All primary teachers should have a qualification in science before they are accepted into the profession, an expert has said.

Professor Lesley Yellowlees, chair of the Learned Societies’ Group on Scottish Stem Education, said insisting on a National 5 in at least one science would ensure teachers had sufficient confidence.

Her comments come amidst concern a majority of primary teachers are not confident in science, technology and computing topics because of a lack of knowledge.

Giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s education committee Ms Yellowlees said: “Long term what we should be doing is making sure everybody that goes into primary school teaching has some sort of science qualification at school.

“Let’s make sure everybody has at least one National 5 level qualification so they have some confidence in science as a whole and then maybe raise that and spread it to have more than two or three.

“At the moment there are a significant number of primary school teachers who enter the training with absolutely no science background at all and if you have no science background at all then you are starting from a very low baseline.”

Ms Yellowlees asked how teachers could “help and inspire” pupils to take up science if they had not been inspired themselves.

She added: “There is a long term plan where we should be looking to make sure al our primary school teachers are comfortable teaching science and have an experience of that science as well.”

However, MSP Jenny Gilruth asked whether it was realistic to expect teachers to have National 5 qualifications relevant to all the areas they might have to cover.

Lorna Hay, a primary teacher from Fife, said she would be “hesitant”, adding: “There are already barriers to getting people to become teachers and I feel to add another barrier might just restrict the numbers.”

Shona Birrell, a primary teacher from Edinburgh, told the committee it was useful to have staff with National 5 level qualifications, but said there was also scope for primary schools to work with secondary school subject specialists and industry representatives to improve expertise.

And Dr Karen Petrie, an academic from Dundee University, said a more workable model was to ensure every school had at least one or two experts who could lead teaching and train others. She said: “We might just be asking too much to ask them to be specialists at everything.”