Diversity and inclusion
Report on equity in STEM education calls for more diversity in England’s curriculum
23 June 2020
All-party parliamentary group has spent the past 15 months gathering evidence on whether the education system and schools provide equal opportunities for students of all ages to learn STEM subjects.
A report released today by a key all-party parliamentary group (APPG) is urging more diversity in England’s science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) curriculum, along with five other key recommendations.
Sponsored by many learned and professional bodies, including the Institute of Physics (IOP), the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering, the APPG on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM aims to promote the inclusion and progression of people from diverse backgrounds in STEM.
It is made up of members of Parliament and the House of Lords, and is a focus for collaboration with businesses, and other organisations in the STEM sector, which encourages government, parliamentarians, academics, businesses and other stakeholders to work towards a STEM sector that is representative of the population.
While there have been many reports and inquiries into the STEM skills gap in the UK, the group felt there was a lack of focus specifically on equity within STEM education and the impact this has on young people’s access, attainment and engagement levels.
In March 2019, the APPG therefore launched its first inquiry on the topic of Equity in STEM Education, and spent the past 15 months gathering and analysing evidence on whether the education system and schools provide equal opportunities for students of all ages to learn STEM subjects.
Based on our successful work in this area, the IOP submitted evidence and was represented on the group.
IOP head of education, Charles Tracy, commented: “England’s education system must ensure that every young person has access to high-quality science teaching at school. We welcome the report’s desire to broaden the focus of under-representation beyond the gender, economic disadvantage or ethnicity – although these remain vitally important.
“The APPG’s report also rightly recognises the important role which physics specialist teachers play in inspiring students from different walks of life into science education and then physics-based industries.
“We look forward to continuing our work with the group and our stakeholders in parliament on this vital issue.”
The group’s findings highlight shortcomings across the education system.
They include the need for a more joined-up approach by government to tackle the causes of inequity in STEM education and the urgency to take a wider, more holistic view of inequity beyond the lens of gender, economic disadvantage or ethnicity.
Other key findings include the need to strengthen STEM-specific teaching, wider access to good careers education, and the inequity schools are reinforcing with their GCSE options, especially in the most disadvantaged areas.
From these findings, the APPG has created six key recommendations. They include calling for a minister responsible for addressing inequity within the education system, making STEM education more relevant to young people, and more action to address teacher shortages in STEM subjects.
The remaining three recommendations include the full implementation and follow up of changes to careers support and guidance, addressing inequities in Double Award and Triple Science at GCSE, and a review of fundamental changes to STEM GCSEs.
APPG on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM chair, Chi Onwurah MP said: “The recent global protests on inequality have only further served to highlight that we must continually review the systems we have in place to ensure they are fit for purpose. Nowhere is this clearer than in STEM education.
“I am pleased to launch the APPG on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM’s first report on the incredibly important topic of equity in STEM education. Our report shows that whatever the socio-economic background, from the age of three onwards, children are currently suffering from the levels of inequity in STEM education.
“It has been encouraging to see my colleagues from across the political spectrum come together with organisations who are leading the way in helping make STEM education more equitable for current and future generations.
“The report contains new ideas and solutions that can help more young people build their skills and raise their aspirations. It is my hope that the government looks closely at the recommendations in the report.
“Addressing the current inequity in STEM education now will pay dividends, as the next generation go on to plug the current STEM skills gap, ensuring the UK continues to be a world leader in scientific and technological innovation.”