back to article Rejoice! Thousands more kids flock to computing A-level

It’s that day again, the day when picture editors across the British news media drop everything to find fresh photos of teenagers suspended in mid-air. Yes, it’s A-level results day – and thousands more pupils are passing exams in computing rather than old school ICT. The number of kids sitting A-level ICT fell by no less than …

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  1. Herring`

    Fundamentals of IT

    I put my son off IT. He got his grades this morning and he's off to do an MEng in Civil & Structural.

    25 years ago, IT was fun. Users said "Can you make a program that does this?" and we wrote it and they tested it and all was lovely. Now you need 3 weeks of meetings - some of which must be conducted standing up - before you can apply an index to a table.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fundamentals of IT

      Yep, every new manager needs to make their mark by bringing in some wonderful methodology that will be guaranteed to improve productivity and quality, but just ends up with more and more meetings and box-ticking until that is all you are doing. So glad I took early retirement.

      1. Herring`

        Re: Fundamentals of IT

        Call me a miserable bastard - I am - but back in those days, we'd have meetings with business experts and IT experts and get stuff done. Now the meetings are full of project managers, business analysts and like like so you have to talk really slowly and keep explaining things over and over again.

        I bet as a structural engineer, you don't have people in the meeting saying "High tensile steel is pretty expensive. Couldn't we use something cheaper - like cardboard?"

        1. Michael Strorm

          Re: Fundamentals of IT

          @ Herring`; I wouldn't be so sure about that. What about the decision to swap fireproof panels for flammable ones purely to save money made by councillors on the Tory-run Kensington and Chelsea council for Grenfell Tower?

          (Speaking of which, ever notice that it's conveniently slipping by unnoticed that *still* no-one has been held properly accountable for that decision? You'd have thought that in any fit-for-the-twenty-first-century building code that there would be a requirement for someone who knew what they were doing to legally "sign off"- and be responsible for- a decision like that. (#) Then again, it turns out that the Tories were pushing to *loosen* building codes shortly before the Grenfell fire.)

          (#) Regardless of what a bunch of odious Tories (whose only interest was the purely cosmetic improvement of an aesthetically-unpleasing sign of The Poors in the middle of their well-off burgh) thought of it.

          1. Herring`

            Re: Fundamentals of IT

            Well, I suppose you could argue that cladding isn't structural.

            I'm not sure that we'll ever get to the bottom of who should actually carry the can for that one. With all the layers of sub-contracting and who told whom what and when, I have doubts that justice will ever be served.

            1. Michael Strorm

              Re: Fundamentals of IT

              @Herring`; I didn't mean to imply that (strictly speaking) it was a structural engineering matter. However, it was close enough to make the point that even in a life-or-death matter of construction, then yes- you *can* still get such worthless, ill-informed, self-serving people weighing in on the decision. With even more serious consequences than you get with the typical IT fuck-up.

              "I'm not sure that we'll ever get to the bottom of who should actually carry the can for that one."

              If we don't, then that's the most damning thing of all; that a decision on the fundamental safety of building materials can be made with no-one knowing who's responsible- or no-one *having* to be responsible- for approving the decision and its safety. (The aforementioned Tory councillors made the decision- and have blood on their hands for the results- but they should *not* have been in the position of being able to get it through without that happening).

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Fundamentals of IT

              It's really simple, the owner is always responsible, I'm looking at you Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Who is ultimately responsible? well you are of course, you voted for them

                Both Grenfield and Madcow disease came about after your elected officials decided "to save a few pence" via overruling expert opinion and practices.

                Since they were elected then they and those that empowered them are to blame

                I would like to claim innocence but as the saying goes "you get the government you deserve", they should also add that you, as a citizen, are guilty of every crime that your officials commit in your name.

                Even if you don't vote

                1. Waseem Alkurdi

                  Re: Who is ultimately responsible? well you are of course, you voted for them

                  @Anonymous Coward said:

                  I would like to claim innocence but as the saying goes "you get the government you deserve", they should also add that you, as a citizen, are guilty of every crime that your officials commit in your name.

                  Even if you don't vote

                  Really? All, yes, all politicians are cut from the same cloth. It's bound to end up the same with whomever I vote for. It's a rule, in almost every country.

                  The sun rises from the east. Politicians are incompetent.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Who is ultimately responsible? well you are of course, you voted for them

                    @" The sun rises from the east. Politicians are incompetent."

