An annual study by the University of Roehampton has made the discovery that there are now less 16-year-olds getting computing-related qualifications in England.
In 2018, 130,000 students got a GCSE in either computer science or ICT (information and communications technology), down from 140,000 the previous year. In 2019, the IT exam is not an option for students anymore.
The Roehampton Annual Computing Education report “brings together government data on computing provision in English schools, including the school performance tables for exams taken in 2018 and the school workforce census up to 2017”. Essentially, it looks at how schools are doing in the education of children in IT related subjects. This is arguably an extremely important aspect which has grown considerably in the past decade or so, because of the emergence of technology “STEM” related industry jobs.
One of the report’s authors have said that the government are recognising the huge importance of a computing education but still see young people as less likely to access any computing related education now than they were before computer science was introduced.
The report also showed that the number of hours spent teaching those subjects in Key Stage 4 dropped by 47% over the years 2012 to 2017. This equated to 31,000 less hours taught per week.
Sheila Flavell, COO of FDM group and chair of the advisory board at IoC, explained:
“At a time when our nation faces an ever-increasing digital skills gap, it is simply not acceptable that schools are neglecting computing and ICT related qualifications and failing to spark interest in said subjects from a young age.
“This is not just an issue facing the future of our businesses and our economy, but also the livelihood of the future workers who are not being offered the necessary qualifications and skills required to excel in many career options in the digital age.
“Moving forward, it is vital that all education institutions recognise ICT, computing or computer science as essential subjects which must be taught with enthusiasm. The importance of the skills that these subjects provide must also be stressed on a daily basis and many subjects relating to IT should be reintroduced to the core schooling curriculum.”
The findings also resulted in Universities complaining that students were applying to computer-related degrees without ever having learned basic programming at school and this is a concerning gap that must be bridged.
So how is this being changed?
There has been a spread of code clubs now in England and the rest of the United Kingdom with initiatives being started to encourage both children and women into coding and computer related studies. The idea is that this will help to spur job growth in STEM industries, especially encouraging women into technology roles. There is also the birth of the Raspberry Pi project and a new computer science exam within schools that were sparked from concerns over the lack of computer knowledge taught from a young age.
The Department for Education have made computing a compulsory part of the national curriculum stating:
“We are investing £84m over the next four years to up-skill up to 8,000 computer science teachers and drive up participation in computer science”.
What this means for the future of tech jobs
We recently wrote about how initiatives such as Safer Internet Day are there to help children avoid negative experiences with using the internet and more widely, technology; in order to help ensure that the future of talent in STEM industries comes from a diverse pool of people. That being said, it is alarming that there is such a drop in the number of children gaining computing related qualifications and we must do more to encourage the development of people going into STEM industries; consolidating the growth and quality of the UK’s technology sector.
Over at Kaleida we want to help encourage and grow the next generation of software development talent. We take great pride in developing bespoke software for businesses in and around Manchester and this isn’t possible without having exceptional people on board. If you think this might be of interest to you and is something you want to be a part of, please get in touch today.