From education to employment

Young people in London far more likely to enjoy learning maths and science in school

Rest of Britain is being left behind, says Teach First CEO as new survey reveals an alarming ‘enjoyment gap’

Young people outside of London are much less likely to enjoy maths and science in school than their peers who live in the capital, posing a real threat to the science and technology sector, reveals research for education charity Teach First.

Research commissioned by the charity found that more than four-fifths (83%) of young people in London enjoy learning science – compared to just two-thirds (68%) outside of the capital. 

And the gap is even wider for maths, with four-fifths (79.5%) of London-based 11-to-16-year-olds enjoying the subject, contrasting with just 57% of those living in the rest of Britain.

The findings, released on the back of British Science Week, were drawn from a national YouGov survey of more than 1,000 young people aged 11 to 16 for Teach First, which is calling for more high-quality STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) teachers to inspire the next generation.

According to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM, roles in new and emerging STEM industries are “disproportionately concentrated in London and the Southeast”

Teach First says this has contributed to the STEM enjoyment gap between the capital and the rest of the country, with young people outside of London unable to see themselves in a STEM career.

This nationwide imbalance when it comes to enjoyment in learning maths and science is a major concern for the future of STEM in the UK, as missed recruitment opportunities from different parts of the country will only exacerbate the skills shortage currently facing the sector.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has estimated a shortfall of more than 173,000 workers in the British STEM sector, an average of 10 unfilled roles per business, costing the UK economy more than £1.5 billion a year.

As teachers play a key role in shaping the future of young people, Teach First believes recruiting and training more high-quality STEM teachers for the classrooms facing the greatest challenges is vital to boost the UK’s future workforce. 

Making sure young people from all areas are interested in maths and science, and therefore thinking about a career in STEM, will increase the UK’s productivity and enhance its ability to tackle existential issues such as climate change and net-zero in the years ahead.

Teach First CEO Russell Hobby said:

“Young people from outside of London have so much potential when it comes to maths and science, but to avoid them being left behind we must ensure they enjoy STEM subjects as much as their London-based counterparts. 

“By providing every young person with brilliant careers education, we can make them aware of a career in STEM that, maybe, they hadn’t thought about.

“In an age of remote working, geography shouldn’t be a barrier to success in STEM, which is why we’re calling for blended work experience placements so that young people from all communities can gain vital knowledge of STEM careers.”

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