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Students being put off IT studies by ‘harder’ GCSE in computing

PUBLISHED: 10:57 02 January 2020 | UPDATED: 10:58 02 January 2020

Are youngsters being put off studying computing by a GCSE that's too difficult?  Picture: GETTY IMAGES/INGRAM PUBLISHING

Are youngsters being put off studying computing by a GCSE that's too difficult? Picture: GETTY IMAGES/INGRAM PUBLISHING

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Students are being put off studying computing at GCSE – potentially because the new exam is perceived as much harder than the old one, an Ipswich IT firm boss has warned.

Chloe Matthews and her uncle Jonathan Smy, of SMY IT Services. Credit: SARAH SMYChloe Matthews and her uncle Jonathan Smy, of SMY IT Services. Credit: SARAH SMY

Jonathan Smy, who is managing director at SMY IT Services in Capel St Mary said his niece, Chloe Matthews, had chosen to study the subject at A Level, but as a girl, she's an exception, with a marked gender gap as well as falling numbers.

Overall, the number of students taking up ICT has dropped dramatically, according to the Joint Council for Qualification data.

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It shows a total of 89,452 students studied ICT or computing at GCSE in 2019, compared to a combined total of 130,210 the previous year - a fall of almost a third.

In total, boys accounted for 68,965 exam entries, while just 20,577 girls opted for the computing GCSE.

Mr Smy said although digital technology and computers were now firmly embedded in society the difficulty of the qualification combined with other pressures might be putting students off.

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"The new computing GCSE is perceived to be, and probably is, much harder than the previous ICT qualification and this is what is deterring students from studying it," he said. "And, at a time when there is pressure to perform in core academic subjects such as English, maths and science, maybe students do not want the added pressure of what is perceived to be a difficult subject."

He believes students might think can pick up studying computing later in life once their core studies have been achieved.

"It is important for us as IT experts to explain to students how computing translates into real life," he said.

"We need to ensure that young people are not put off these subjects at school and are encouraged to see what doors can be unlocked by studying computing."

Chloe, 16 - who is studying computer science at A level at Suffolk One in Ipswich after discovering an interest in programming and binary - said the subject was more accessible than many think.

"I don't think people my age are fully aware of what a computer science course involves," she said.

"As many people aren't introduced to computer science before GCSE, their interest is more likely to be on something they already know about. Their original thought is that it's just programming. They assume you have to be knowledgeable about the subject to be able to do the course.

"However, this isn't the case and the course is accessible to anyone willing to try - just like any other subject."


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