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BCS deeply concerned over stagnation of number of Computer Science GCSE applicants

Increase of GCSE students taking computer science stagnates as the lack of qualified and confident computer science teachers becomes critical.

Figures released by Ofqual today show a major reduction in the growth of students opting to take GCSE computer science in 2017, compared with 2016.

There is a very modest increase in students registered for GCSE Computer Science to a total of 67,800 year 11 students compared to 61,220 year 11 students in 2016.  

Bill Mitchell, Director of Education at BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, said: “This is deeply worrying. Computer Science was only introduced three years ago and is still a new subject for schools. The number of students taking GCSE Computer Science should be growing very rapidly as schools improve their offering to students and students realise the relevance of the subject for whatever they might be doing in the future.

“Although only one data point, this stagnation in the increase of entries spells trouble for one of the most important subjects for the nation and signals we need to provide extra support for schools”.

It is expected that 90%1 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 20222 to satisfy future skills needs, Computer Science GCSE is one of the key pathways that young people can take. 

Bill continues: “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 CAS Network of Excellence has proved that it helps schools increase cohort sizes and improve GCSE results. Schemes like this need more resources to help schools attract more students in future.”

BCS believes that as many as 70% of secondary school computer science teachers could be lacking a relevant computer science background to teach at GCSE level. This puts significant pressure on staff as they struggle to get to grips with the extensive subject knowledge and skills needed to teach the subject well.   

The CAS Network of Excellence (NoE), free to teachers, provides access to good practice and support from other schools, to free help from world leading universities, and a wealth of support from the existing 26,500 CAS members who include university academics, IT professionals from global corporations and outstanding teachers in over 3,000 schools across the UK. Under the current contract, the NoE is only funded to reach 20% of all schools in England.

1 Digital Skills Crisis 2016-17 House of Commons Science and Technology Committee  

2 UK Digital Strategy 2017

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