wales.
Julie James, Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology

I am pleased to inform you of the publication of STEM in education and training: a delivery plan for Wales, which sets out our actions and plans in support of STEM-related subjects for 3-19 year olds.

The STEM Plan takes forward the Enterprise and Business Committee’s thorough and wide-ranging inquiry into STEM skills, conducted in 2014. A draft version of the Plan was shared with the Committee last year, and I am grateful for their input and support in this important area of education. The Plan has subsequently been updated and refreshed to reflect the broad range of areas supporting the STEM in education agenda.

Within this framework, the Plan sets out 6 key priorities for future actions:

  • improving the analysis and reporting of progress against key indicators
  • evolving the learning and teaching undertaken in schools, colleges and universities
  • developing STEM-related qualifications to be of a standard comparable with the rest of the UK and the best in the world
  • promoting the long-term, self-sustaining, system-wide development of an education workforce capable of delivering a new and challenging STEM curriculum
  • increasing interest and participation in STEM learning, particularly with girls
  • equipping young people with career management skills and knowledge of the options available to them in the STEM sector.

The STEM Plan will be monitored by the STEM in Education Group, chaired by the Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales, Professor Julie Williams, and reporting to Ministers. It sets out a commitment to publish an annual Ministerial statement on developments in STEM education and training in Wales.

I want to emphasise here that while there is much work still to be taken forward in supporting and developing the study of STEM subjects, the plan also outlines many areas where we have already delivered and achieved against key objectives. For example, over the last 2 years, we have provided an unprecedented level of support to schools on science and mathematics, mainly delivered through partnership with regional education Consortia. To build on this, we have recently agreed funding of £3.4m to Consortia in 2016-17 for a programme that will include further support on science, mathematics and technology. We are also providing funding of nearly £1.6m for 2016-17 to support a programme of curriculum support for STEM subjects in schools, including Techniquest provision.

On mathematics, we accepted all 14 of the recommendations in the Mathematics Task and Finish Group’s report. We are enhancing support for mathematics at primary level, with a series of primary school Mathematics for Life events this spring. We are also looking at further development of the successful Further Mathematics Support Programme Wales.

I view STEM subjects as a cornerstone of the new and inclusive curriculum that we are developing with partner schools, experts and other key stakeholders. Literacy, Numeracy and Digital Competence will be cross-cutting responsibilities, developed across the curriculum, while computer science will be part of the Science and Technology Area of Learning and Experience. In line with the curriculum reform process, we are also providing further support for the teaching workforce. Our work in this area includes development of a new online Learning Exchange for STEM subjects, including ICT and computing, which will provide better access to information on professional development opportunities, linked to the New Deal and the Professional Learning Passport.

My key ambition for the STEM Plan and for our future work is that we bring about a major shift in the perception of STEM subjects. Attitudes towards STEM are often based in deep-rooted societal stereotypes. Our Focus on Science campaign is reinforcing the importance of science study, providing bilingual support resources for teachers, pupils and parents. We are also stepping up our activity to engage greater numbers of girls in the study of STEM subjects – including, for example, further support for the Stimulating Physics Network programme, delivered across Wales by the Institute of Physics.

Our new STEM Plan sets out a coherent and coordinated approach to increase the numbers of young people studying STEM subjects and pursuing STEM careers. It is a delivery plan I am pleased to publish, so the people of Wales are clear where we have come from, where we are, and where we are going.