Computing education in England in steep decline says Roehampton report

  • Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The University of Roehampton has released its latest snapshot of the state of computing education in England.

The report, which analyses the uptake of GCSE computer science (CS) and other computing qualifications in England from the 2018 exam sittings, reveals a steep decline in computing provision, both in terms of hours being taught and qualifications being sat across the country. This is at a time when computing education is a key focus for the government, with the recent establishment of the £84m National Centre of Computing Education. 

The key findings of the report are as follows.  

  • The number of hours of computing/ICT taught in secondary school dropped by 36% from 2012 to 2017. Across the country, at Key Stage 4 (KS4) 31,000 fewer hours were taught per week, a 47% decrease over this timeframe. 
  • The overall number of computing/ICT qualifications taken by students at Year 11 decreased by 144,000, or 45%, between 2017 and 2018.
  • The percentage of students sitting GCSE CS increased marginally from 12.1% in 2017 to 12.4% of all GCSE students in 2018.
  • While overall numbers of GCSE CS providers increased, 8.2% of schools that offered the subject in 2017 were not offering it in 2018. In this group, one in five (19%) girls’ comprehensive schools who offered GCSE CS in 2017 dropped it in 2018.
  • For pupils not studying for a GCSE in CS, it looks unlikely that they will be getting any computing education in schools beyond age 14. 

Peter Kemp, author of the report and Senior Lecturer in Computing Education at the University of Roehampton, says: “The government clearly sees the importance of computing through the establishment of the £84m national centre of computing education, and it is encouraging to see a slight increase in number of students sitting GCSE computer science (CS) and schools offering the qualification. However, the overall picture is that young people are now less likely to access any computing education than they were before CS was introduced. If computing increasingly means CS, 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.” 

A full copy of the Report can be downloaded on the British Computer Society website here.