A-level ICT student numbers drop 10%

The number of students studying ICT at A-level has dipped again this year, despite an increase in the number choosing Stem-based A-levels

The number of students studying technology-based subjects at A-level has taken a sharp drop, as the number of computing and ICT exams dropped in 2012.

The results from the Joint Council for Qualifications revealed a near 10% decrease in students sitting the ICT exam for 2012. 

This year 872 fewer students opted to take the ICT exam, making the total number this year 11,060, compared with last year's figure of 11,960. 

2012 was not the first year of decline in students sitting the ICT exam, but the drop between 2010 and 2011 was much smaller, with only 226 down in 2011 from the 2010 figure of 12,186.

Gayna Hart, e-Skills board member and managing director of Quicksilva, questioned how the government's vision of the UK as a technology centre for Europe could be realised with such a reduction in ICT A-level candidates.

"With a 7% drop in candidates since last year and the percentage of the top A* grades remaining the same, it's clear that ICT is taking a back seat in our schools and colleges," Hart said.

Rise in Stem A-level candidates

Despite the drop in students taking ICT exams, the amount of students taking science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) subjects rose slightly. 

Maths and further maths increased 3.3% and 7.6% respectively. Biology, chemistry and physics rose 1.7%, 2.4% and 5% respectively. Since 2007, maths and further maths has risen 45.6%, biology 15.6%, chemistry 22.2% and physics 25.6%.

Hart said improved grades this year in science subjects is a good sign, however more needs to be done.

"The UK needs a generation of IT-savvy graduates with the right skills to help propel the UK's digital economy. With a widening IT skills gap, we have generations who just aren't equipped with the right skills," said Hart.

"At Quicksilva we've found it hard to recruit quality graduates and we're not alone as the IT industry as a whole is struggling to source fresh talent. To fix this, we need to turn this around and get young people enthused and engaging with ICT so they choose to continue studying throughout their academic careers."

No improvement in ICT grades

In addition to the decline in ICT A-level students, there has also been very little movement in grades. 

A* grades for ICT were at 2.5% in 2011, compared to 2.4% in 2012. 

However, the amount of A grades achieved went from 12.1% last year to 12.7% for 2012.

Drop in female ICT students

Despite an increase of 30 female students sitting ICT A-level exams in 2011, this year's numbers plummeted by almost 400. 

However, the more technical Computing A-level available to students did not see as much of a dramatic decrease in female students. 

In 2012, 297 female students sat this exam, compared to 302 in 2011.


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