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English schools failing to provide computer science GCSEs

“Computing education across the UK is patchy and fragile,” says Royal Society

A majority of English schools did not offer computer science courses at GCSE level in 2015-16, according to today's report from the Royal Society.

The report found that "computing education across the UK is patchy and fragile," citing a shortage in qualified teaching staff. It added that failing to act "would risk damaging both the education of future generations and our economic prosperity as a nation."

UK Games Fund CEO and founder Paul Durrant told GamesIndustry.biz: "This news reflects the fact that the UK's education system hasn't kept up with the career opportunities in creative digital industries such as games development. We hope to lift the lid on games development projects for schools using Tranzfuser. Hopefully this could inspire more young people and their parents to press for greater access to computer science courses in school."

With 54% of schools not offering the course, the Royal Society is urging the government to increase spending in the area by 60 million and begin training 8,000 secondary school computer science teachers.

"This report highlights what some teachers have been telling me for a while - that the revolution in computing education in the UK has stalled," said BBC News technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.

Back in 2012 the government replaced ICT on the curriculum with a more technical computer science programme. However, this has proven to be a real challenge for schools to facilitate at a time when resources are tight.

"Computing teachers have told us that they feel the government rushed in a new curriculum without giving them the support or money to deliver it," said Prof Steve Furber, who worked on the report.

"The report paints a bleak picture in England, which meets only 68% of its computing teacher recruitment targets and where, as a result, one in two schools don't offer computer science at GCSE, a crucial stage of young people's education."

According to the Department of Education, computer science GCSE entries "continue to rise more quickly than any other subject."

"We want to ensure our future workforce has the skills we need to drive the future productivity and economy of this country and that is why the government made computing a compulsory part of the national curriculum," a spokesperson told the BBC.

"We recently saw an increase in entries to Stem subjects for the English Baccalaureate and the number of girls taking STEM subjects at A-levels has increased by over 17% since 2010.

"Since 2012, the department has pledged 5m to the Network of Teaching Excellence in Computer Science programme, which has built a national network of nearly 400 computer science specialists (who) schools can commission to provide bespoke training for their teachers."

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