Just 229 students in the UK achieved the top grade in ICT A-level qualifications, as the popularity of the computer-based further education courses continues on a steady decline despite government efforts to increase uptake.
10,419 students sat A-Level ICT exams this summer, 669 down on 2012. Of those just 2.2 percent managed to achieve an A* grade – the highest mark possible – slightly down on last year's results. Overall, fewer students failed their courses, with 97.5 percent of students achieving an E grade or above and 65 percent managing to obtain a C or above.
Overall performance in the more technical A-Level Computing curriculum remained steady, with slightly fewer A* grades and a slight drop in numbers, down to 3,758.
The decline in numbers is smaller than the drop from 2011 to 2012 but it still presents a problem for the government, which is making attempts to increase the uptake of computer-relevant courses in order to produce highly skilled technology workers.
The proportion of male and female ICT students stayed almost the same, with 37.6 percent of students now female compared with 38.6 percent in 2012. However, female students performed better than males with a greater proportion achieving A* and A grades. Computing, meanwhile, continues to be male dominated, with females making up less than 10 percent of the cohort.
Bill Mitchell, head of the Chartered Institute for IT (BCS), told V3 that the results were bad news for the UK: "It is very regrettable that computing A-level has again shown another decline this year," he said, adding that the BCS-backed schemes such as Computing At School and the reinvention of the Computing curriculum would eventually trickle down to the next generation of students. "These will result in a generation of students taking the new GCSEs in Computing, which should eventually result in more students going on to A-level Computing," he said.
The figures were not all bad for the high-tech industries, with Maths and Science showing a rise in uptake, and more than 100,000 students now taking Maths and Further Maths and more than 150,000 taking Science subjects. Education minister Elizabeth Truss said of the numbers: "It is extremely encouraging that there has been such a significant rise in the number of students taking A-levels in subjects like Maths and the Sciences. This is good for the economy and will help the UK compete."
The government has been working on alternative courses to encourage the development of highly skilled technical workers, with new "Tech level" vocational courses to be introduced in 2016, and a totally rewritten Computing curriculum due to come into force next September.
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