Further education and skills sector needs training boost to strengthen STEM offering, report finds
22 July 2014
The quality of post-16 courses in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is being undermined by a lack of time for staff to develop their skills and knowledge in line with the pace of change in their subject areas, according to an NFER report published today.
The findings have emerged from a consultation conducted by NFER on behalf of the Education and Training Foundation, to identify the main challenges facing the delivery of STEM in the further education and skills sector.
Consultees, including staff from colleges and employment and learning providers, suggested that funding cuts and the associated reduction in staff time made it difficult for staff to take part in continuing professional development (CPD) to improve and update their skills. They further reported that CPD tended to be process-oriented, and access to quality STEM-related CPD was limited.
Other key issues affecting the sector highlighted in the report include:
the need to improve opportunities for staff to develop their pedagogical expertise and to share learning, effective practice and resources
poor awareness of STEM careers among young people, causing a fall in demand for STEM courses and training
difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff
lack of time and difficulties in engaging employers.
Sheila Kearney, Head of Research at the Education and Training Foundation, said: “This very useful report adds to the growing amount of evidence currently being gathered by us, and by others on our behalf, about the issues that need to be tackled in order to improve the standards of STEM provision, and learner engagement and achievement in those subjects. It identifies a key role for our organisation as an authoritative voice on effective practice in the sector. Its publication coincides with some insightful analysis we have recently commissioned into the highest levels of qualifications held by maths teachers in the sector, and their confidence in teaching maths, and which we will also shortly be publishing.
“We know there is already useful support available, such as the New Engineering Foundation industrial fellowship scheme, and a range of Education and Training Foundation-led programmes including STEM Support, the Professional Standards for Teachers and Trainers and research-based and practitioner-led CPD. Today’s findings will help us to build on this and kick start a culture change in STEM provision across our sector by highlighting the key challenges we face: improving opportunities for staff to develop their expertise and to share learning, effective practice and resources; tackling the lack of high quality STEM-related CPD; supporting staff in keeping their knowledge and skills up-to-date in a fast-paced, constantly changing industry; and engaging more effectively with employers.”
To read the full report visit /ap1a
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