The number of Computing GCSEs sat by girls in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has more than doubled in the last year, from 5,700 in 2015 to 12,500 in 2016. This is part of an increase in the total number of Computing GCSEs, which has risen by 76% from 36,000 in 2015 to 62,000 in 2016.
However, the number of ICT GCSEs, which are focused more on skills in the day to day use of technology, dropped by 25% from the previous year, to a 2016 total of 84,000.
The increase in Computing GCSEs sat by girls brings the proportion from 16% in 2015 to 20% today, comparing with 41% for ICT GCSE.
Girls who take these subjects perform disproportionately well, with 24% of the Computing exams sat by girls achieving A/A* (compared to 20% of boys), and 26% of the ICT exams sat by girls achieving A/A* (compared to 17% for boys). However, achievements overall for Computing were relatively weak: just 60% of Computing GCSEs taken resulted in A*-C grades in Computing, compared to 68% of ICT GCSEs and 67% of all GCSEs.
The figures come amid a UK-wide digital skills shortage, with over half of tech businesses recruiting digital specialists reporting difficulty filling their vacancies. Karen Price, CEO of the Tech Partnership observes: “It is encouraging to see such a growth in the uptake of Computing, and also some real progress in the proportion of girls. Demand for digital specialists continues to grow, and employers need 138,000 new people a year to enter the workforce in such roles. We must do even more to make the curriculum in schools attractive to both girls and boys, and inspire them about the huge variety of digital careers available”.
Employers are working through the Tech Partnership on a range of initiatives to tackle this problem in the skills pipeline, with new ways for young people to acquire and demonstrate skills that are valued by industry. This ranges from employer-backed Tech Industry Gold degree apprenticeships, which enable a person to get started on their career at the same time as undertaking a full honours degree, to TechFuture Badges, through which students can use a flexible range of resources to acquire online badges attesting to skills that are valued by employers.