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GCSE Computer Science results 2017: We must do much better!

24 August 2017 - With 41% of students in England gaining good grades1 in GCSE Computer Science - this year’s results show a marginal improvement in the number of pupils passing the all-important exam. We really need to do much better than this if we hope to remain an advanced economy in the digital age.


There was a very modest increase in students registered for GCSE Computer Science to a total of 64,159 year 11 students compared to 60,521 year 11 students in 2016. That has to be seen against the numbers we should be getting in the digital age, which we believe should be nearer 200,000 students taking GCSE Computer Science every year.


Bill Mitchell, Director of Education at BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT says: “This is starting to look worrying and shows signs we are going to be very far short of the numbers needed for our nation to remain a leader of digital technology in the long term. It’s expected that 90% 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 2022 to satisfy future skills needs, Computer Science GCSE is one of the key pathways that young people can take.


Our country needs to see the number of students taking GCSE Computer Science grow substantially next year and every year until we have at least 200,000 students taking the subject. Every child should have an outstanding computing education taught by outstanding teachers. However, this will only happen where we make sure teachers are getting the right professional development to ensure GCSE Computer Science is a success. The changes to the standards and the new grade system means it’s even more critical to get this right.”


The new computing curriculum was introduced in 2013. In England, 70% of pupils now attend schools which offer GCSE Computer Science and overall, the number of entries for the subject is increasing.


Schools supported by the CAS Network of Excellence (NOE) - which was set up to help teachers learn how to deliver the new curriculum - have achieved more grade A*s, As and Bs in Computer Science GCSE than schools not supported by the network. NOE schools also attract larger cohorts of students onto Computer Science GCSE than other schools. But there are very many schools who do not get this support, and they are falling behind compared to schools who do get this kind of support.


Computing skills are as important as reading and writing, and the Institute believes every pupil should leave school with the skills to thrive in the digital world that surrounds them. Those who go on to specialise in the subject and choose a professional career in IT - will use their knowledge to help drive the UK’s economy.


Bill continues: “As well as encouraging more pupils to take GCSE Computer Science - the gender balance also needs to change. It continues to be a male-dominated profession - despite the fact that many of the great pioneers of computing are women. The uptake of the subject at GCSE level by girls remains at an unacceptably low level. It's important that parents are aware that encouraging children, especially girls, to choose Computer Science GCSE will help them develop the thinking skills they need for the world of digital work.”


1 Grades A* - B