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STEM Take-up

Volume 654: debated on Monday 4 February 2019

The Government are committed to encouraging more young people into STEM education training. We fund a number of programmes to improve teaching standards and participation in those subjects, including the new advanced maths premium and an £84 million programme to improve the teaching of computing.

Since the SNP would remove Scotland from international maths and science tables such as TIMSS—trends in international mathematics and science study—may I ask my hon. Friend how my constituents can assess STEM education in Scotland to make sure that we are performing in line with the UK and internationally?

As education policy is devolved, issues relating to SAMs in Scotland are a matter for the Scottish Government. However, according to the latest OECD programme for international student assessment from 2015, while performance has remained stable in England and Northern Ireland since 2006, there has been a sustained decline in science in schools in Wales, and in maths in schools in Scotland. Since 2012, Scotland has also experienced a significant decline in its science score.

Two software engineering apprentices from Cheadle-based Thales, Nadia Johnson and Jessica Wong, created an outreach campaign designed to provide free engineering resources for young people, teachers and parents. It is hugely important to support young people in these areas. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is a fantastic example of how degree apprenticeships can not only help apprentices to earn and learn but enable them to develop STEM qualifications for the benefit of the wider community?

I congratulate Thales on the work that it does on outreach campaigns for local schools. I was at Thales in Northern Ireland on Friday, and saw for myself the work that it does to raise ambitions for STEM participation in schools. The engineering community does a fantastic job of passing on its passion for the profession, and I welcome the opportunity to hear a further example of that enthusiasm.

Order. In calling the hon. Member for Nottingham North (Alex Norris), I wish him a very happy birthday—a mere stripling of 35, I believe. I cannot say that I remember such a time in my life.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. As you can tell, I had a tough paper round. I am very keen for youngsters in my community to take up STEM subjects, but Park Vale Academy is struggling because Carillion went bust a year ago and its school work stopped. A year later, it remains unfinished. This is having a significant impact on the quality of provision for those young people. Different Departments are discussing who should resolve this issue but not agreeing. Could a Minister please step in and get this resolved?

I should also like to congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his birthday. I was there not too long ago. Life comes at us fast, but we have to start somewhere. I would be happy to meet him to discuss the problem he has raised. The Government are committed to supporting STEM teaching in schools, and we have seen £7.2 million-worth of funding annually going into our network of 35 maths hubs. We are also determined to improve science teaching with a national network of 46 science learning partnerships, but let us sit down, perhaps with a celebratory cup of tea, and discuss the issue that he has raised.

Having started surgery when there were hardly any women surgeons and having been told that it was not possible for me to be a surgeon, I have been delighted to speak at Ayrshire College at the #ThisAyrshireGirlCan and Girls with Grit events. Has the Minister read the report by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, “Tapping all our Talents”, which is about getting more women into STEM, and if so, has he considered any of its recommendations?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise the importance of increasing female participation in STEM. Since 2010, we have seen about 26% more women entering STEM A-levels in England, and our efforts to increase skills participation include the Stimulating Physics Network, which delivers on a series of innovative gender-balanced interventions. I would be happy to read the report that she mentions and to discuss it with her. We are determined to ensure that we work together with the science community to raise participation in these crucial subjects.

Will my hon. Friend tell us how maths hubs have helped to increase the teaching of mathematics and to enable its better appreciation by students?

The key thing to note about the maths hubs is that we want to spread good practice across the country and increase participation and attainment in post-16 mathematics. In addition to the £7.2 million funding for the 35 maths hubs, we have introduced a £16 million advanced maths support programme and an £83 million advanced maths premium for 16-to-19 providers of up to £600 per additional student. This Government are absolutely determined to increase maths uptake at GCSE and A-level as well as in higher education. It is important for our industrial strategy that we increase maths participation.