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STEM Subjects

Volume 643: debated on Monday 25 June 2018

The Government are committed to tackling our need for science, technology, engineering and maths skills in order to create a dynamic, innovation-driven economy. That is why we are investing an additional £406 million in skills, including maths and digital. This includes the advanced maths premium, and an £84 million programme to improve the teaching of computing, which should help to increase the take-up of these subjects.

The Oil & Gas Technology Centre in Aberdeen is a major promoter of STEM subjects. Does the Minister agree that it is essential to prioritise the take-up of STEM subjects if we are to have the engineers and technicians that we need for the future?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is why we are encouraging more students into STEM education across the entire school system. We have seen a 17% overall increase in entries to STEM A-levels since 2010. In physics, it is overall at its highest level since 1996. However, there is clearly a lot more to do, which is why we are focused on doing a lot through careers and through the university system.

One of the major factors affecting the uptake of STEM subjects is the expertise of the teachers. However, Department for Education data show that one third of physics teachers in England do not have a relevant degree in the subject. Rather than simply accepting that as an unfortunate reality, what steps is the Minister taking to upskill STEM teachers? Will he commit to following Scotland’s example in making a relevant degree a requirement for entering the profession?

That is a very good question. We have subject-level enhancement courses for teachers. Also, there is a £26,000 tax-free allowance to attract teachers into the sector to teach STEM subjects. We are also helping to improve their skills as they go through the system.