The government’s decision to scrap GCSE and A-level ICT has been branded a “kick in the teeth” for both subject leaders and students.
The Department for Education yesterday issued a notice revealing that ICT had been dropped at the same time as education secretary Nicky Morgan gave a major speech on testing 7-year-olds.
The disclosure was buried within a wider consultation document calling for views on the development of content for both GCSE and A-level. The document reveals that ICT would not be among those subjects to be redeveloped.
The document states that ministers took the decision as the content in ICT and computing occupied a “similar qualification space”.
“The reformed computer science GCSE and A-levels provide a strong foundation for further academic and vocational study and for employment,” it reads.
“Ministers have therefore taken the decision not to approve two GCSEs and A-levels in a similar qualification space. The IT GCSE and IT A-level will not be redeveloped.”
Mark Chambers, chief executive of the ICT subject association Naace, said the government’s reasoning for dropping ICT – it overlapped with the new computing curriculum – was “weak”.
“We were trying to work with [schools minister] Nick Gibb in order to offer him an alternative that responded to his demand for a more academic qualification,” Mr Chambers said. “But despite our efforts they decided to scrap it, which was a kick in the teeth.”
Official figures show that more than 111,000 students sat the GCSE in ICT in the summer, up from more than 96,000 the year before. Just 35,000 pupils sat the computing GCSE. Mr Chambers said the decision to drop ICT would hit students hard.
“When results come out we are quick to say that GCSEs are getting easier, and now we have kicked students in the teeth again by scrapping this qualification. It’s just another blow to their confidence,” he said.
Miles Berry, principal lecturer in computing education at the University of Roehampton and part of the drafting panel for computing in the national curriculum, said the government’s move was a “huge shame”.
“Those students interested in studying for a qualification in ICT but not in the more academically focused field of computer science will now no longer have a GCSE or A-level to study,” he said.
“Many young people will need the skills to produce online content for the world of work using certain tools, but they will not necessarily need to know how to create those tools.”
The decision to scrap the qualifications was greeted with outrage on Twitter:
A DfE spokesperson said:
“These rigorous new Computer Science qualifications, backed by industry experts, will give pupils the skills they need to progress to further study and a range of top jobs.
“We want to encourage more pupils to study this new high-quality course. The inclusion of Computer Science in the EBacc reflects its rigorous academic standards and entries have more than doubled in the last year alone, demonstrating the increasing popularity of the subject. It is no longer necessary to redevelop further qualifications in the same space and pupils will no longer be able to start IT GCSE or IT A level from September 2017.”