CHILDREN as young as three are to be targeted as part of an action plan to boost enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The Scottish Government’s STEM strategy will see a network of specialist advisors established by the end of next year to help nursery, primary and secondary schools.

They will be asked to support teaching and help raise pupil performance in science and maths subjects - seen as crucial to the future of the economy.

New school buildings will also be assessed to make sure they have the right facilities.

Earlier this month, Education Secretary John Swinney announced new £20,000 bursaries for people who want to change careers to become STEM teachers.

The action plan also includes measures to tackle unconscious bias and gender stereotyping around STEM subjects and create more positive role models.

The plan also sets out to prioritise STEM in the expansion of apprenticeships and increase access to public science engagement events for young women and people from deprived communities.

Science Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “If we are to realise the ambition to build a modern, dynamic, open economy which benefits everyone in Scotland, we must support everyone to develop their STEM capability and skills.

“I am confident through this strategy we can unlock the opportunities the future holds for all of Scotland to flourish.”

Liz Smith, education spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives, broadly welcomed the plan, but criticised current progress as “painfully slow”.

Iain Gray, education spokesman for Scottish Labour, questioned whether the strategy was urgent or bold enough given cuts to teacher numbers.

He said: “”Since 2007 we’ve lost over 800 STEM teachers from our schools and enrolment and pass rates in recent years in STEM subjects have not just fallen at Higher level, but at National 4 and 5 levels too.”

He called for bursaries for trainee STEM teachers to be extended to incentivise new graduates and not just those changing career.