Training and Development

GCSE Results: Looking forward to compulsory computing

This is a contributed post by Matthew Bell, Global Strategic Partnerships Manager, Autodesk Education

A recent OECD report revealed that the UK has the worst youth skills gap in the Western world. This is just one of the many pieces of research telling the same story: The UK is suffering from a serious shortage in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and maths) skills. This is largely because students currently leaving school and university don’t have sufficient skills and qualifications. And without immediate action, future generations will also fail to deliver the innovation for which the UK has become known in recent years.

However, today’s GCSE results shine a positive light on the story. This morning the Department of Education reported GCSE entries in STEM subjects have grown more than 78,000 in the last year, which is fantastic news. While the traditional subjects of maths and science are on the up, and there’s also been modest growth in engineering, the real breakout subject is computer science. Building on last year’s success, students sitting the computer science exam almost doubled to 35,000 this year and the number which achieved A* to C grades improved by five per cent, to 65%.

Kids grow up surrounded by technology and are now born as digital natives but this doesn’t necessarily mean they will gravitate towards STEAM subjects. This year’s stats show that there’s clear thirst from students to learn computing skills though, and plans to introduce a new, revamped compulsory computer science GCSE next year will hopefully further build on this. By introducing coding and programming into the curriculum, it will give students the opportunity to learn skills they’d previously only have had access to at higher or even further education, when they’ve already started deciding their career choices.

Through our involvement with STEAM competitions such as VEX Robotics, F1 in Schools and WorldSkills, as well as inspiring partners in the field of coding such as CoderDojo, we know that in order to solve the UK skills gap, it’s essential that children are exposed to computing, as well as the traditional subjects of science, maths and design & technology, as early as possible. For example, students in these competitions learn multidisciplinary skills such as computer graphics, CAD, engineering and also business management, and as a result, some have gone on to pursue careers in aeronautical engineering and motorsport.

While we still have a way to go before the UK STEAM skills crisis is solved, we are definitely heading in the right direction. 2015’s computer science GCSE results are extremely positive and will hopefully set a good foundation for the government’s introduction of a new ICT curriculum in 2016. Getting students interested in the subject and learning core computing skills this early on will hopefully pave the way for their future education in STEAM, whether through a university degree or apprenticeship.


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