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News: Programme launches to engage youth workers in STEM and build wellbeing

Posted 21 March, 2023 by Nina Joynson

Science Ceilidh is launching a new project to explore the impact of STEM on both youth work and on young people’s confidence and wellbeing.

The two-year Curiosity In Action programme will explore the use of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) in youth work by building an evidence base and country-wide network.

The project is facilitated by Science Ceilidh in partnership with YouthLink Scotland, with funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

The project is now looking for ten youth groups to pair with STFC researchers in a collaborative research process. The groups will investigate ways in which participatory STEM activities can support youth work and enhance young people's confidence, resilience and wellbeing.

Learning from the research phase will shape free training opportunities and resources for science educators and community learning and development (CLD) practitioners.

Working from evidence

The programme was born from research for Education Scotland on structural barriers to STEM engagement in schools, highlighting that youth workers lack confidence in teaching with STEM.

The research found that challenges to education include levels of scientific literacy, a need to connect STEM to other parts of the curriculum and how STEM relates to the real world and societal challenges.

Building a network 

An event will take place next week to launch the wider Curiosity In Communities network, to bring science educators, researchers and CLD practitioners together to connect and share learning.

The 28 March event will introduce the programme with a panel discussion and workshops, with all network meetings and training opportunities free to access through STFC funding.

A Curiosity In Action steering group member said:

“We hope to make youth workers feel more comfortable using creative STEM in their work, without feeling intimidated because of them not being a “specialist” in it, and to be able to support young people's wellbeing.

“Youth workers will no doubt already be using STEM in their practices without realising it - this project will hopefully just show them that STEM is everywhere.”

Click here to learn more about the programme

Click here to learn more about the launch event on 28 March, 10:30-16:00, Edinburgh

A computer screen with a coding programme open. In front of that is a laptop, with a woman's hand and arm in shot, pointing at something on its screen

News: Pupils encouraged to learn digital technologies with new funding

Posted 8 February, 2023 by Nina Joynson

Applications are open for a digital fund that supports tech initiatives which enhance the development of young people's digital skills.

Now in its eighth year, the Digital Xtra Fund has opened applications for schools and organisations looking to access funding towards extracurricular digital skills education.

Improving digital skills

Launched in 2016, the fund has so far secured almost £1 million to deliver coding and tech clubs and initiatives across Scotland.

The fund was established to increase the number of young people who study tech-related disciplines and further tech careers by encouraging Scottish pupils to learn digital and computing skills.

In the 2022/23 round, the Digital Xtra Fund is supporting 45 initiatives across 24 local authorities, and projects that more than 7,400 young people will be engaged, including a 50% take-up by girls and young women.

Rebecca Court, Head of Marketing at Incremental Group (one of the fund's industry backers) said:

“The Digital Xtra Fund undertakes such important work across Scotland. The team’s commitment to addressing the alarming digital skills gap while also focusing on increasing diversity and inclusivity in the tech sector, a sector where women continue to be underrepresented, is key to everyone’s future success. 

It is vital the corporate sector and government recognise that when we support grassroots initiatives, especially for young people, it is a win-win for communities, industry, and Scotland as a whole.”

Industry support

The fund receives support from donations, sponsorship and grants, and distributes these funds to eligible organisations that advance the use of digital and computing science education in Scotland.

It is currently in negotiations with several companies to increase the level of funding awarded. The Scottish Government has also pledged to match industry support.

The cost of living crisis and economic downturn has put a strain on charities and organisations that support the Fund, and now Kraig Brown, the Fund's Parternship and Development Manager, has called for new partners to invest, especially those in the corporate sector.

Currently, Baillie Gifford, J.P. Morgan, Accenture, ScotlandIS, Skyscanner, and Incremental Group are on board as industry sponsors, amongst others.

Click here to learn more about applying for the 2023-24 grant

A photo of a man doing the BSL signs for computer science with his hands. The text at the bottom reads 'computer science' and the Skills Development Scotland and University of Edinburgh logos are in the top.

News: 500 BSL signs added to create a more inclusive tech sector

Posted 30 March 2022, by Nina Joynson

More than 500 British Sign Language signs have been created for terms related to digital technology to make the sector more inclusive for Deaf young people.

The new British Sign Language (BSL) signs have been created for words used in the industry, covering computer science, cyber security, data science and software development.

