Call for more STEM teachers in Scotland


The Scottish government must take action to reverse a decline in the number of science and maths teachers, which has taken place at the same time as more pupils are studying the subjects, according to the Scottish Conservatives.

Liz Smith, the party’s young people spokeswoman, quoted academic forecasts that seven million jobs in the UK would be wholly dependent on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) expertise by 2030, with Scottish demand likely to be disproportionately high.

Like other campaigners, including business leaders, Ms Smith attributed a prolonged drop in pupils studying STEM subjects beyond school to the decline in teacher numbers.

“It is plainly obvious that we must do everything we can to ensure we are able to provide a highly trained workforce which has these skills, but at present our ability to achieve this is being hampered,” she told MSPs.

Ms Smith cited a nine per cent fall in STEM teacher numbers between the SNP taking power in 2007 and 2013/14. 

In the same period significantly more pupils have taken exams in the subjects. 

“The needs of Scotland and our young people are changing fast in what is a fiercely global economy and they are changing because employers want a much more finely tuned labour force which is both more flexible and more skilled when it comes to the diverse needs of the economy,” she said.

Learning and science minister Alasdair Allan said the parties agreed the need to raise the number of computing science teachers, and work was under way towards that goal. 

He also spoke of the need to encourage more women to choose science careers. 

Mr Allan pointed to a 24 per cent rise in pupils sitting chemistry exams, an 18 per cent increase in physics, a 17 per cent increase in maths, and a 14.2 per cent increase in biology.

A Scottish government spokesman said officials “fully recognised” how important it was to recruit student teachers in STEM subjects.

“That’s why teacher education institutions are now being set specific student intake targets for individual subjects and the teacher workforce planning working group is actively pursuing a number of work strands to meet this specific demand,” he said.

Scottish secondaries had 5,474 teachers in STEM subjects in 2014, down from 5,993 in 2008, according to the latest data.



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