Science stems from here

“To boldly go where no one has gone before” may well be Captain Kirk’s catchphrase as he leads the starship Enterprise across unknown galaxies – but it’s also a challenge being presented to primary and young secondary school pupils in South Ayrshire during 2013.

Our young people are being encouraged to develop their thinking and understanding in subject areas covering science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Despite the worldwide growth of STEM opportunities, business leaders in Scotland have expressed concern that not enough young people are taking STEM subjects at school, leading to a skills gap in a lucrative market.

South Ayrshire teachers are committed to positive destinations for all our young people and opportunities in energy, conservation, computing and research are being seized with both hands as they encourage young people to take an interest in STEM.

Last month head teachers and school staff from each of the three Ayrshire councils met with Prince Charles and representatives from industry at Dumfries House to discuss how that gap might be addressed.

The event was chaired by Heather Reid OBE, the former BBC Reporting Scotland weather reporter, now a member of the Board of Trustees at Glasgow’s Science Centre and delegates were particularly impressed with a ‘Special Leadership’ award won by three pupils in two South Ayrshire primary schools.

Allan Gillespie and Erin Mitchell from Doonfoot primary school and Sophie Shearlaw from Maidens primary won the prestigious leadership awards from Scottish Engineering for their interpretation of a challenge: “If I could be an engineer in Scotland - what would I do?” which challenged primary school pupils in Scotland to undertake research and interview a practising engineer to interpret the statement. They then designed their own piece of work which was exhibited and judged in the Barony Hall, at the Barony Hall at the University of Strathclyde, with just 10 winning entries selected from 68 schools and 1,590 pupils across Scotland.

Councillor Margaret Toner commented: “Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are all possible under Curriculum for Excellence.

A good grounding in these areas will help secure positive opportunities and career paths for future generations. We are confident this journey begins in primary school and we are proud of the examples recognised in the awards.

“During 2013, we’ll be working with a rage of agencies, businesses and practitioners to explore new and exciting ways of helping pupils to understand and experience the wide range of STEM opportunities further.

“We also want to encourage businesses who want to support young people in STEM to target their efforts and resources in a way that will deliver the best results for them and young people. Working together, we aim to fill the STEM skills gap, create employment and secure long-term economic growth in South Ayrshire – a real win-win outcome for all parties involved!”