18 June 2018

Concerns about class size and ongoing issues over the gender gap when it comes to studying computer science have been flagged up as key areas that need to be addressed - according to the Roehampton Annual Education Report.

The report, which has been welcomed by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, reveals that the number of students taking computing as a subject, since it was introduced into the curriculum in England in 2014 have grown steadily. In 2017, 67,000 students sat the Computer Science GCSE - a great achievement, given the qualification has only existed for three years. This is in addition to the 59,000 who sat ICT; a qualification being ended this summer.

Julia Adamson, Director of Education, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT says: “Whilst the report highlights some positives, there are number of areas of concern. For example, the slowing of take-up of the subject at GCSE; the effect of class size, the gender gap, and the clear need to increase the ability range of those taking the qualifications. The gender mix identified in this report also starkly shows the need to engage more girls in the subject, whilst the ethnicity data shows very patchy engagement. The report also raises the danger of further exacerbating these issues as GCSE and A-level ICT are removed from the curriculum in 2018. What’s clear from the report is that despite much good work to date, we still have a lack of young people with the work ready digital and computing skills that our economy needs.”

She continues: “The quality of this research means we can discuss the societal and ethical issues in education from a position of knowledge rather than supposition. We estimate that we need half a million more children to gain computing qualifications each year. As part of this, we need to ensure that girls and students from poorer and ethnic minority backgrounds are not left behind. This means we need a wholehearted commitment to deliver a world-class computing education to every child in every school, irrespective of their background.

To deliver these digital skills, we need to improve the supply of qualified, capable, and confident computing teachers. We need to attract, retain, and importantly, support even more outstanding and inspirational specialist computing teachers to join those who already do an amazing job in schools. With the right support, computing teachers become more effective at developing pupils’ advanced digital skills, increase the number of students gaining computing qualifications, and improve the grades that students achieve. These teachers will be pivotal in developing children’s understanding of the real-world through understanding the world of digital technology. They will also be at the forefront of ensuring that all sectors of the economy have the digital skills they need to thrive.

We also need to ensure that there is a range of suitable qualifications available to students at KS4 and beyond - a range that is relevant to employers and to young people as they transition either into further specialist study or full-time employment. These options need to achieve the combination of being suitably inspirational to young people, whilst at the same time being academically rigorous and equipping young people for the digital world.”

Julia concludes: “We know that giving young people the opportunity to develop advanced digital and computing skills has a positive impact on their future life chances. Doing so helps them to gain a deeper understanding of computing and thinking skills that consequently gives them a much greater chance of reaching their potential. Indeed, in our own recent BCS Social Mobility in IT report, we found that careers in tech are a quicker, cheaper and more effective way of achieving a meaningful career path and well-paid job, and that it helps people become more socially mobile than many of the more traditional professions, such as law or medicine.”

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