Concern over dramatic drop in Fife pupils studying science subjects

Figures have revealed that the number of youngsters in S4 choosing biology, chemistry or physics fell by almost a third.

Concern over dramatic drop in Fife pupils studying science subjects iStock

A dramatic drop in the number of senior school pupils in Fife studying science subjects should be cause for concern, according to an MSP.

New figures have revealed that the number of young people in S4 classes choosing to study either biology, chemistry or physics fell by almost a third (31%) from 2019/20 to 2020/21, while there was a 7.8% decrease in S5 pupils doing likewise over the same period.

The biggest drops recorded at S4 level were seen in Dunfermline High and Beath High Schools, where statistics reached a five-year low.

Inverkeithing High, Queen Anne High and St Columba’s RC High in Dunfermline, and Madras College in St Andrews also saw sizeable falls in S5 pupils pursuing the sciences.

Mid-Scotland and Fife Labour MSP Alex Rowley has expressed his shock at the figures and confirmed he is writing to Fife Council seeking answers as to what actions are going to be taken to promote and support young people in science subjects.  

“In a world that is increasingly reliant on technology, advancements in medicines and scientific knowledge, it must be a concern that the numbers of Fife young people studying the sciences and taking higher qualifications has dropped so drastically,” he stressed. 

“The council education services must explain what is happening and what they are doing to encourage and support young people to study the sciences.

“If we are to equip young people for the modern-day world of work, they will need knowledge and skills in subjects such as biology, chemistry and physics.”

According to the figures obtained under Freedom of Information, a total of 1166 fewer pupils in S4 studied chemistry, biology or physics across the region last year than the year before.

Five hundred of those were recorded at Dunfermline High School alone.

Analysis of S5 pupil preference was less pronounced, but still amounted to a drop of around 118 pupils doing sciences between 2019/20 and 2020/21.

Lynn Porter, education manager with Fife Council’s Education and Children’s Services, said: “Young people choose the subjects they wish to progress with into the senior phase of their learning.

“We’re aware of the importance of STEM (science, technologies, engineering and mathematics) to the economy and the labour market, and we are currently working with a number of partners regarding a refreshed STEM framework.

“A three-year implementation plan is being compiled; this includes a science skills progression pathway which will enable learners to develop the necessary employability skills to lead them into a positive STEM destination should this be their preference.”

By local democracy reporter Craig Smith

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