An overhaul of A-levels and better teaching are needed to boost the numbers of young people progressing to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects in higher education, according to an influential new study.
The Royal Society released its final report into STEM teaching this week, examining the low number of young people opting for science and mathematics at higher education level.
"Ultimately, a minority of these will become the next generation of excellent UK scientists and technologists that we so badly need," said Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society.
The report calls for more specialist teachers to be supported by professional development as well as outlining the need for better career advice and an improved curriculum.
"A seemingly self-perpetuating cycle has been established, with too few scientists and mathematicians being produced to help inspire and educate the next generation," said the Royal Society in the report.
The society blamed a lack of enjoyment of the subjects and lack of knowledge of STEM careers for the shortfall in candidates. It called for "unprecedented action" to attract specialist STEM teachers into schools.
"Unfortunately, the crisis in recruitment and retention of science and mathematics teachers has been apparent for more than 25 years, and it will take many more years to achieve a turnaround," the report said.
For technology and science degree subjects, university departments favour candidates with more than one science A-level, said the Royal Society, suggesting an A-level-based Baccalaureate could enable more students to take a wider range of subjects.