Surging ICT GCSE figures hide some disturbing trends

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Last week’s positive news about the ICT GCSE – a growth in entries of 38% for the full course, the first increase in eight years – provides much to celebrate. However, figures obtained by e-skills UK show that the picture for the more technology-oriented Computing course is much less rosy.

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The Computing GCSE focuses on the science of the discipline, introducing students to computer systems, algorithms and programming, and developing skills in creative problem solving. As leading tech commentator Richard Holway says, “GCSE Computing is all about coding and creating stuff; not spreadsheets or Powerpoint. It is exactly the kind of course that budding Apps developers and young tech entrepreneurs should study.”

e-skills UK’s analysis of the figures, specially obtained from the Joint Council for Qualifications, shows that only 4,250 young people entered for the Computing GCSE in 2013. This represents less than 6% of all IT-related GCSEs (full course) and less than 0.1% of all GCSEs. Even more disappointingly, only 14% of the students were female, against 44% for the ICT GCSE.

“While we recognise that it is still relatively early days for this new qualification, it is disappointing to see the uptake amongst girls is so low,” says Karen Price, CEO of e-skills UK. “It mirrors the disturbing situation at A level and university. We must redouble our efforts to make this an attractive and relevant option for girls. We know that young women thrive in IT education and can go on to successful and high powered careers in the sector, so it’s vital they stay engaged with technology.”

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