Science chief says Scottish Government education report is "flim flam"

Professor Ian Wall, said the government's STEM annual report was "flim flam".Professor Ian Wall, said the government's STEM annual report was "flim flam".
Professor Ian Wall, said the government's STEM annual report was "flim flam".
The founder of the Edinburgh International Science Festival has dismissed a government report on promoting and developing STEM education as "flim flam".

Professor Ian Wall, told MSPs that the latest update on the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths strategy, would be a "fail" if it was a school essay as it was fill of "visuals and meaningless stuff".

He said it was just another report which allowed politicians of all parties to declare "triumph beyond parallel or disaster in which Scottish education is going to the dogs".

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Holyrood's Education and Skills Committee is considering an inquiry into STEM education, and Professor Wall was part of of round table of witnesses, asked to give their views to decide the direction the inquiry will take. A former Chair of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education Committee (STEMEC), Professor Wall stressed that improvement in education needed a long term strategy.

He told MSPs: "Often what is done by all politicians and the civil servants who respond to them, is really really short term. One minor change in a figure [in a report] is either a triumph beyond parallel or disaster in which Scottish education is going to the dogs. All politicians, all parties play this game and it is a game because it's meaningless and counter productive to what we're trying to do.

"If you look current administration's report on its STEM strategy for this year it is a really poor piece of work.

"If it was submitted as an essay to a teacher or a report on a project... it would get a C minus or a D plus or a fail actually. Just look at the figures in there, it's a piece of flim flam. It should be a quarter of its length if you take out the visuals and meaningless stuff."

He added: "It's symptomatic of a problem which is not one party's problem, it's across the piece. There are good recommendations, there's good work, good officers, but there's shortage of resources needed to strategically say, with confidence, we're doing this for the next five years and we don't expect to see answers in year one, but by year five we're beginning to motor. Improving education system it's a long term strategy.

"Reports are valuable, but what's more valuable is an administration which puts them into place in a professional manner."

However, Professor Iain Hunter, Research Professor of Molecular Microbiology at the University of Strathclyde told the committee that he believed it was "important to report annually, to take stock, to see what has happened", to ensure progress is made.

The Scottish Government published its Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Education and Training Strategy for Scotland in October 2017, with a five year span to drive improvements in STEM education and training in Scotland, for all ages.

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The annual report published in February stated that "much progress has been made in this first year to initiate actions and establish active partnerships between stakeholders. In the second year of the strategy, we expect to start to see the impact of this work being demonstrated through improvements in STEM learning in early learning settings, schools, colleges and universities, the science and engagement sector and in community learning and development (CLD) settings."