Computing A-level student numbers continue to plummet

Fewer UK pupils are taking A-levels in ICT and Computing, especially girls, though there has been a rise in those sitting science and mathematics exams
Written by Karen Friar, Contributor

The latest crop of A-level results has seen ICT and computing subjects continue to lose ground, even as more general science and technology exams become more popular.

Education and the high-tech industry have been highlighted by the government as key elements in its plans to generate economic growth.

ICT and Computing A-levels are down, while Science and Maths are up.

However, together computing and ICT entrants made up only 1.7 percent of all A-levels sat in 2012, according to figures released on Thursday by exam boards body the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ).

Both subjects saw fewer people sitting the exam compared with 2011, too. The number of students taking an ICT A-level fell by 7.3 percent year-on-year, while computing entrants dropped by 4.8 percent.

The picture is more bleak when broken down by gender: in the whole of Northern Ireland, only four girls sat a computing A-level, while the total for female students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland combined was 297. Proportionally, the breakdown for the subject is 92.2 percent boys, 7.8 percent girls.

In November, prime minister David Cameron underlined the importance of education in developing a tech-savvy workforce and high-tech entrepreneurship at an event in East London.

On the plus side, there was a rise in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) A-level entries in 2012, up 3.1 percent on last year and 29.2 percent on 2007.

Broken out individually, maths (including further maths) rose 3.8 percent and 45.6 percent over the same periods; biology, 1.7 percent and 15.6 percent; chemistry, 2.4 percent and 22.2 percent; and physics, 5 percent and 25.6 percent.

The results come less than a month after a House of Lords committee called for maths to be made compulsory for all those over 16 years of age. The Science and Technology Committee noted that many undergraduates who have taken maths at A-level need to take remedial lessons after arriving at university.

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