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Will dedicated maths schools help to meet the need for Stem specialists?

Discussion in 'Education news' started by TES_Rosaline, May 22, 2019.

  1. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    Do you think the introduction of regional centres of excellence will encourage more pupils to study science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects at A level and in higher education:

    ‘Plans for two new specialist maths schools have been approved by the government, it was announced today.

    The schools, which will offer specialist provision for 16- to 19-year-olds who show particular aptitude in maths, will be backed by the universities of Surrey and Lancaster respectively.’

    What are your views? Do the plans go far enough? What do you think should be done to encourage pupils to take up Stem and create future specialists in these subjects?

  2. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    So two communities may benefit. Rest of the country see no change.

    Will they offer provision for the other subjects?
    What happens to other sixth form providers in the area who then lose critical numbers of their brightest students?

    I'm sure a hundred extra mathematicians will be quite enough.
    Encourage and support STEM teachers? Give post 16 providers enough funding to allow the full range of A levels, including smallish groups.

    We've been here before. It seems like only yesterday that we had Kenneth Baker's UTCs -several of which seem to be struggling. Not so long ago we had specialist schools, before that, it was technology colleges, before that it was EITB specialism.

    Setting up flagship A level providers is lovely for the youngsters who get into them - but a balanced post 16 education shouldn't just be about the maths and science. The brightest have usually decided to specialise in science well before age 16.
    If we want to get an increase in the numbers of A level mathematicians, we need high quality STEM teaching from at least KS3 (I'm not going to argue with anyone who says earlier). This means lots of good teachers, resources that work, enough technician time, support with the best resources for learning (texts, courses,online stuff), sensible class sizes, access to training in a wide range of forms (including teachers from different schools talking to each other).
    Do the Government want to deliver this? Pull the other one. They want to deliver the pretence of caring with minimal expenditure so they can continue to shrink the state.

    In addition.
    A tiny number of specialist colleges will only get the teenagers with the (parental) funding to travel.
    bessiesmith, Stiltskin and Jamvic like this.
  3. miss_singmarbles

    miss_singmarbles New commenter

    From what I know of one of the two existing maths schools, they scour the region to attract talented mathematicians away from other providers, even where excellent provision already exists. They do offer a great experience from a maths point of view but a very narrow curriculum. All students have to take maths, further maths and either physics or computing. They can take one other subject at the FE college nearby but to my mind that presents a very narrow view of what maths can be used for and unsurprisingly their intake is overwhelmingly male even though A level maths entries nationwide are roughly 50:50. So while I admire a lot of what they do, I have serious reservations and suspect most of their students would do just as well elsewhere.
  4. Jolly_Roger15

    Jolly_Roger15 Star commenter

    This goes back to the supposed shortage of STEM teachers, which is something of a myth. Why are so many experienced and well-qualified STEM subject teachers unable to find teaching jobs?
  5. nervousned

    nervousned Senior commenter

    That is because it is a shortage of the "right type" of STEM teachers. Strangely adequate subject knowledge often is omitted from this definition.
  6. JaquesJaquesLiverot

    JaquesJaquesLiverot Established commenter

    My understanding is that there's also a mismatch between the location of the training providers and the location of the jobs, which is why the forums contain both teachers complaining that they can't get jobs, and schools complaining that they can't get staff.
  7. colpee

    colpee Star commenter

    I am all for it. Post-16 education should be about real choice to follow a passion and if that can be done in a a grown-up and mature setting, all the better. Far too many 6 form providers are too much like an extension of year 6 with their dreary plough through text book curriculum.
    ParakeetGreen likes this.
  8. colpee

    colpee Star commenter

    Year 11 I actually meant:rolleyes:
  9. Lalex123

    Lalex123 Occasional commenter

    Why would someone who studied a STEM subject go into teaching? The salary is poor, the hours are long and the chance of promotion for good teachers seems to disappear because they want to keep you teaching! Better to work in industry with the high wages, varied work tasks, fewer hours (or paid overtime if you want it) and a boss that values experience instead of putting you on capability if you become too expensive.
  10. JaquesJaquesLiverot

    JaquesJaquesLiverot Established commenter

    The hours might be long in teaching, but the wages aren't poor unless you live in London. My brother's a Chemistry graduate, and some people from his course went to work at places like Glaxo, and started on very low wages - lower than for teachers. I'm a Computer Science graduate and would struggle to equal my teaching wage here in the Midlands.

    My experience of working in industry is that people with a lot of technical expertise are generally the least-well paid. It's the managers, HR, etc., who earn more, despite often having no knowledge of the industry they're working in - there are team leaders of programmers, for example, who don't know how to program.
    phlogiston likes this.
  11. nervousned

    nervousned Senior commenter

    In contrast, I'm now in industry and two years in I am earning approximately the top of the upper pay scale for teaching and I'm not qualified yet.
  12. ParakeetGreen

    ParakeetGreen New commenter

    The question here and what problem is suggested that it "may solve" is different from the objective stated from the quote source from the link given:

    From this it seems the strategy of these centres is with respect to channelling more high aptitude students (the small population % that are extremely highly numerate for example) into potential career areas that impact very positively on the economy. If that is the intention it is understandable. It does not seem to be the intention that such centres will change the facts on the ground for the other 90-95% of the population with respect to STEM. That is a different question and probably a lot more complicated too.

    On that basis it probably is a good strategy. As others point out there are limitations eg locality. However from my own experience of working with talented students in struggling schools in Surrey, coincidentally, it may be a good option for them, if they are already heavily interested in Engineering, Computing (hardware or software) and other numerate disciplines and there "little clear guidance" channelling towards practicing their interests more successfully and sooner. I wish I could have suggested a clear roadmap for some of these students as it felt like they found the schedule of little use given they could complete for example the maths in a lesson in the first 10-15 minutes and then had no resources to pursue their interest in computer hardware. A great shame imo.

    The 2 main distinctions with this group is 1) They disproportionately contribute to the economy (potentially) positively 2) They are an easy to identify group in the first place: Measurement systems by numbers actually works with this group (where it does not for hypothetical other "groups"). Therefore provision of such centres may be successful on this criteria. This seems backed up by the conclusion to the report taking prior example schools very high success measurements into account:

    Ultimately, it would be hoped that such identification of other distinct 'special groups' of students (for example at the other end of measured academic aptitude) would become more possible and then tailored provision in other and more areas more possible, in the future.
  13. SomethingWicked

    SomethingWicked Occasional commenter

    Asking for a friend... obviously...

    Do you mind sharing what sort of work it is? (apologies if you've written about this already elsewhere)
  14. moscowbore

    moscowbore Lead commenter

    Problem is that students are so coached they are not allowed to develop independent thinking skills . The specialist schools will only contain the academic elite and will not increase the number of numerate school leavers.
  15. nervousned

    nervousned Senior commenter

    I'm training to be an actuary
  16. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Lead commenter

    Changing DT to Engineering would probably have more of an impact. Especially if it made more students realise engineering isn't fixing boilers or cars.

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