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STEM Subjects: Free Schools

Question for Department for Education

UIN 137529, tabled on 24 April 2018

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many and what proportion of pupils at free schools studied STEM subjects in each of last three years; what steps he is taking to encourage free schools to promote the study of STEM subjects in advance of the roll-out of T levels; and if he will make a statement.

This answer is the replacement for a previous holding answer.

Answered on

4 May 2018

We publish GCSE entries[1] in each subject of pupils at the end of key stage 4[2], by school type[3]. Entries in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects for 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17 in free schools are provided in the table (attached).

The number of students[4], who completed their 16-18 study in either a mainstream free school, or 16 to 19 free school, in 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17 and entered[5] a STEM subject[6] during their 16-18 study are provided in the table[7] (attached):

We do not hold data broken down as vocational STEM qualifications. We publish exam entries by Ofqual sector subject area at:, and in the Statistical Release “ Revised A level and other 16-18 results” at:

Free schools, as academies, have the freedom to choose their own curriculum, providing that it meets the requirements of its funding agreement – for example that it is broad and balanced and includes English, maths and science. It is ultimately for schools to decide whether to offer particular qualifications.

We are working to further increase the take-up of STEM subjects which are vital to the future economic health of the UK and can help boost earnings. This is why at Budget 2017 we announced an additional £406 million in education and skills, including maths, digital and technical education.

We have a number of programmes to improve the quality of STEM teaching in schools and to encourage increased engagement in STEM subjects at GCSE and A level. This includes a new £84 million programme to improve computing teaching, the national network of Science Learning Partnerships which provide training for science teachers, the Teaching for Mastery programme to improve the teaching of mathematics, and a new advanced maths premium to encourage more schools and colleges to teach pupils maths post-16. We are also investing in initiatives to recruit more high quality maths and physics teachers, including bursaries of up to £26,000 and scholarships of up to £28,000 to attract top graduates into teaching.

We are inviting our most selective maths universities to apply to open new specialist maths schools, to help more of our most mathematically able students to succeed in maths at top universities and pursue mathematically intensive careers. We are also encouraging the take up of STEM subjects through the University Technical College programme, which has an important role to play in our reforms to technical education.

[1] Only a pupil’s first attempt at a qualification is counted in performance measures in line with early entry policy (

[2] Pupils are identified as being at the end of key stage 4 if they were on roll at the school and in year 11 at the time of the January school census for that year. Age is calculated as at 31 August for that year, and the majority of pupils at the end of key stage 4 were age 15 at the start of the academic year. Some pupils may complete this key stage in an earlier or later year group.

[3] Tables available at in the subject tables for the revised publication in each year (‘S7a’ for 2015/16 and 2016/17 and ‘S4a’ for 2014/15).

[4] Covers students at the end of advanced level study who were aged 16, 17 or 18 at the start of the academic year, i.e. 31 August.

[5] Where a student has made more than one entry in the same subject only one entry is counted: for example, if a student entered for two physics A levels in a reporting period only one of these entries is counted in the figures shown in this table.

[6] Figures for 2015/16 and 2016/17 cover maths, further maths, biological sciences, chemistry, physics and computer science A level entries during all years of 16-18 study (up to three years). Figures for earlier years cover maths and science A level entries in the final two years of advanced level study.

[7] It is not possible to directly compare figures across different years because of changes in discounting, the inclusion/exclusion of different qualifications, and changes to individual subjects.