Computer science has been added to the list of core subjects that make up the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) qualification, which is used as a measure of success for school league tables in England.
The subject will be the first extra subject to be added to the EBacc qualification. Announced by the UK government in November 2010, the EBacc recognises the achievement of GCSEs at Grades A* to C in English, maths, languages, humanities and science subjects. Computer science will be introduced as the fourth science subject, alongside chemistry, physics and biology, the Department of Education confirmed on Wednesday.
In order to fulfil the science requirement of the EBacc, pupils must gain a C grade or above in at least two of the four core sciences at GCSE level.
The decision reflects the importance of computer science for both education and the economy, said the Department of Education, and comes hot on the heels of the announcement that 15,000 Raspberry Pi devices will be introduced to UK schools, courtesy of a donation from Google.
The decision to include computer science comes as part of an effort to incentivise schools to get more of their pupils studying computer science at GCSE level.
"We need to bring computational thinking into our schools," said a Department of Education spokeswoman in a statement. "Having computer science in the EBacc will have a big impact on schools over the next decade.
"It will mean millions of children learning to write computer code so they are active creators and controllers of technology instead of just being passive users."
The BSC (British Computing Society) published a report in November of last year that analysed the computer science GCSE and recommended it should be included in the EBacc.
"It will mean millions of children learning to write computer code so they are active creators and controllers of technology instead of just being passive users" — Department of Education
Computer science will be offered as a GCSE from 2013 by exam boards OCR and AQA. The Department of Education said it will allow other exam boards to offer the computer science GCSE if the BSC and the Royal Society considers it to be of sufficient quality.
There has been pressure on government to offer students a better computer science education from industry leaders such as Raspberry Pi's co-creator Eben Upton and Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt.
A Google spokesperson said in a statement that the EBacc announcement "marks a significant further investment in the next generation of computer scientists."
"We are replacing the old-fashioned ICT curriculum with a computer science curriculum," said secretary of state for education Michael Gove in a statement. "This will combine with the Raspberry Pi project to spread teaching of computer coding, which is so educationally and economically vital."