STEM Education

Science and engineering lie at the heart of our economy, so ensuring Britain has a skilled STEM workforce is essential. We campaign for the highest quality and most effective teaching structures at all stages of education, from primary school to further and higher education, and are committed to the provision of outstanding STEM careers advice at all levels. We critique and respond to changes to the national provision of STEM education, examining new policies and their ramifications for the teaching and learning of STEM subjects.

Here you will find blogs, reports, briefings and consultations on STEM Education. To see only CaSE reports, briefings and consultations, use the button above.

New stats reveal more needs to be done to encourage girls to study physics and maths

The schools regulator Ofsted has just published statistics on pupils progressing onto AS levels and then to A-levels, broken down by gender and subject. This is the first time this has been brought together for England as a whole and follows recommendations by the Institute of Physics (IoP) that schools should monitor their rates and compare them to national averages.

The new numbers show that for every 10 boys taking AS-level physics, there are only three girls, whereas for biology there are 15 girls for every 10 boys. For chemistry it is almost gender-balanced with equal numbers of boys and girls taking the subject at AS-level. Maths, like physics, also has a lower representation of girls, with seven for every 10 boys, and it gets worse for further maths, with only four girls for every 10 boys. The national average for all AS-level subjects, including the sciences, is slightly tipped in favour of girls, with 13 girls taking AS-levels for every 10 boys.

AS-level gender proportionsThe findings replicate the IoP’s own research that found very poor uptake of physics among girls, especially in co-educational state schools.

The Ofsted numbers reveal fewer girls go on to study physics at A-level as well. 57% of girls continue to the higher level compared to 71% of boys. The follow-on rate for other sciences is roughly equal for girls and boys, but maths sees fewer girls continue with their studies: 70% of girls continue compared to 79% of boys.

A-level progressionI should also point out that there are pretty big gender imbalances in non-STEM subjects too: there are three girls for every boy studying sociology and five girls for every two boys studying English. The IoP published a report in 2013 that found that schools with a gender imbalance in physics tend to have imbalances in other subjects too, suggesting that it is the environment, rather than unavoidable inherant preferences among pupils, affecting subject choice.

CaSE published a report last year on diversity in STEM, which amongst other things looked at gender imbalances in school subjects and discussed how teachers and parents can (often unwittingly) influence pupils choices in a negative way. It’s great that Ofsted are now publishing national statistics on gender balance and we hope that schools and Ofsted will do everything they can to ensure children do not feel deterred from studying whatever subjects they want at AS and A-level.

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CaSE welcomes City University as members

Prof-Paul-Curran-headshotCity University London is a leading international university dedicated to academic excellence as well as focused on business and the professions.

Professor Curran, Vice-Chancellor says of their decision to join CaSE:

“City University London is pleased to support CaSE in its efforts to raise the profile of science and engineering and, in particular, the need to maintain investment in education and research.  This is timely given the impending General Election and the parties’ relative commitments to science and engineering.”

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CaSE responds to changes to GCSE practical science assessments

Ofqual has announced the adoption of a new approach for GCSE science practical assessment that will use written exam questions in place of controlled assessment.

Each exam board will have to specify a minimum number of practical activities that students must complete in class, set no lower than 8 in each individual science subject and 16 for combined science. Each school will be required to confirm that they have enabled their students to do the full range of practical work and students will be required to keep a record of their work. Read More »

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CaSE warns of unintended consequences of proposed reforms to GCSE practical science

CaSE is concerned with Ofqual’s move to examine science GCSEs solely by written exam. CaSE sees that there is a real danger of further erosion of practical science experience and skills for GCSE science students.  There seems to be no evidence that this form of assessment would lead to better outcomes for young people. Read More »

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How to make the UK the ‘best place to do science’


Election 2015 – Policy Briefings

Ahead of the 2015 Election, the Campaign for Science and Engineering has worked with its members and collaborators to develop a toolkit that government can use to realise its ambition to make the UK a leading scientific nation.

