Computing In English Schools In Sharp Decline – Report

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Schools in England are cutting back the hours teaching computing, and fewer pupils are achieving ICT qualifications

A new study has made for depressing reading about the state of ICT education in English schools.

A report from the University of Roehampton revealed that fewer 16-year-olds in England are getting a computing qualification.

Even worse, it seems that schools are also cutting back the hours they spend teaching computing by a dramatic margin. This is despite the importance of school children having the right digital skills having been recognised by the government for a number of years now.

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ICT decline

Government recognition aside, the authors of the report have warned that computing education in England is now in a “steep decline”.

It found that between 2012 and 2017, the number of hours spent teaching computing in English secondary schools has fallen by 36 percent.

This dramatic decline in the number of hours spent teaching computing has also resulted in fewer 16 year-olds in England getting a computing qualification.

Indeed, the report found that in 2018, 130,000 students got a GCSE in either computer science or ICT (information and communications technology), down from 140,000 in 2017.

“The number of hours of computing/ICT taught in secondary school dropped by 36 percent from 2012 to 2017,” the report stated. “Across the country, KS4 (Key Stage 4) saw 31,000 fewer hours taught per week, a 47 percent decrease.”

“There is hardly anytime tabled computing in KS4 for non-exam classes,” the report added. “In Key Stage 3 (KS3), the time given for computing dropped from an hour in 2012 to just over 45 minutes in 2017, despite the marked increase in the demands of the national curriculum at this level.”

This year, the ICT exam is not an option, the BBC reported. And it noted that the fall in exam passes follows the phasing out of the ICT GCSE from the national curriculum in England and its replacement by the more challenging computer science subject.

But with entries for computer science growing only slowly, the BBC reported that it looks certain that far fewer 16-year-olds will emerge with any computing qualification in the years ahead.

“It looks likely that hundreds of thousands of students, particularly girls and poorer students, will be disenfranchised from a digital education over the next few years,” Peter Kemp, senior lecturer in computing education at the University of Roehampton, was quoted as saying

Government response

The Department for Education responded by reportedly saying the government had acknowledged the importance of computing by making it a compulsory part of the national curriculum.

“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,” a spokesperson reportedly said.

In 2017 the government introduced the first three technical qualifications, as part of a scheme to build up the UK’s levels of IT and other skills following exit from the European Union.

And the government has for a number of years now had a “no fees” apprenticeship scheme in place that aims to teach young people key digital skills alongside a full honours degree.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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