As families with children prepare for school resuming next week, and following last term’s A-levels and GCSEs results, it is timely to reflect on how we can make it fun to study STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) at school and beyond.
This is important since under successive governments, we have not taught sufficient engineers and scientists to provide all the vital skills our economy needs.
So I am very pleased by action being taken locally here in South Shropshire, as well as nationally, to remedy this lack of skills, both through initiatives to encourage studying STEM subjects in school, and provide more training opportunities.
Encouragingly, South Shropshire is blazing a trail when it comes to encouraging young people to have fun in putting maths skills to practical engineering use. A brilliant project by South Shropshire Engineering Ambassadors, a group of mostly retired engineers and backed by local businesses, has been encouraging school children to take an interest in STEM subjects for the past 13 years. They work with children to help them participate in a regional self-build Goblin green energy car race, run Young Engineer Clubs and support an annual Primary School Challenge hosted by the Community College in Bishops Castle.
Projects like these are not only fun to take part in, but also show the practical application of maths and engineering knowledge - a great way to inspire more children to take an active interest.
For those preparing to enter the world of work, we are also fortunate to have the Aspire Centre in Burford and the Marches Centre for Manufacturing and Technology in Bridgnorth. I support both centres, which offer training places for apprentices to learn the key skills they need to build a lifelong career, some with state of the art equipment in a purpose built space.
At a national level the Autumn Budget last year made £177 million available for maths teaching, including £27 million to expand the successful Teaching for Mastery maths programme into a further 3,000 schools. £80 million was set aside for schools and colleges who support their students to study maths beyond GCSE. I also support measures to ensure every secondary school pupil has the opportunity to develop computer science skills, by ensuring every school has a fully qualified computer science GCSE teacher. £84 million is being invested to upskill 8,000 computer science teachers by the end of this Parliament.
By helping our children develop a passion for STEM subjects and the future possibilities they offer, coupled with world class training facilities, I am confident South Shropshire can become a centre of engineering excellence.