16th October – Reforms to the way ICT and Computer Science are taught need to ensure the massive gender divide is addressed, the Next Gen Skills campaign has said, marking Ada Lovelace Day 2012.

Ada Lovelace Day – 16th October – recognises the achievements of 19th century female Mathematician Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, who is commonly recognised to have created the first computer algorithm for Charles Babbage’s general-purpose computer. “Ada Lovelace Day” is an annual event to “raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and maths”.

Dr. Jo Twist, CEO of video games industry trade body Ukie and principal backer of the Next Gen Skills campaign called on policymakers to encourage more female students to take up Computer Science.

The campaign believes that every child should have the opportunity to learn Computing at school, including exposure to Computer Science as a rigorous academic discipline at GCSE. But according to statistics from Joint Council for Qualifications in 2011 only 302 girls took Computing A-level (7.5% of the total entry), compared to 3700 boys (92.5%). The figures show Computer Science as the worst of all STEM subjects for the gender gap, – ICT 61% male /39% female; Mathematics 60%/40%; Physics 79%/21%; Chemistry 53%/47%)

Dr. Jo Twist said:

“With fundamental reforms taking place to Computer Science at school, we should celebrate the existing female role models in the games industry, but also address the massive gender gap, which is more pronounced in Computer Science than in any other STEM subject. We need more female teachers and role models as well as a better understanding that a grounding in computing gives pupils improve career prospects in the digital economy. Ada Lovelace was a pioneer for women, so we need to encourage the increasing number of women in the digital economy to become ambassadors for hi-tech economy in schools.”

Notes to editors:

1. Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852), born Augusta Ada Byron and now commonly known as Ada Lovelace, was an English mathematician and writer chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage’s early mechanical general-purpose computer, the analytical engine. Her notes on the engine include what is recognised as the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine; she is considered the world’s first computer programmer. Lovelace Day on Tuesday 16 October recognises the accomplishments of a woman in science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM). Supporters can add their URL to the FindingAda database.

2. Next Gen Skills is a major new campaign formed from an alliance between the biggest names from the UK digital, creative and hi-tech industries and the UK’s leading skills and educational bodies to improve the computer programming skills needed for the future growth of our economy. The campaign is funded and led by games and interactive entertainment trade body Ukie (including major international companies with UK interests such as Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, EA, Activision and SEGA, plus leading UK creative development studios such as Blitz Games Studios, PlayGen and The Creative Assembly). Other supporters include Google, TalkTalk, Facebook, the British Screen Advisory Council, Guardian Media Group, the Design Council, Intellect, IPA, British Computer Society, Abertay University, Skillset, GuildHE, E Skills, the Education Foundation, NESTA and UK Screen (representing some of the world’s leading visual effects businesses, including Oscar winners Double Negative and Framestore). Read the NESTA-Next Gen report here.

3. The recent Livingstone Hope Next Gen review of creative industry skills produced by NESTA highlighted that computer programming and coding, the most important skill required to create the digital devices and software of the future, is not currently on the national curriculum. In his speech to BETT on 11 January, the Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove responded to the call by industry by starting a consultation on withdrawing the existing National Curriculum Programme of Study for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) from September this year to allow the development of innovative, exciting and rigorous new ICT and Computer Science courses in advance of the launch of the new National Curriculum in 2014. The government confirmed on 11 June that this would happen.

4. Data on gender gap can we accessed on the JCQ website or Chapter 2 of the Royal Society Report Shut Down or Restart http://royalsociety.org/uploadedFiles/Royal_Society_Content/education/policy/computing-in-schools/2012-01-12-Computing-in-Schools.pdf