English schools are failing the UK’s digital industries, warns Next Gen Skills

Image courtesy of http://www.carmel.ac.uk/

Falling numbers of students taking computing A-levels could be damaging to the future of the UK’s tech and creative businesses, the Next Gen Skills campaign has warned.

New statistics released by the Department for Education reveal that not only has the computing A-level’s poor take-up continued into 2011/2012, but the number of students starting the course has actually declined since 1998. Only 3,420 computing A-levels were taken in the past educational year, a drop of 73 per cent compared to 1998′s figure of 12,529. London particularly suffered, with only 376 students signing up for the A-level.

“Despite being home to the most digitally innovative industries in the world English schools are failing to produce students in enough numbers to fill the needs of hi tech and creative businesses,” says Next Gen Skills campaign co-chair Ian Livingstone.

Next Gen Skills blames the “poor curriculum” and lack of links between schools and the hi-tech industries, and recommends that Computer Science be considered the fourth science in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc).

The UK government is in the process of reforming the curriculum to replace the outdated Information and Communications Technology (ICT) component with what it describes as a “fresh approach to teaching technology in schools” from September 2014 – an approach the industry recommends takes the shape of Computer Science.

According to Next Gen Skills, while the changes being put in place are encouraging, there are still obstacles to overcome, most notably the current deficit in suitably qualified teachers even for ICT, let alone Computer Science. A continued gender divide remains an issue too, with girls accounting for just seven per cent of Computing A-level students.

“The statistics show the sheer scale of the challenge in front of us to get programming back in schools,” says Livingstone. “Whether it’s making games, fighting cyber-crime or designing the next jet propulsion engine, computer science is at the heart of everything in the digital world. Government changes to ICT in schools are welcome. The next step will be to have Computer Science on the new E-Bacc to further inspire a new generation of computer programmers.”

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