Every major political party has put science and engineering at the heart of their plans for a prosperous innovative Britain, driving high skills jobs and growth. Read More »

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Concerning the Scottish curriculum

The Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee is reviewing progress on the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), the transformative programme for 3 to 18 education in Scotland. Because the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) Education Committee works to identify and promote priorities for education in Scotland at all levels, it has been involved in monitoring and responding to CfE. Read More »

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Revitalising primary science

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CaSE responds to 2014 GCSE Results

This year sees many changes to the GCSE system including the addition of the Further Additional Science qualification and changes to school accountability measures driving behaviour change. The changes make it difficult to unpick precisely what today’s results mean for science. Equally, the figures out today highlight the increasingly complex nature of the options for studying science facing schools, teachers and students. Read More »

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Rise of science and maths – CaSE responds to 2014 A-level results

Rising popularity of science and maths

Today’s A-level results show the continued rise in popularity of science and maths subjects at A-level. Maths continues its extraordinary rise to overtake English as the highest entry subject with 10.7% of the total A-level entry. Biology retains its position in third place with 7.7% of total entry. Chemistry assumes its highest ranking over the period 2002-2014 to take fifth place. Physics regains a 2002 high of 4.4% after a dip in popularity in the mid-2000s. Read More »

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Royal Society Vision

However hard people try, it is clear nobody can predict exactly what will happen in the future. But we can be sure that in five, ten and twenty years time science and mathematics will be at the heart of everyone’s lives, and skills in “STEM” areas will probably be even more essential in order to get a job and to to participate fully in society as a citizen. Read More »

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CaSE responds to reforms in science A-level practicals

“Science A-level reforms are not practical at all”

While the Chancellor has committed to making the UK the best place in the world to do science, changes to A-levels mean that young people will be able leave school with the highest grades in science without being able to do science at all. Read More »

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CaSE welcomes increase in science ringfence

CaSE is delighted to welcome the Government’s increase in the ringfenced science budget from £4,576m to £4,691m for 2015-16, an increase of £115m.

The Universities and Science Minister, David Willetts, and the Chancellor, George Osborne, have both emphasised that science is a priority for the Government and this announcement demonstrates their commitment.   Read More »

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CaSE comment on the PISA 2013 results

This week saw the publication of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2012 survey results. PISA aims to evaluate and compare the knowledge and skills of the world’s 15 year-olds. More than 510,000 students in 65 economies took part in the latest test, which covered maths, reading and science. Read More »

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CaSE responds to Ofsted report on science in schools

CaSE welcomes the latest Ofsted report, Maintaining curiosity in science, and its valuable contribution to the evidence base enabling better informed policy decisions regarding science education in schools. Read More »

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CaSE cross-party debate summary

In October, CaSE brought together the science spokespeople from each of the main political parties to debate the future direction of science and engineering in the UK. The event, kindly hosted by the Royal Society and chaired by Pallab Ghosh, gave us the opportunity to hear from each party on issues ranging from the use of scientific advice in Government through to research funding and matters around diversity in science and engineering. Read More »

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Watch the CaSE Cross-Party Debate

Last Wednesday saw CaSE bring together the science spokespeople from the three main Westminster parties to debate the future direction of science and engineering in the UK. Read More »

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CaSE reaction to 2013 GCSE results

Science GCSEs are changing

Today’s results reflect the complex set of options that students and schools face in science education at GCSE level.  We are in a transitional stage which must be difficult to navigate.

Among the options for a science education are Science and Advanced Science (worth 2 GCSEs if both are taken or 1 for Science alone); single subject sciences of Biology, Physics and Chemistry; International GCSEs, which appear to be preferred by some independent schools and academies.  To further complicate matters, this is the first year of examinations for the new Science and Advanced Science syllabus which is intended to be more demanding. Read More »

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Here come the girls

The UK Business Secretary, Vince Cable, last week suggested that more women should go into engineering to help solve the skills shortage.  He highlighted the vital role that women represent in engineering and the need to shift the mindset and reputation the industry has about engineering being a ‘dirty hands’ business suitable only for men.

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Lord Heseltine delivers Annual Lecture 2012

John Russell: Campaign for Science and Engineering: Annual Lecutre with Lord Heseltine &emdash; Lord Heseltine, the former Deputy Prime Minister, used the 2012 CaSE Annual Lecture to call for science to help drive the UK’s economic growth.

Heseltine – who served in the Cabinet under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, and ultimately became Deputy Prime Minister – recently published his report ‘No Stone Unturned‘. The report, commissioned by George Osborne and Vince Cable, makes 89 recommendations for getting the UK back on the path to prosperity. Read More »

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Party Conferences: Lib Dems call for science investment

At their party conference this morning in Brighton, the Liberal Democrats passed ‘Developing a Future – Policies for Science and Research’ – a policy motion urging the Government to increase investment in science and research across the UK.

The motion was moved by former scientist Dr Julian Huppert MP, and CaSE contributed to the development of the underlying policy paper.

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