                    I would disagree and add that whilst Politicians need only claim ignorance to get away with actions that would put others behind bars or at the end of a rope then they will ofc continue to do what ever profits them the most.

                    Some people just want power and have zero ethics and whilst you allow any group to do as they please and without any oversight then you are going to attract people who want to just that, of course they are going to abuse their power. Over the passed ~40 year every vile crime in the book has been commited by this group but they keep getting vote in so clearly they are what the majority want.

                    They may be robbing, murdering paedophyles but at least they are OUR robbing, murdering paedophyles, yes?

                  2. strum Silver badge

                    Re: Who is ultimately responsible? well you are of course, you voted for them

                    >All, yes, all politicians are cut from the same cloth

                    They're cut from the same cloth you (and I) are.

                    Just as you may (occasionally) come across a good manager, there are also (occasionally) decent politicians. And every one of them went into their trade in the hope of doing some good.

                    The fact that they usually can't, is largely because we, the public, don't pay attention to the details; we only notice the bits that impinge on us (negatively). And it's always their fault.

                    But, however crappy our particular constituency MP behaves, we'll still vote for him (or abstain), lest the other lot get in.

                    1. LucreLout Silver badge

                      Re: Who is ultimately responsible? well you are of course, you voted for them

                      But, however crappy our particular constituency MP behaves, we'll still vote for him (or abstain), lest the other lot get in.

                      Not me. Floating voter right here. You earn my vote, and if you happen to be in government at the time, then the actions of your government become an equal concern in whether I continue to vote for you or someone else.

                      I was once a proud labour voter, but then they wrecked the economy, started so many wars, and opened the door to unfettered immigation [1]. Now they're compounding that by becoming institutionally racist..... perhaps they always were, but I didn't believe it when I voted for them.

                      These days I vote Conservative, but given the surrender to the rEU in Brexit negotiations (remainer/leaver, who of you really thinks they've done a good job here? Yeah, me neither), I'm going to struggle to vote for them next year when we doubtlessly have another election.

                      All I really want is a party that understands fiscal discipline and the need for reform of eternal institutions in the public sector (reform does not mean abondonment or destruction, it is simply the process by which the inevitable inefficiency that creeps in over time or gets produced by technological advances gets dealt with rather than ignored). It shouldn't be too much to ask, but it is.

                      1 - Ostensibly to annoy Conservatives, but without any regard for the economic impact on their Northern voters or what it would do to British society and peoples relationship with the rEU. I think immigration can be a positive good for society if it is well managed and of paramount importance, tightly coupled to integration. Our economy is basically shot without it.

            3. PeteA
              Flame

              Re: Fundamentals of IT

              I have doubts that justice will ever be served.

              You're an optimist then - I'm quite certain won't be.

        2. Ledswinger Silver badge

          Re: Fundamentals of IT

          I bet as a structural engineer, you don't have people in the meeting saying "High tensile steel is pretty expensive. Couldn't we use something cheaper - like cardboard?"

          Recent tragic events in Genoa suggest otherwise.

          And there's a long history of structural engineering failures in civil, mechanical, aeronautical and naval engineering caused by penny pinching.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fundamentals of IT

          I put my son off IT. He got his grades this morning and he's off to do an MEng in Civil & Structural.

          I bet as a structural engineer, you don't have people in the meeting saying "High tensile steel is pretty expensive. Couldn't we use something cheaper - like cardboard?"

          You might want a few friends in different fields, or try working in different fields and see those meetings yourself.

          Client 'representative': I want to save more cost. The High tensile steel is pretty expensive. Couldn't we use the lower grade steel?

          Site Contractor: We could totally save so much cost with lower grade steel!!

          Structural Engineer: That won't do, you'll end up using more concrete and more lower grade steel to reach stability.

          Site Contractor: We've actually built it already.

          Structural Engineer: ...

          Half a year later:

          Case 1: Client pays double to fix the cracks along the support.

          Case 2: Structural failure caused death, and you get to read breaking news.

          Engineering fields are also filled with "meetings are full of project managers, business analysts". The biggest difference is for civil /structural engineer, those same project managers and business analysts still go for cost reduction while disregarding the real risk of cause real death.

          AC for seeing case 1 and case 2 scenario personally.

        4. James O'Shea Silver badge

          Re: Fundamentals of IT

          "I bet as a structural engineer, you don't have people in the meeting saying "High tensile steel is pretty expensive. Couldn't we use something cheaper - like cardboard?""

