Press release – 29th January 2013

  • Very low take-up of Computing A-level across the country (Key Stage 5) continues in 2011/12
  • Decline in Computing A-level from high in 1998, now makes up only 0.4% of A-levels taken
  • Poor curriculum and lack of schools-hi tech industry link blamed
  • Inclusion of Computer Science as ‘Fourth Science’ on E-Bacc needed

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 Games industry legend and co-Chair of the cross industry Next Gen Skills campaign Ian Livingstone.

The issue is particularly acute in London because of the gap between the skills taught in the capital’s schools and the growth of new digital and creative media companies in central London and ‘Tech City’.

Statistics from the Department for Education illustrate:

  • the poor take up of Computing in English schools – only 3420 A-levels (0.4%) taken – down from 12529 in 1998
  • only 376 students entered Computing at A-level in London in 2011/12
  • 6 central London boroughs (Westminster, Camden, Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Southwark) identified by Greater London Authority (2012) as having highest concentration of Tech in Europe only produced 33 A-level students last year.

This further confirms industry concerns that computer programming skills are not being provided adequately in English schools.

Since Secretary of State Michael Gove’s speech at BETT in January 2012, ICT and Computer Science education has been changing:

  • a new ICT curriculum with computing at its heart will be launched by the Department for Education in September 2014, replacing the outdated ICT Programme of Study
  • all major examining bodies have developed new Computer Science GCSEs, removing a major barrier to progress
  • the Department for Education is considering whether Computer Science will be included as a science in the English-Baccalaureate, a signal which will stimulate take-up in many schools
  • there has been a rise in interest in informal learning – via hack days and through new devices such as the Raspberry Pi

However, there are still barriers to take up:

  • Schools currently lack enough qualified teachers to teach even the existing ICT courses, let alone a new Computer Science course.  Only 29% of teachers are judged by the DfE to be qualified to teach ICT today in inner London schools and 45% in outer London.  Nationally two thirds of teachers are not deemed to have sufficiently relevant qualifications (Source: DfE/Royal Society 2012 http://royalsociety.org/education/policy/computing-in-schools/report ).
  • Nationally, there is a massive gender divide as with all STEM subjects – only 7% (255) of Computing A-level students in 2011/12 are girls (DfE 2013).
  • Students interested in technology tend to take vocational qualifications of varying quality and specialism, which only totalled 1903 level 3 achievements across the capital last year.   This raises the question whether English regions are equipped for more demand in R&D, design, retail, manufacturing as well as creative media and entry-level IT
  • Further support for a network of after-school club and hobbyist learning.

Games industry legend Ian Livingstone OBE and Next Gen Skills campaign chair said:

“The statistics show the sheer scale of the challenge in front of us to get programming back in schools.  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.”

Notes to editors

Computing A-level entries 2011/12 by local authority area against total A-level entries in all subjects (24 January).   Information collated for the 2012 School and College Performance Table (published 24 Jan). http://www.education.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/SFR/s001112/index.shtml

London statistics (access list for all LAs).

Area/borough

Number of Entries

Total A-levels taken

LONDON

376

97,625

Inner London

128

26,262

Camden

0

2,828

City of London

.

.

Hackney

8

1,441

Hammersmith and Fulham

0

2,148

Haringey

0

1,802

Islington

16

1,987

Kensington and Chelsea

0

1,415

Lambeth

10

1,106

Lewisham

42

2,990

Newham

14

1,939

Southwark

0

1,026

Tower Hamlets

9

1,954

Wandsworth

29

3,637

Westminster

0

1,989

 

 

Outer London

248

71,363

Barking and Dagenham

0

1,649

Barnet

14

7,553

Bexley

14

3,638

Brent

10

3,422

Bromley

39

6,012

Croydon

27

3,161

Ealing

12

3,133

Enfield

0

3,820

Greenwich

7

1,544

Harrow

14

4,257

Havering

31

4,573

Hillingdon

5

3,670

Hounslow

0

3,399

Kingston upon Thames

7

3,200

Merton

0

901

Redbridge

44

6,372

Richmond upon Thames

13

2,299

Sutton

11

4,938

Waltham Forest

0

3,822