The development is the result of a partnership between Skills Development Scotland, Data Education in Schools, the DDI Skills Gateway and the Scottish Sensory Centre which saw deaf tech experts spend eight months with sign linguists developing and testing the new signs.

Before the glossary was launched, Deaf people often had to spell out individual letters for specialised terms. These new signs will help the community to access qualifications and careers, making it easier and more efficient to communicate about digital skills and jobs.

Seventeen-year-old pupil Billy-Jack Gerrard is deaf and wants to pursue AI and computer science at university. He said:

“These signs will make a huge difference in terms of both studying for the right skills for a job in tech, and then also for actually working in the sector itself."

"Once embedded into the fabric of BSL, the consistent use of the terms will make life so much easier, and in turn far more inclusive, for deaf people like me wanting to pursue a digital career.”

One of the team members responsible for the new signs was Ben Fletcher, Principal Engineer with the Financial Times. He said:

“Throughout my whole life I have studied and worked in computing, but tech and BSL have often been a difficult combination.  There’s a huge list of computing terms, very few of which have dedicated and widely recognised signs, and others I just had to make up.  It was very frustrating.

“We now have a standard glossary that will really help Deaf people in schools, colleges, universities and workplaces across the UK.”

While there are already more than 500 signs in the glossary, the list will grow. Kate Farrell, Data Education in Schools, said:

“Like the technology itself, which is constantly changing, the accompanying language also has to be updated. So by its very nature, this BSL glossary will have to do the same. We therefore welcome the continued input from technologists, deaf or otherwise, to ensure that we stay up to date with the terminology around skills and jobs in tech.”

Click here to find the full list of signs on the SSC website

A person working on a laptop, their hair is concealing their face. A phone is on the desk next to them
Young person working on laptop

News: Computing Science gets a boost in Scottish schools

Posted 9 February 2022, by Nina Joynson

Computing Science in schools will benefit from government funding and a new industry mentoring scheme, following reports that the subject needs to be revived for success.

The Scottish Government has announced a £1.3 million investment in digital technology resources in response to an independent review that highlighted weaknesses in how schools handle computing science.

Every state sector school will be offered support to revive the subject, while secondary schools are invited to bid for grants up to £3,000 to invest in additional equipment, software and teaching resources.

Announced earlier this week, opposition MSPs have reacted critically to the funding, arguing that the amount falls short.

Michael Marra MSP, Education Spokesperson for Scottish Labour said:

“This does not amount to even a sticking plaster for the massive cut in education resources that will only see the crisis in computing science and digital skills under this government increase.”

Computing science on the curriculum

The funding comes after teaching groups and individuals emphasised the need for better computing science education, with shortcomings seen in the curriculum currently and reflected in the workforce.

In 2020, the Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review found that 13,000 digital tech jobs are created in Scotland every year, bringing £1 billion to the economy. They assessed approximately 5,000 of these jobs are filled by Scots, appointed after university or using apprenticeship schemes.

The review concluded that change needed to start in school to enthuse young people about these subjects and the career opportunities in the computing and tech sector. They advise recognising Computing Science as a core subject taught from S1.

However, a shortage of teaching staff means many schools no longer offer the subject, with figures suggesting a Scottish ‘computing science crisis’:

  • The number of teachers specialising in computing science dropped by 22% between 2008 and 2020
  • The number of pupils studying the subject dropped by 65% between 2001 and 2020
  • Only 17% of Highers in the subject were awarded to girls in 2021, highlighting a stark gender disparity gap.

Supporting the future workforce

Encouragingly, change is already visible with a 7% increase in the overall number completing a Computing Science Higher in 2021.

The continued interest and engagement with computing science is being supported through the rollout of a new scheme, alongside the additional funding.

Working in partnership with ScotlandIS, DYW Glasgow and Skills Development Scotland, the Digital Critical Friends programme pairs computing science teachers with industry experts. It aims to address the digital skills gap by sharing industry practices and feeding relevant knowledge into the curriculum.

The programme currently only operates in Glasgow, with recruitment of industry mentors happening in four newly announced areas: Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire, Dumfries and Galloway, and the Scottish Borders.

Phil Ford, Head of Digital Technologies at Skills Development Scotland, said:

“Our goal is to ensure the curriculum is industry relevant, that teachers are upskilled and sector savvy, and young people have an increased awareness of digital career opportunities.”

To learn more about the scheme, click here to visit the ScotlandIS website.