          Don't be too sure about that. Here in Deepest South Florida, some good ol' boyz once put styrofoam and cardboard in place of steel and concrete on the off-ramp from I-95 to Palm Beach 'International' (it is to laugh; with the exception of propeller-driven puddle-jumpers going to and coming back from the Bahamas and, during snowbird season, far too many Air Canaduh flights bringing in far too many Quebecois, all regularly scheduled flights at PBIA are to and from other places in the US...) Airport. You can't make this up. They really did have styrofoam and cardboard where steel should have been in the joins between the concrete slabs on the off ramp, and some of the concrete had more styrofoam instead of aggregate.

          https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/all-ramps-palm-beach-international-now-open/Sah1Sd15xi30h46bH0IwDN/

          At least no-one died here. In Boston, part of the tunnel under the harbor collapsed and killed someone. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/boston-tunnel-collapse-kills-newlywed/ It turns out that the construction company had used regular steel in the connectors, instead of the recommended salt-water-resistant steel. The tunnel was, I repeat, _under the bloody harbor_. Why there was absolutely no chance of salt water getting into the structure, no was there...

      2. dbgi

        Re: Fundamentals of IT

        Every company claims to be agile, but what they really mean is they taken it and bastardised it beyond recognition and still call it by Agile. Just because it's the in-thing.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Fundamentals of IT

      I put my son off IT. He got his grades this morning and he's off to do an MEng in Civil & Structural.

      ----

      The GCSE computing (for which I errm, I mean he got A* in the coding coursework) put my son off the A level version. He has gone to do an MPhys instead.

      1. Herring`

        Re: Fundamentals of IT

        I had help putting him off. A couple of years ago, he had to do 2 weeks work experience and a mate - who is an IT manager at a large corp - took him on. Experience of a real IT environment did it.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Fundamentals of IT

          Essentially, what you have said is a week as a delivery driver put him off automotive engineering. No wonder he was put off.

    3. boltar Silver badge

      Re: Fundamentals of IT

      "Now you need 3 weeks of meetings - some of which must be conducted standing up - before you can apply an index to a table."

      True, but there still arn't many other white collar industries where you can earn 300-400 quid a day from the get go as a contractor. IT might be full of bullshitting MBA know-nothings in management these days, but its still a damn good industry to be in and until computers write their own software you'll not find it hard to get work so long as you choose your specialisations wisely. IMO of course.

      1. Herring`

        Re: Fundamentals of IT

        I am a contractor now because when I cared more, it was doing my head in. Now I try not to care by reminding myself that these inefficiencies are actually money in the bank for me.

        Although I would really rather be creating good stuff.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fundamentals of IT

          I am a contractor now because when I cared more, it was doing my head in. Now I try not to care by reminding myself that these inefficiencies are actually money in the bank for me.

          This applies to every field, except for startups and 'some' Tech firm.

        2. HumorousName

          Re: Fundamentals of IT

          Exactly, having a stupid client is less stressful than being part of a stupid company, that and escaping performance management

    4. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: before you can apply an index to a table.

      And when you do, the flippin' developers write nested selects that invalidate the index and force brute-force table-walks anyway.

      And then they complain that "the database is slow".

      And then they ignore the detailed analytics they are given showing them why, and escalate the issue.

      And then they try the "don't look at me" ploy when someone asks why such highly trained specialists can't write code the engine can optimize, even when told why - something their certifications say they know about already.

      1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: before you can apply an index to a table.

        "And when you do, the flippin' developers write nested selects that invalidate the index and force brute-force table-walks anyway.

        And then they complain that "the database is slow".

        And then they ignore the detailed analytics they are given showing them why, and escalate the issue."

        Regret can only upvote once.

        One consequence too of the way things get done these days is vast aggregations of stored procedures and incomprehensible SQL, I assume because everybody has to have an input to show they are doing something. I retired...but not before I saw the SQL script that one of our customers was hoping we would work with.

        It ran to 3.6 megabytes, spelled out to make it clear that isn't a typo.

      2. boltar Silver badge

        Re: before you can apply an index to a table.

        "And when you do, the flippin' developers write nested selects that invalidate the index and force brute-force table-walks anyway."

        People don't write nested selects and correlated sub queries just for fun. Its probably because someone higher up dictated some output that the normalisation structure of the DB was never designed to accomodate and so contortions have to be made to get the information out. Whats the alternative (other than redesigning the DB)? Write a PL/SQL procedure or process it in the client app which will probably be equally slow if not slower.

