Sciences Conversation Day 2

Following the publication of the 3-18 Curriculum Impact Report for Sciences in September 2012 Education Scotland hosted a series of conversations to engage stakeholders in discussions around the findings of the report and to collectively identify priorities for action to secure improvements in science education nationally.

The second sciences conversation day took place in Bishopbriggs Academy, East Dunbartonshire and brought together around 25 participants from a wide variety of sectors.

Contexts for discussion included

  • recognising the importance of  Sciences, Technologies, Engineering and Maths (STEM) to the Scottish economy,
  • appreciating the need to look beyond the economic picture to the importance of scientific literacy for young people in an increasingly fast-paced and technological society
  • recognising STEM  as a key area within Curriculum for Excellence (CfE)
  • SSEAG Report (Science and Engineering Education Advisory Group) published February 2012 and the Government response, October 2012
  • why this could be considered a ‘Time of Opportunity’ for improving science education nationally

Delegates discussed the key priorities for sciences education focussed around four themes:

  1. Equity in education – science for all
  2. The importance of planning across school clusters
  3. Career long professional learning and support for practitioners
  4. Partnerships

This post will address the first point, Equity in Education. The remaining key priorities will be highlighted in forthcoming posts.

Equity in education – science for all

It was recognised that there had been many initiatives and significant funding provided over the last few decades to make education more equitable but little progress had been made.

The discussion generated views that

  • A different perspective was required to close the attainment gap particularly for those from the most deprived background.
  • Science education is about promoting scientific literacy for all, preparing learners for STEM careers and inspiring all learners – not just those who intend to pursue science at university level.
  • The language of learning needs to be explained to parents to help them appreciate the importance of STEM – Bishopbriggs Academy has run open evenings for parents to engage them in the school science programme.
  • The broad general education (especially early years and primary) should be a priority since this is where all learners have the biggest exposure to science.
  • More than one career pathway is available – not just school, further study then work. Many STEM careers are at Technician 3 Level – degrees are not the only way. Awareness of this must be promoted.
  • Science should be seen as a skill for life.
  • Initial teacher education (ITE) establishments have introduced concurrent degrees – more primary teachers will have the opportunity to study STEM subjects at undergraduate level but there are timetabling issues to be addressed to enable student teachers to access courses in other faculties.
  • Good science coordinators in local authorities play an essential role in brokering effective links between schools and between schools and partners.

If we are to attract greater number of learners into STEM, gender bias within subjects, such as the prevalence of boys in Physics, must be addressed. There must be consideration given to the influence of female teachers, positive role models for learners choosing science (from industry and HE) and misunderstanding the subject and maths connection, which may put some learners off.

Education Scotland is keen to hear your views about the report and its findings. Visit the Talk with us blog to share your thoughts.

Dancing for diversity!

Education Scotland is taking forward capacity building activities to promote diversity and equality. At the end of November we held a very successful national conference on this in Glasgow, which was attended by over 150 participants.

The agenda included 13 workshops of best practice in eliminating discrimination, advancing equality of opportunity and fostering good relations; several displays and stalls; an update from Education Scotland; and a keynote address from the Minister for Learning Dr Alasdair Allan, welcomed and introduced by Mary Hoey.

David Watt, Lead Officer for Diversity and Equality in Education Scotland said, ‘The day proved a great success for all who attended. Education Scotland was very pleased with the quality of the workshops and the tremendous range of equality issues featuring across the 13 workshops from early years to further education. Education Scotland’s corporate plan sets out our aim of eradicating inequity. The workshop presenters promoted the set of inclusive practices that contribute to this aim’.

Stalls exhibited materials from a number of our key groups such as Black and Ethnic Minority Infrastructure in Scotland (BEMIS), Scottish Traveller Education Programme (STEP) who act on behalf of Gypsies and Travellers, EIS Equalities Committee, Show Racism the Red Card and Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People.

Highlights of the conference included children and young people giving their views of how they are successfully gaining the capacities of Curriculum for Excellence in the context of promoting diversity and equality. Young people from Bellahouston Academy set out a wide range of peer support, children from St Stephen’s Primary mentioned their pride in their International Day, children from Thorntree Primary highlighted the positive contribution they make as children of Showpeople and young people from Broxburn highlighted how they educated the educators about LGBT issues in their community.

As well as the children and young people contributing, delegates were able to choose from a truly diverse set of workshops from early years to colleges and communities. St Peter’s Primary Early Years staff shared their practice in working with the Polish community in Edinburgh and workshops from staff and students from further education mapped out their successes with learners who benefitted from more chances in their education. Bridging the Gap from Glasgow indicated their work with its underlying consideration of social justice in the south side of Glasgow. Kyle Academy staff and partners showed the impact in closing the gap and reducing the effect of inequalities. Grange Academy spoke and signed their approaches to inclusive practices for diverse groups of learners including young people who are deaf. Our conference was accessed by a number of participants through the provision of BSL interpreters.

As well as workshops delegates were treated to the dance performance from young people from Pilrig Park School in Leith. The young people’s enthusiasm, grace, intensity and pride was evident in their performance which was around the theme of Children’s Rights. They danced the dance of putting Children’s Rights into action! Their next show in June in the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh will draw inspiration from the Commonwealth Games.

Evaluations and tweets from participants were very positive and many commented that they looked forward to the next event.