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BCS calls for action to drive GCSE computer science applications

20/06/2017 Kelly

Action needs to be taken to address a recent slowdown in the growth of GCSE computer science applicant numbers, according to an industry body.

BCS - The Chartered Institute for IT has raised concerns about new figures from Ofqual that suggest a stagnation in the growth of students opting to take GCSE computer science in 2017 compared to 2016.

The official data shows that 67,800 year 11 students have registered for GCSE computer science courses this year, which is only a small increase on the 61,220 figure from last year.

BCS said this is a worrying trend, as computer science was only introduced as a GCSE option three years ago and would therefore be expected to still be growing rapidly, as schools improve their offering and students are made aware of the considerable benefits of acquiring digital skills.

Indeed, it is estimated that 90 per cent of all future jobs will depend on digital skills, with the UK set to require more than 1.2 million new technical and digitally-skilled people by 2022, meaning computing knowledge is more important than ever.

However, despite this, BCS calculates that as many as 70 per cent of secondary school computer science teachers are lacking relevant computer science backgrounds to teach at GCSE level, making it difficult for them to offer a high standard of teaching.

Bill Mitchell, director of education at BCS, said: "We must ensure that schools are properly equipped to provide the best possible options for students at GCSE, and that includes computer science. Our view is that will only happen where we make sure teachers are getting the right professional development to make GCSE computer science a success."

He called for a wider rollout of the CAS Network of Excellence scheme - which is currently only funded to reach 20 per cent of all schools in England - as a potential solution.

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