Crisis in Numbers Studying IT at GCSE – what’s the answer?

Analysis by e-skillsUK of GCSE results this year shows that the number of students taking all ICT courses has fallen for the seventh consecutive year to just 70,418.  And this figure is a decrease of 12.5% on last year alone.

The number of students studying ICT at GCSE has been declining dramatically year-on-year from a high of 261,970 in 2005.

This continuing decline should be of great concern to universities and employers – and to everyone interested in the future competitiveness and success of the UK.

We know that demand for skilled IT professionals continues to increase, yet we are as a society failing to inspire a generation of young people to  study technology or to take up technology careers.

Something must be done!

It is for this reason that e-skills UK announced a few weeks ago that our Behind the Screen programme will be available to all schools from September 2012.

Behind the Screen offers GCSE students IT projects to tackle with interactive online materials supported by full teachers’ notes. The projects have been developed in close consultation with a number of employers, including John Lewis, and are based on a variety of real-life business issues.

Our aim is that students learn computational thinking, develop technical skills, and gain creative, team working and entrepreneurial skills – all in a fun, interesting and interactive way.  After all, students these days are the most connected and IT-enabled generation ever.

Young people who play computer games can learn to create games.

Young people who use apps every day can design apps.

Young people who use social media to connect with their friends can use social media to connect with customers.

I am very excited by the potential of Behind the Screen – but with the rapid decline of students even considering studying IT at GCSE, we have no time to lose.

e-skills UK’s Behind the Screen to be available to all secondary schools from September

I now know that I am definitely a real techie, since not only am I very excited today about Team GB’s brilliant  medals at the Olympics,  I am also very excited about e-skills UK’s announcement today that our innovative “Behind the Screen” programme (which creates  materials for teaching Key Stage 4 IT), will now be available to all secondary schools from the start of the next academic year.
 
I think this will open fantastic career opportunities to a new generation of school students in IT, by showing them what an exciting, fun and worthwhile discipline technology is.
 
Here is the announcement today from e-skills UK.  Some useful inks to the “Behiind the Scenes” web site are below.
 
The programme aims to give young people a rigorous grounding in the science and technology that underpin computing, has been in pilot since February 2012, and was originally scheduled for roll out in 2013. However, the excellent feedback from pilot schools, combined with the recent announcements about the future of IT in schools, have encouraged e-skills UK to bring the launch forward.
 
“The Education Secretary’s announcement about the disapplication of the IT curriculum gives schools a fantastic opportunity.” explains Sue Nieland of e-skills UK. “Schools continue to have enthusiastic cohorts of young people wanting to study IT, and a new freedom to adopt programmes which will challenge, engage and enthuse them.”
 
The Behind the Screen website offers a series of projects, presented as interactive online materials, and supported by full teachers’ notes. The projects – three now live, with more in the pipeline – are developed in close consultation with employers, and are based on real life business issues. 
 
Working through them, students will understand computational thinking, develop high level technical proficiency, and gain creative, team working and entrepreneurial skills.
 
Fully mapped to the IT GCSE and equivalent qualifications, Behind the Screen will provide students with an invaluable foundation from which to pursue computing related courses at Further and Higher education level, as well as preparing them for jobs in the industry.
 
“We’ve been working for some time on a new curriculum for the GCSE years.” says Sue Nieland. “To run alongside ‘pure’ computer science, we have created something that has the same depth and rigour but for a broader cohort of students. 
 
“These are young people who want to learn to create games, design apps, to get involved in the exciting and ever developing world of technology, and who are interested the power of technology to solve business and social problems. The extraordinary input of employers has enabled us to create exciting, engaging material to support these students.”
 
For more information please go the Behind the Screen page on the e-skills UK website or visit the Behind the Screen website.
 
Behind the Screen is led by a partnership of employers including IBM, the BBC, BAFTA, Blitz Games, Capgemini, Cisco, Deloitte, HP, John Lewis, Logica, the Metropolitan Police Service, Microsoft, National Grid, Procter & Gamble, Sainsbury’s, SAS, Steria and TCS.  It is supported by funding from the Employer Investment Fund of the UK Commission on Employment and Skills.
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