Teachers know that not all children are cut out to study Computer Science. This is a bad decision that will drastically narrow the curriculum for young people aged 14-18 and it will particularly affect girls, who are far more likely to choose to study ICT than Computer Science.
The JCQ’s provisional GCSE and A level results data show that only 8.5% of those who sat A Level Computing in June 2015 were female. For A level ICT it was 35.6%. At GCSE, of those who sat Computing, only 16% were female, whilst in ICT, 38% were female.
An unintended consequence of getting rid of ICT GCSE and A-level - with Computer Science as the only other general qualification option - is that fewer students than ever will access digital skills. In other words, if they can’t do ICT, they won’t do Computer Science instead. And there is an economic argument for continuing with a general user ICT qualification (at both GCSE and A level) as it enables progression to wider subject options.
Computer Science is a selective subject, in general it appeals to the students who are more able in science and maths. Without the skills in these two subjects our members have told us that students of lesser ability obtain significantly lower grades.
Although the GCSE ICT qualification does need improving, redeveloping it for 2017 would be much more sensible, allowing time for consultation and developing the content. Computer science will develop over the next few years and we will hopefully see a small increase in numbers at GCSE and A level, but what we now need is a new GCSE that will appeal to more students. It will need the mass appeal that ICT currently has, otherwise we will be pushing lots of young people out into the world with limited ICT skills.
ICT is about learning how to use computer systems, including word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and database applications and online safety and security. Computing is about programming, networking, protocols etc. Government apparently believes that the skills currently developed through ICT will be covered through other subjects, but we know that in future this will not happen.
It won’t happen because both GCSE and A level subject specifications will be more demanding, and in the case of maths, there will be much more content. In addition, a further disincentive to cover these skills will be the move to exam only qualifications and there will not be enough time to develop the digital skills that young people need.
ATL will continue to argue the case that there should be the option of both Computer Science and ICT. One shouldn’t cancel out the other.