Hooray! A-level Computing: up, ye olde ICT course: down

From The Register:

It’s that day again, the day when picture editors across the British news media drop everything to find fresh photos of teenagers suspended in mid-air. Yes, it’s A-level results day – and thousands more pupils are passing exams in computing rather than old school ICT.

The number of kids sitting A-level ICT fell by no less than 25 per cent, down from 7,600 last year to 5,600 this year. Of the 5,600 who sat the exams this year, just 1,700 – a third – were girls. Ten years ago just over 12,000 pupils took A-level ICT exams.

But don’t despair! Computing, as distinct from ICT, is one of the top 10 fastest growing A-level subjects, with entries up by 23 per cent from 2017 – literally thousands more pupils signed up for it this year. Nearly two-thirds of those sitting it this summer scored a proper A*-C pass mark, too.

One could speculate that savvy IT teachers are shifting their charges from the middlingly useful ICT A-level to the computing course, which means they have to teach hands-on programming and database skills.

Over the last decade the computing A-level has exploded in popularity among schoolkids, doubling from 5,000 in 2008 to more than 10,000 taking the exams this year. Over 9,000 boys took computing exams in 2018, though the gender imbalance was stark with just 1,211 girls sitting it this year – one girl for every 10 boys.

This is almost all good news: the one back spot is the gender imbalance. One of the few good things Michael Gove did when he was Education Secretary was to understand our arguments that the old ICT course (mainly training in Microsoft software) had outlived its usefulness, and that British kids needed an opportunity to study computer science.

There’s a long way to go, but this is a good start.