23 August 2018

Record numbers of students are celebrating top grades in their Computer Science GCSE exams today (Thursday) - but the number of students with a qualification in computing has fallen, as far fewer students sat the ICT examination, which has been discontinued.

There has been a decline of 22,850 - or 16.6% - of students leaving Key Stage 4 with a qualification in computing-related subjects, it is clear the subject has suffered from too little funding and a lack of awareness, with the result that uptake is still too low.

BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, calls for far more Computer Science candidates are needed to meet Government targets of 1.2 million new technical and digitally skilled people in the workforce by 2022.

In Computer Science 44,164 students ­- 61.4% of the total - attained grades 9 to 4, equivalent to the old A* to C grades. 14,961 - 20.7% of the total ­- achieved grades 9 to 7, equivalent to the old A* and A grades. The number of candidates sitting Computer Science was 71,928, up 11.2% year-on-year.

In ICT, 27,357 students - 64.4% of the total - attained grades 9 to 4. The number of candidates sitting ICT was 42,480, down 41.8% year-on-year.

Julia Adamson, Director of Education at BCS, said: “Computer Science was only introduced four years ago and is still a new subject for schools.

“These results are testament to the energy and enthusiasm teachers have put into giving a great many children the high quality, inspiring computing education they need.”

“There is a critical need to improve computer science teaching through better professional development, support and resources. We need to recognise the value of the subject and students, particularly girls, need to be encouraged and supported to take the subject.

“Equipping young people with good quality and relevant computing and IT skills provides a pathway to social mobility. We need to help ensure all pupils, regardless of background, receive the best possible education and the same access to opportunity." 

The call was echoed by Sue Sentance, board member of Computing At School, part of BCS, who said: “If education is about helping children to understand the world around them and preparing them for the world of work, then Computer Science in schools is vital when 90% of future jobs will require digital skills.”

And Miles Berry, Principal Lecturer in Computing Education at the University of Roehampton, said: “Whilst I’m glad there’s be an increase in uptake, it’s sad to see the end of GCSE ICT, with a consequent narrowing of digital skills at this level.

“I wonder if it’s time to look at developing a broad, balanced GCSE in computing, to cover computer science, information technology and digital literacy, just as our world leading national curriculum does.”

And speaking for industry, Rebecca George OBE, Vice Chair and UK Public Sector Leader at Deloitte, said: “Equipping young people with good quality and relevant computing and IT skills provides a pathway to social mobility.

“Too few teenagers realise how many and varied IT job opportunities there are, and the vital contribution that IT makes to the wider economy.”

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