IT-related A-levels fall to 10-year low

The number of students taking IT-related A-level exams fell to its lowest point in a decade this year, figures from the Joint Council of Qualifications have revealed.

A total of 14,897 students sat exams in Computing, ICT and Information Technology this year, down from 15,962 in 2011. This is the lowest number in the last ten years, and down 35% from a high of 22,953 in 2008. 

The most popular IT-related A-level this year was ICT, which looks at the application of computers and communications technology, with 11,088 students. This figure fell slightly from 11.960 in 2010.

The number of students taking Computing, which focuses on programming and problem solving fell from 4,002 in 2011 to 3,809 this year, although that was still up from 3,628 in 2010.

Meanwhile, Information Technology, which was re-introduced as a standalone exam this year after being combined with ICT in 2009 and 2010, was sat by just 151 males and 28 females in the UK this summer.

In February 2011, a report into IT-related education in the UK criticised the standard of the curriculum. "Schools [have] turned away from programming in favour of ICT," the Next Gen report found. "Whilst useful in teaching various proprietary office software packages, ICT fails to inspire children to study computer programming."

Earlier this year, the UK government announced plans to scrap the current IT curriculum, giving schools the option to focus on programming and computer science.

In an interview with Information Age in July, former Autonomy CEO and UK IT industry luminary Dr Mike Lynch said that the level of attainment in mathematics was of concern for the future viability of the country’s technology sector. We still have a good mathematical base, but it’s falling pretty rapidly," he said.

He suggested that teaching children to progam can improve their mathematical attainment. “Writing programs is a fun way to learn maths," he said. When ICT lessons started to move away from programming and towards learning how to use Microsoft Excel, for example, that took some of the fun out of learning maths.”

The number of students taking mathematics A-level increased this year, as it has done for the last four years.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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