        1. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: before you can apply an index to a table.

          People don't write nested selects and correlated sub queries just for fun.

          In my experience people usually do it due to a lack of talent. Though in fairness, I've also seen the reasons you give.

      3. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: before you can apply an index to a table.

        And when you do, the flippin' developers write nested selects that invalidate the index and force brute-force table-walks anyway.

        And then they complain that "the database is slow".

        Why aren't the developers writing their own index?

        As a dev, I usually do the database design and tuning, not the dba. I've worked for about 9 companies now and never worked in one where the dba did the performance tuning. After all, I know what the code is going to do, so I know what variable range the sprocs will be passed and also what compound conidtionals I'm going to want to find with non-clustered indexes etc.

    5. Mayday Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: Fundamentals of IT

      "Now you need 3 weeks of meetings - some of which must be conducted standing up"

      Funny because it is unfortunately very true. I think we can blame (to a degree) ITIL, Agile, Six Sigma et al.

      Back in the day, my boss rang me at 2pm on a Wednesday and said, "Hey can you go to $CUSTOMER tomorrow and upgrade all the campus switches with new hardware, configure it all and do all that etc? Come in the office this afternoon to grab the new switches and see the customer Thursday, if you need to be there Friday too that's ok". I got the kit (6 switches) and spent Thursday and Friday morning doing the work.

      I can't see that happening now. Changing an interface description or changing a vlan assignment is a labour of Hercules which requires explaining to all these people who dont know what the difference between a patch lead and an SFP is all sorts of things, not to mentions the meetings and documentation. What used to cost a customer $250 now costs them about $5k.

      1. matjaggard

        Re: Fundamentals of IT

        What has agile got to do with slower development?! If your manager is using agile as an excuse for more meetings then you need to have some better arguments with them.

    6. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Fundamentals of IT

      "I put my son off IT. He got his grades this morning and he's off to do an MEng in Civil & Structural."

      So did one of my kids. Structural engineering is now one of the more highly paid jobs, and the career prospects are excellent. Plus it's a little difficult to offshore the construction of large buildings.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fundamentals of IT

        So did one of my kids. Structural engineering is now one of the more highly paid jobs, and the career prospects are excellent. Plus it's a little difficult to offshore the construction of large buildings.

        Good luck to him, but whilst civil engineering might be somewhat difficult to offshore, there's two things to bear in mind - that civil engineering has very long term business cycles, and during the doldrums (like when I left school) civil engineers struggle to find well paid work. The second point is that you can actually offshore rather a lot of the engineering - look at the Chinese funded and engineered civil engineering projects in Africa, for example. In some cases its even Chinese labourers, using imported materials, in which case it is possible to offshore design and 95% of construction. Many of the top UK structural engineers and architects work mainly on international projects, and for the country of the project, they've offshored much of the design work.

        We tend not to notice offshoring when it suits us.

  2. Chris G Silver badge

    I quite like the idea of apprenticeships, often exam results and even degrees don't reflect the ability of the individual to apply it. On the job training leading to qualifications has always worked pretty well with a lot of other engineering subjects in the past with the benefits of input from co-workers to help get past problems in a practical way.

    How many people have jobs that have little or nothing to do with their school and university qualifications?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It used to be like that, many good practitioners don't have degrees. Now you need a degree to work on a helpdesk.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        I've been programming computers for a living for nearly 30 years now. Taught myself to do it on a Speccy at home and a Beeb at college. I've made a pretty good living at it with only a total of about two months redundancy over all that time. I have nearly always enjoyed it and still do. I've never wanted to be anything other than a programmer and am pleased that I avoided getting pulled into a management role.

        30 years, decent pay and an enjoyable career and all without a computing qualification to my name :)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        As a US manager I learned quickly that this is about gaming the H1 system, I assume it is the same in other industrialized countries. I've known plenty of people with no degree doing the jobs I'm managing; now I have to get people with Masters' degrees for entry positions or I put large swaths of the team at risk when the next H1 challenge comes up.

    2. LucreLout Silver badge

      How many people have jobs that have little or nothing to do with their school and university qualifications?

      Every job I've ever held, despite the fact that I earned 2 degrees. Since HR started having degrees, there's been an explosion in the number of jobs requiring a degree to get, that don't need a degree to do.

