Computer science: Girls logging off

The BBC reports that if you are looking for signs that technical education is being transformed, and that girls are now more eager to study subjects such as computing, then my advice is to avoid the latest GCSE results.

I have written before about fears that the revolution in computing education has stalled. Now the GCSEs, coupled with the recent A-level results, provide more evidence for those concerns.

In England, entries for the new computer science GCSE, which is supposed to replace ICT, rose modestly from 60,521 in 2016 to 64,159 this year. Girls accounted for just 20% of entries, and the proportion was a tiny bit lower than last year.

ICT entries fell from 84,120 to 73,099, which you would expect as the subject is disappearing from the national curriculum. But it had proved more attractive to girls. Even there, the proportion of female entries fell from 41% to 39%.

Combine the two subjects, and you find that the number studying either subject has fallen by over 7,000 in the past year. Back in 2015 more than 47,000 girls were getting some kind of computing qualification, and that has fallen to about 41,000 – just 30% of the total.

The consultancy Accenture points out that the figure for the engineering GCSE is even worse, with girls making up just 10% of the entrants. Emma McGuigan, the company’s group technology officer, said it was a stark reflection of the challenges the tech industry faces when it comes to diversity.

“Our research found that girls are turning away from Stem [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] subjects at an early age with stereotypes, negative perceptions and poor understanding of career options all having an impact,” she said.

The government says it is determined to keep the UK at the cutting edge of the digital revolution after Brexit. But right now, the message from the exam system is that too few will leave school with the skills needed to fulfil that promise.

Read more Computer science: Girls logging off

Shouldn’t schools/government be doing more to ‘sell’ STEM subjects to girls? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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  1. Heather O

    Don’t agree sorry – my daughter got an A in computer science this week but has to change schools to be allowed to even study it as the Academy chain she was in deemed it wasn’t for girls! Not the students turning away from it perhaps?

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