Computing A-Level grades are on the rise but the numbers taking subject remain low

17 August 2017

The announcement that nearly 7,600 students in England took A-level Computing means it’s not going to be party time in the IT world for a long time to come, says BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.

Bill Mitchell, Director of Education at BCS said: “These numbers are seriously low compared to the 40,000 level we should be seeing. At least the tiny number this year is 33% up on last year, which gives some sign things can get better. However, the numbers taking GCSE Computer Science are starting to level off, which means we’re not going to see any significant increase in future years on these small numbers taking GCE computing and that’s a concern.

“We need to improve post-16 computer science and computing teaching through better professional development, support and resources. If more took the qualification, it could deliver significant payback for individuals, for the economy and in increased productivity.

“We think the improvement over last year is partly thanks to teachers at GCSE preparing their students better for starting GCE, as evidenced by the increase in grades B and above at schools that are part of the Network of Excellence in Computer Science1, when compared to the national average.

“The UK is facing a digital skills shortage. There aren’t enough teachers in schools and not enough training to become specialist computing teachers. Yet digital skills are in high demand.

“As a society, we need to make sure that our young people are leaving education with the digital skills they need to secure a worthwhile job, an apprenticeship or go onto further study.”

Whilst the numbers have shown a year-on-year increase, the fact remains that fewer than 8,000 students took A-Level Computing. It is expected that 90%2 of all future jobs will require digital skills and it is estimated that the UK will need more than 1.2 million new technical and digitally skilled people by 2022 to satisfy future skills needs.

BCS believes that more investment is needed to support schools and teachers to deliver high quality computing education to develop the thinking skills, knowledge and understanding that are essential for every student. This is essential because we need our children and young people to be effective, capable and safe citizens in an ever-changing digital world.

Rebecca George OBE, Vice Chair and UK Public Sector Leader at Deloitte, commented: “Equipping young people with good quality and relevant computing and IT skills provides a pathway to social mobility. Too many teenagers drop computing after GCSE, harming their job prospects and the wider economy.”

1 Network of Excellence in Computer Science
2 UK Digital Strategy

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