Royal Society Report on CS in English Schools: The Challenge of Reaching Everyone

November 13, 2017 at 7:00 am 5 comments

The new report from the UK’s Royal Society is fascinating and depressing. More than half of school don’t offer CS. Because the largest schools do offer CS, 70% of English students are at a school that offer CS — but they’re still not getting into CS classes. Only 1 in 5 CS students are female. The Royal Society recommends a tenfold increase in funding.

We have heard about some of these demographics before (see the Roehampton report and BBC coverage). Here in the US, we’re also talking about dramatically increasing funding (see blog post here about the $1.3B funding from White House and Tech industry).  Are the US and England on the same paths in CS? Is there any reason to expect things to be different, or better, in the US?

report by the UK’s national academy of sciences finds that more than half of English schools do not offer GCSE Computer Science, leaving too many young people without the chance to learn critically important programming and algorithm skills at a crucial stage of their education.

Unless the government urgently invests £60m in computing education over the next five years – a tenfold increase from current levels that puts it on par with support for maths and physics – an entire generation may never unlock the full potential of new technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Key findings from the report include:

  • 54% of English schools do not offer Computer Science GCSE

  • 30% of English GCSE pupils attend a school that does not offer Computer Science GCSE – the equivalent of 175,000 pupils each year

  • Bournemouth leads England with the highest uptake of Computer Science GCSE (23% of all pupils), with Kensington & Chelsea (5%), Blackburn (5%) and City of London coming last (4%)

  • England meets only 68% of its recruitment target for entries into computing teacher training courses, lower than Physics and Classics

  • Only 1 in 5 Computer Science GCSE pupils are female

Source: Invest tenfold in computing in schools to prepare students for digital world, says Royal Society

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. alanone1  |  November 13, 2017 at 9:46 am

    (Categories: Emperor’s New Clothes and Endless Repetitions)

    I realize that this has been said before, but I think it still needs to be put again out into the vacuum: there seems to be so much more worry in both the US and UK about various kinds of “coverage” than about whether “that which is to cover” — the curricula — is even close to being good enough.

    I just don’t see that the current stuff from the usual suspects is remotely a reasonable characterization of computing for any age.

    I’m just sayin’ …

    There is enormous pull both directly and (worse) indirectly from what is being done (and how done) with computing in industry. This has seriously affected — maybe ruined — the college and high school experiences in computing, and is now reaching to kindergarten and below.

    I think there is still time to wake up and reassess from a large point of view and more powerful perspectives.

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  November 13, 2017 at 9:39 pm

      We’re just starting a study of why schools don’t adopt CS (vs. great work like “Stuck in the Shallow End” about student-level choices whether to pursue CS) — and when I say “we,” I mean, “my student Miranda Parker’s dissertation proposal.” I tend to agree that perceptions of industry are likely influencing student and school choices. But it’s not clear how to change the Tech industry and the perceptions of industry.

      • 3. alanone1  |  November 14, 2017 at 1:09 am

        Again repeating – what’s needed is something that is independent of “practicality” but is deeply consonant with “real computing” including serious lookaheads.

        This provides a way to clearly see gaps between various kinds of practice and “what’s actually needed”. The spirit of such statements of ideals is very similar to why — for example — it’s critical in proclaiming desires for -human rights- and other difficult areas, to stick with the way things -should be-, rather than compromises with practical difficulties. This is the essential difference between “declarations” and “constitutions” and practical “case law”.

        Once standards and other kinds of committees allow their ideas of what is possible and “what is going on” (for example, both non-existent and poor teachers) to affect the “shoulds”, the desirable goals have been removed, and really bad low levels of “new normals” get established.

        These make it impossible for any kind of success to have real meaning. For example, with really bad ideas about computing, what would it mean for there to be 100% adoption by all the constituencies that people worry about now? This is the “Emporer’s New Clothes” part of the ongoing fads now.

        Similar processes have already been at work in school mathematics and science for the last many decades. Why add another non-subject to the almost mindless drudging the kids are forced to endure?

  • 4. Joanna Goode  |  November 15, 2017 at 5:08 am

    I’ve had some great conversations with one of the authors of this report this week. Of note, the gender gap grows larger as the coursework becomes more advanced. While 1 of 5 of students studying CS GCSE level (ages 14-16) are girls, only 1 of 10 students at A Levels (age 16-18) are girls – the equivalent age as most of the AP students in the US.

  • […] might not get students taking them, or it may just be more of the same kinds of students (as the Roehampton Report has shown us). Diverse participation is really […]


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