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Computing GCSEs slump prompts skills fears

19 June 2017 technology-news


A decline in the total number of students taking GCSEs in computing subjects is fuelling fears of a looming skills shortage.

The number of year 11 students taking one of the two computing GCSEs which are currently available, ICT and computer science, has slumped, according to figures released by Ofqual.

Despite a 3% increase in overall GCSE entries in England in 2017 there were fewer students selecting computing subjects.

The decline was especially notable in the ICT examination, which will be available for the last time in 2018, while there was a very limited rise in its successor GCSE in computer science.

The availability of sufficiently trained educators for computer science has also prompted concerns as the number of students choosing the subject has “stagnated”, according to the British Computing Society (BCS).

BCS stated that it is “deeply concerned” about the stagnation and what it means for the British economy in the future.

Its director of education, Bill Mitchell, said the statistics “spell trouble for one of the most important subjects for the nation” and shows that “we need to provide extra support for schools”.

MPs have warned of a looming “digital skills crisis” if the Government does not concentrate on providing computing education to younger students.

In an inquiry last year, the science and technology committee of the House of Commons stressed the importance of increasing digital skills among the young.

The report predicted that 90% of all future jobs will require digital skills, and the UK will need more than 1.2 million technically and digitally skilled people by 2022 to meet demands.

Mr Mitchell said: “We must ensure that schools are properly equipped to provide the best possible options for students at GCSE and that includes computer science.

“Our view is that will only happen where we make sure teachers are getting the right professional development to make GCSE computer science a success.”

The proportion of girls taking the computer science GCSE is improving, but “still not acceptable”, according to the BCS. The figure was up from 16% in 2015 to 20% in 2016.

Debbie Tunstall, from the not-for-profit Cyber Security Challenge UK, said: “We know that girls tend to be more interested in behavioural and social sciences, so key elements of computing, such as social engineering and cyber criminology, should be highlighted (to them), as well as coding and analysis jobs.”


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