15 February 2011
This fourth and final Royal Society ‘state of the nation’ report considers the ‘pool’ of the UK’s 16–19 year old students taking mainstream science and mathematics combinations suitable for entry to higher education. It makes three major points about these students.
Firstly, the size of this ‘pool’ is critical to the success of any policies to produce more UK science and technology undergraduates to meet the globally competitive ambitions of a knowledge-based economy. England, Wales and Northern Ireland should aim to emulate the high levels of student participation in science and mathematics evident in Scotland. A perpetual cycle of too few of these students feeding through to becoming specialist teachers in schools and colleges needs to be broken.
Secondly, the quality of this ‘pool’ needs to be further improved by ensuring that these specialist teachers are provided with subject-specific continuing professional development, that the curriculum they teach is rigorous, engaging and inspiring, and that the schooling structure within which this happens is conducive to the needs of science and mathematics as subjects.
Thirdly, the potential progression routes for students into higher education must remain as open and transparent as possible aided by relevant and accessible careers information, advice and guidance.