The General Teaching Council for Scotland

All sySTEMs go

The University of the West of Scotland’s (UWS) Summer STEM Academy brought together primary teachers, academics and senior pupils.

STEM Academy-Astrobiology genetics-group 1A lack of exposure to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects at a young age is often cited as a reason why many young people don’t pursue STEM as a career later in life. As developments in STEM fields advance, more graduates in these subjects are needed to meet demand in the ever-changing modern world.

But conversations with student teachers have revealed a lack of confidence in teaching these vitally important subjects. Dr Margaret Ritchie, UWS School of Education, said: “The idea for the Academy was a direct response for help from BA Honours students. I was supervising some dissertations which focused on science in primary schools, and the students said that they didn’t feel as confident delivering STEM subjects.”

Moreover, said Dr Ritchie, schools expected students focusing on STEM-related subjects to be “proficient, confident experts”. However, this wasn’t always the case.

This is where the Academy comes in. One of the main aims of the Academy is to give student primary teachers valuable industry and science experience, helping them to better deliver STEM subjects at primary level.

The UWS Summer STEM Academy, which was awarded an RSC outreach grant, is now in its second year and is already seeing marked improvement in student teacher confidence. Dr Ritchie said: “We conducted a survey after last year’s event, asking the student teachers to compare how they felt about teaching STEM before and after the Academy. The results showed drastic improvements in levels of anxiety, self-efficacy and even enjoyment.”

STEM Academy-F1 workshopAcross two days, attendees were exposed to a range of workshops which were aligned with industry. They had the opportunity to learn more about teaching STEM, and foster collaboration and networking. BioCity Scotland also hosted an industrial experience visit, an essential part of the STEM Academy.

Workshops were delivered by a range of experts and each workshop included elements of creativity. Modelling clay was used in an astrobiology genetics workshop, while other groups created race cars, learning about different aspects of engineering and physics.

The senior secondary pupils at the workshops were encouraged to run STEM activities at their own schools and to submit their work for a PRAiSE Award (Personal Recognition in Academic and Industrial STEM Education) in recognition of their projects.

Further information

GTC Scotland is one of several partner organisations supporting the UWS Summer STEM Academy, which will return next year. Find out more information by visiting