Low-income parents believe their children “unlikely” to have STEM career

24th January 2024
Paige West

A recent study has highlighted growing concerns among parents from less affluent communities regarding their children's prospects in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) careers.

According to a YouGov survey, commissioned by Teach First, over half (51%) of these parents consider it “unlikely” for their children to pursue a career in STEM fields.

The survey, which polled 750 parents, was released in conjunction with the International Day of Education on 24th January. It underscores the urgent need for more high-quality maths and science teachers in schools. Alarmingly, 88% of parents expressed the need for better-equipped educators in these subjects.

This skills gap in STEM subjects is seen as a potential roadblock to the UK’s economic growth and its capability to address critical issues like climate change. Teach First has been advocating for incentives to attract teachers specialising in shortage subjects like maths and science. This issue has gained traction with both the Conservatives and Labour, making maths education a focal point in the upcoming general election.

Teach First underscores the importance of recruiting and retaining top-tier STEM teachers, especially in schools serving underprivileged communities, to bolster the UK’s future STEM workforce. Teachers play a pivotal role in students' academic success and in shaping their career goals.

Additionally, Teach First conducted a survey of over 1,000 young individuals aged 11 to 16, exploring their views on STEM careers. The findings revealed that only about two-fifths (41.8%) of those from lower socio-economic backgrounds considered a STEM career.

Teach First CEO Russell Hobby commented: “These findings paint a worrying picture for the UK’s STEM sector. A nationwide skills shortage in science and maths will have dire consequences for our economic growth and stop us tackling urgent problems such as climate change. Inspiring young people to pursue a career in STEM starts with getting great teachers where they are most needed: schools serving low-income communities. Last year saw a threefold increase in Teach First’s recruitment of physics teachers, but our job is not done yet.”

Hobby also emphasised the need for increased pay for trainee teachers in shortage subjects such as maths and science, particularly in areas of low income, aligning this with the nation's growth plan.

James Hulse, Deputy Headteacher and Teach First Ambassador science teacher at Heworth Grange School in Gateshead, added: “Science and maths are vital in preparing the next generation for all elements of life, whether that’s developing critical thinking, financial literacy or preparing them for STEM careers. It is vital we provide a brilliant foundation for so many bright futures. At Heworth Grange School, we link our STEM subject curricula to manufacturing, electronics, and cyber-tech jobs in the North East so pupils can directly see and experience where the subjects could take them within their local community.”

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