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Better provision of computing needed in schools confirms new report

Peter Kemp, Dr Billy Wong and Miles Berry from the University of Roehampton’s School of Education have conducted research to analyse the uptake of computing qualifications at GCSE and A level. The report urges there be an increase in the proportion of schools and colleges offering GCSE and A level computing following the figures. 

Posted: 19 December 2016

A new report which investigates computing qualifications in schools has been published by the University of Roehampton's School of Education. It reveals that:

  • While the national curriculum says all pupils must have the opportunity to study computer science at KS4, in 2015, only 28% of schools entered students for the GCSE
  • Even in schools that did offer computing, take up was low (5.5% of students at GCSE, 1.7% at A level), and was unrepresentative of the wider population - girls, low income (at GCSE) and some ethnic groups were underrepresented
  • Computing and ICT had really quite different groups of students taking them: ICT was much closer to the average in terms of gender, low income, certain ethnicity and prior attainment in maths
  • Boys and mixed schools are more likely to offer computing than girls schools; and grammar schools are more likely to offer it than non-selective state schools
  • Computing students were more mathematically able, but still got lower results than other subjects

Peter Kemp, Senior Lecturer in Computing Education at the University of Roehampton's School of Education has conducted research to analyse the uptake of computing qualifications at GCSE and A level. Kemp urges there be an increase in the proportion of schools and colleges offering GCSE and A level computing following the figures.

Although computing is a foundation subject – one which all local authority schools should offer at each Key Stage – it is not widely continued at GCSE and A level. Only a small fraction of pupils choose – or have the option to choose – to take qualifications at GCSE (5.5%) or A level (1.7%).

There is a stark difference between the number of boys' and mixed schools offering the subject than girls' schools; 19.6% of girls-only providers offer computing at GCSE compared with 31.6% of boys-only and 29.1% of mixed providers. At A level, only 99 students in girls' schools across England took computing.

While fewer girls take computing at GCSE and A level than boys, they do better than their male counterparts in the highest grade bands (A*, A and B). However, regardless of gender, students tend to achieve lower grades in computing when compared to the top 20 largest subjects.

In addition to gender, there are notable differences when looking at socioeconomic and geographic differences. Students eligible for 'pupil premium' (those who have received free school meals in the last six years) are under-represented in GCSE computing, 19% compared to 26.6%; urban schools are more likely to offer computing than those in rural locations; and 6.5% of students in the South East sit computing GCSE compared to only 4.2% of those in the North East.

Peter Kemp comments, "Computing is all around us, it has a big impact in the way the world works and it's important that students have a good understanding of the world we live in. There are multiple groups – especially girls – with poor access to computing qualifications and steps need to be taken to increase accessibility of the subject and encourage students to appreciate its value."

Read the full report here

The School of Education offers a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees including Educational Practice, Education Leadership and Management and Initial Teacher Education routes. For more information on the School of Education, and our wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes please visit the department page.

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