  3. 0laf Silver badge
    Megaphone

    That's great that they are flocking to IT if it's a comp sci course with some proper hard science behind it. If it's just an 'IT' degree, good luck finding decent work. We've cut IT to the bone and beyond and every time someone leaves the business tried to regrade the post as low as possible to save money. Soon we'll have nothing but living wage graduates on a hell desk.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      "That's great that they are flocking to IT if it's a comp sci course with some proper hard science behind it."

      It's getting there. I'm not sure quite what I'd put in an entry-level course but what's in the current crop of GCSE and A-level computing courses is not obviously wrong and some of it is certainly right. The "proper hard science" is more difficult, since no A-level course is allowed to assume that you are also doing Maths at the same level. Good luck doing "hard science" with only GCSE-level maths. The same problem afflicts A-level physics, of course.

      They are both entry-level courses, by the way, as is the first year undergraduate course at a UK university. We still aren't at the stage where you can assume that A-level candidates did the GCSE or that undergraduates did the A-level. (Contrast that with almost any other STEM subject where you'd be laughed out of the classroom if you hadn't taken the "previous" exam.)

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        I was thinking similar thoughts

        So (helped by the El Reg hacks who linked to it) read some of the syllabus. This is a pretty decent course; it is not "Do shit in Office/Windows", its an intro to software engineering. For instance:

        Understand and use the following appropriately:

        • integer

        • real/float

        • Boolean

        • character

        • string

        • date/time

        • pointer/reference

        Damn, I work with people who don't understand and use pointers properly.

        As for the science, this is the difference between school and university. School is about learning how to do things. In A level maths, you learn how to apply techniques like integration/differentiation, statistical methods, vector equations for motion, etc. In university level maths, you learn how to prove those techniques. This computing course is about the techniques of programming; its not supposed to be about the theory of computing.

        Computer science is not about programming. One of the most famous computer scientists said "Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes", and barely ever touched a computer.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: I was thinking similar thoughts

          Computer science is not about programming. One of the most famous computer scientists said "Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes", and barely ever touched a computer.

          So so true, and I wish I had known that 30 years ago when picking my degree course. I spent three years wondering "when are we going to do, you know, some *actual* computing?" Not realising that I *was* doing "computing", I just wasn't doing what I should have called it, programming/software development/engineering. It didn't help that actual programming/software development/egineering courses were (and still are) called "electrical engineering" !!!!! Yer wot??? I want to be designing code and programming computers, not wiring up houses.

    2. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Soon we'll have nothing but living wage graduates on a hell desk.

      I'm surprised that wasn't first to go offshore. That's what usually happens - the company contract IT infrastructure to a global technocorp (HP, DXC, EDSDellwhothefuckaretheynownow, IBM, Wipro, TCS et al), and within minutes a fairly competent UK helpdesk find themselves on the scrapheap, and their work is moved to the chimpanzee enclosure of a third world zoo.

  4. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    the day when picture editors across the British news media drop everything to find fresh photos of teenagers suspended in mid-air

    You forgot "good looking female" before the word "teenagers".

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      You forgot "good looking female" before the word "teenagers".

      Are you saying you'd prefer more pictures of ugly old blokes?

      I'm sure there's a magazine or website that caters for such interests. Maybe Google "grandad pr0n" and see what turns up (sorry, I'm not brave enough, but the challenge is offered up to selfless heroic commentards).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Look like the back of a bus

        Are you saying you'd prefer more pictures of ugly old blokes?

        At one time there was an advertising campaign by Budget Travel (?) on Dublin Buses. The caption was "Look like the back of a bus", and the whole of the back of the bus was covered in vinyl featuring the giant image of a tanned model in a yellow one piece swimsuit.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Look like the back of a bus

          Dara Ó Briain in a one-piece? hooo hooo hooo.

      2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

        Most of the people taking A levels will be teenagers, so it's awfully strange that a high proportion of the pictures of results being received are of teenagers that are a) female and b) pretty, the few exceptions being the students that get A* in everything.

      3. LucreLout Silver badge

        Are you saying you'd prefer more pictures of ugly old blokes?

        Seems to be one of those hung on the wall of every bathroom I use these days... Time has not been kind. And I was starting off from a position of looking like the @rse end of a horse.

    2. Rich 11 Silver badge

      You forgot "good looking female" before the word "teenagers".

      You forgot "blonde" before the words "good looking female". Or have I strayed into the Daily Telegraph more than is good for me?

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