I HAVE THE ANSWER
Jeez. Is the really the Royal Society asking these questions? I'd heard about in-breeding within royal circles but this is taking it a bit too far.
"Is computing is a real discipline in the same way that maths, physics or chemistry are."
Firstly remove the word 'real' from the question - in this kind of context it's one of those words that will lead you up the garden path, into the shed, slam the door, apply the padlock and sod off back to the house to have a nice cup of tea leaving you in the dark. (Yes it's a real discipline - it exists, has being and is an entirely valid field of human endeavour).
To re-ask the question, then: "Is computing is a discipline in the same way that maths, physics or chemistry are."
Well, in what way are maths, physics and chemistry 'the same'? Obviously they're not all exactly the same or physics would be chemistry, maths would be physics, and we'd still be sitting in little dark rooms applying flame to powder X and wondering why our eyebrows are missing most of the time. So what are the similarities? Well, physics and chemistry use maths, chemistry uses physics, and maths doesn't use either of the above. Computing uses maths - so there's a similarity to physics and chemistry. I'm sure there are lots of other similarities as well. If you're that interested get some physicists, chemists, mathematicians and computer scientists in a room together and get them to discuss the similarities between their chosen fields. I'll give it 10 minutes before there's a fist-fight.
"Is programming still a fundamental literacy for the modern age?"
It never was, so the fact that it isn't now is neither here nor there.
"What is the purpose of ICT or computing classes in school?"
To teach 'computers'.
"Are existing qualifications fit for purpose?"
Professional qualifications - they're often managed by the proprietary bodies who make the software / hardware and they're probably not going to listen to anything Joe Public tell them.
Academic qualifications - what /is/ their purpose, exactly? If you can tell me please do. I'm utterly baffled by the whole thing (and yes, I do have a degree from a reputable university).
"Should computing even be taught in the school environment - do kids learn more outside the classroom?"
That's just an abdication of responsibility. Stop abdicating your responsibilities. Try shouldering them instead.
"Why do students study computing?"
Have you tried asking them?
"How much variety is there between different schools?"
Maybe you should go and look.
"Do computing qualifications carry as much weight with universities as, say, maths qualifications?"
That depends which university you're looking at, and what you intend to study. Neither subject will carry much weight if you want to study English.
"Is it a problem of perception?"
Is /what/ a problem of perception?
"Is this problem unique to the UK or could we learn from other countries?"
It's not unique to the UK. I'd hazard a guess at saying pretty much everyone hates tech at one time or another - even teccies hate tech. Tech is complex and complicated and the results are often nebulous, and it's always changing, and there's a cartload of terminology (not to mention bullshit) that comes with the subject. The only peoplee who don't ever hate tech are the people who come up with the 'big idea' (= 'saleable crock of shit') and get someone else to implement it for them. These people are known as 'managers' (='idiots' if you're a teccie).
There I've answered all the questions.
Do I win something?