GCSE Computing: Why isn’t it attracting students?
Updated for GCSE Results 2019
The results are in, and unfortunately it’s still not an A* (or a 9 as per the new(ish) scoring system) for Computing-related subjects at GCSE.
First up, good news: The number of girls taking Computing at GCSE level rose by 14% this year, which is heartening. In addition, the number of students as a whole taking Computing increased by 6,000.*
However, Computing still only makes up a minute portion of all GCSE entries, at just 1.5%. What’s more, the number of students sitting for wider Computing-related exams fell significantly.
There is so much hard work going on behind the scenes to help enhance students’ prospects, from employability charities, community-focused businesses, not-for-profit groups and progressive schools. But despite this, digital skills are still not meeting employer expectations. Young people are still at a loss for work experience opportunities with the lack of school-organised placements. And continuing to encourage girls and women into STEM subjects is still slow-moving.
So what can us business leaders do? It may be two years since the below post was written, but the core message remains the same:
- Seek opportunities to visit schools, even as early as Primary level. Hold assemblies, career talks or interview practice sessions.
- Engage with schools, colleges, careers services and grass-roots groups in your local community. Where can you add value?
- Provide opportunities for students to enter your workplace or experience ‘a day in the life’ of a developer, programmer, designer, marketer – any digital role.
- Invest in apprenticeships and share success stories.
- Celebrate the doors that tech can open.
Here’s to a brighter Computing future for 2020 – and here’s hoping that Bill Mitchell’s warning below does not come true…
*All stats quoted from TechMarketView
This week we learnt that GCSE Computing has continued to receive poor uptake from students.
The computer science qualification received a mere 67,800 registrations this year.* What’s more, only 20% of those registered are girls.**
Put into context, this year there were 5.1m GCSE entries, meaning GCSE Computing received just 1.3% of this total. That figure is under an eighth of the registrations GCSE English Literature received.
“If we don’t act now, by 2020 we are likely to see the number of students studying computing at GCSE halve, when it should be doubling. If that happens, it will be a disaster for our children, and the future of the nation.” – Bill Mitchell, British Computing Society
What can be done?
We’ve often talked about the skills shortage in STEM subjects. There are so many great industries that students can enter using qualifications such as GCSE Computing, but it seems that less and less of them are seeing the appeal, or potential. Technology is developing at such a fast rate that many job roles we see today didn’t exist 10 or even 5 years ago – and we don’t want current students to get left behind.
At Hireserve, we’re big advocates of the involvement of local businesses in students’ education. We believe that one way to tackle the lack of students taking the computer science GCSE (and lack of girls particularly) can be to get employers into schools as early as possible. This could be in the form of careers talks, work experience or even opening your offices up to students for an afternoon. This allows them to speak to your staff and gain insights into different career paths and doors into the industry.
Perhaps we even need to start at junior school level; opening younger students’ eyes to industries and professions they may not even know existed may help to encourage more registrations to crucial STEM subjects when it comes to choosing their GCSE subjects. This early interaction can also help to dispel stereotypes and misconceptions that lead to gender-dominated subjects.
It is our belief that employers (particularly those working in technology) can contribute hugely to help bridge the skills gap in future generations. There will be no one-size-fits-all solution, but more needs to be done to encourage future generations into STEM subjects, and it needs to start now.
For more information on how you could help as an industry professional, speak to your local educational establishment or career advice centre. Alternatively, explore working with a local educational charity (for example The Consortium).
*Computing in schools – alarm bells over England’s classes – BBC
** GCSE Computing has poor uptake – Tech Market View
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