AN EXPLOSION in the numbers of pupils taking GCSE and A-level computing is expected as the subject becomes a timetable priority.
As part of the Government's reforms of secondary lessons, information and communications technology is now being taught in its own right rather than simply used as a tool to deliver other subjects.
Since the key stage 3 ICT strategy was rolled out nationally this September, about 85 per cent of 12-year-olds have been taking lessons in the subject. More than 4,000 ICT teachers have been trained and a teaching framework and lesson plans have been published.
Clare Johnson, KS3 national strategy ICT director, said: "ICT is a new subject compared to the rest of the curriculum. We have not had years of debate about how to teach it and technology changes and moves on. There was a crying need to support teachers to do a really good job."
A national ICT test is being developed that 14-year-olds will take on-screen. A target of 75 per cent of pupils scoring level 5 or above has been set for 2004.
Teachers currently assess pupils' themselves. This year, 66 per cent of pupils reached the expected level. Getting the national tests right will be one of the strategy's biggest challenges, according to Ms Johnson, a former maths teacher.
She told The TES: "We have to convince them that if we get the teaching right, then the tests are no problem. The feeling is that if pupils have success in ICT at key stage 3 it will bring success post-14. If they find lessons creative, pacy and challenging we hope that most children will progress to higher levels of achievement."
The number of pupils taking GCSE information technology is already growing and increased by 14 per cent last year.
This year, there were just over 116,000 entries, 2 per cent of the total number of GCSEs taken. A vocational GCSE in the subject is available for the first time this term and will be examined in 2004.
About 27,000 students took an A-level in computing and there were just over 9,000 entries for the vocational A-level.