back to article Fewer than half GCSE computing students got a B or higher this year

The UK government has been told to tackle teacher shortages in Blighty – and offer more support for those now teaching tougher syllabuses – as GCSE computing results showed little improvement on last year. Today's results show a marginal improvement on the 2016 figures – this year, 41 per cent gained a B or higher, compared …

  1. Instinct46

    Teaching IT doesn't have enough money

    The amount of education you need to teach and for IT is quite high to be qualified on a university level, now why would you pay all that money and then settle for a job which caps at about 25 - 30k a year?

    Anyone who is good will go into IT not into teaching GCSE level IT.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Teaching IT doesn't have enough money

      Same as in any subject, IT is no different.

      Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.

      However, that's not the reason. The reason is that - in nearly 20 years of working IT in schools, private and state, primary, secondary and beyond - I have met precisely two people who actually know the first thing about IT. As in, unsupervised, they could go through an install wizard without messing things up.

      One was a former industrial control programmer.

      One was an astrophysicist.

      Literally, everyone else I see who teaches IT or computing in schools has NO CONCEPT of IT whatsoever. I know, because I deal with them every day.

      If they code, they code in Scratch. Mostly, they can't even do that. They have no grasp of computer science (distinct from "computing") and no grasp of modern computing.

      It's not to do with the other people all going out to industry, it's to do with having to put up with the nonsense of being a teacher, and keep up with IT, from a base of "I know how to use Ctrl-C, aren't I clever?".

      I manage the IT for a private school with the first of the above as the "head of ICT", i.e. teaching IT (the other is my own brother...). We get a lot of stuff done that most people can't even dream of working IT in schools. But that took a long time to find. Over 20 years, I have had everything from a "Head of VLE" who actually didn't know what a VLE was ("It's like Google, isn't it?"), to the youngest teacher / mug in the school who, each year, got the role palmed off to them and they could barely log on themselves. Repeat next year, next year, next year, etc.

      It's not that you can't be IT and teach, it's that a) You wouldn't want to teach (I briefly considered it after uni, but worked in a school for a while and quickly changed my mind) and b) the things that you are made to teach, and shown how to teach, are dull, out-of-date, poor-practice, had no relevance to modern computing (even with the new ICT curricula) and certainly won't be at all useful to the kids anyway (but then, I grew up on BBC Micros in school, so it doesn't really matter, that last bit).

      Stop teaching kids that copy/paste from Google images into word is "computing", or especially "computer science", it's not. Nor is putting a loop flowchart icon into a piece of Lego software. The bar is set FAR TOO LOW still, and as such all the interesting stuff is completely out-of-syllabus anyway so decent people can't be bothered to spend their lives just teaching taht.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: Teaching IT doesn't have enough money

        Stop teaching kids that copy/paste from Google images into word is "computing"

        Really? Wow. I had to write a database for my Computer Studies 'O' Level ffs.

    2. DNTP

      Re: Teaching IT doesn't have enough money

      You've hit the nail on the head.

      BIOLOGY: The subject that they couldn't pay me enough to teach. Literally. Because the maximum salary cap after ten years of service is below the current annual cost of living, and partly that's because of all the biotech companies in the city. And yet every year since 2006 I get a call from my university asking for monetary donations, and then trying to guilt me into taking a public career.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Teaching IT doesn't have enough money

      One possible solution to that is to scrap university fee's for STEM subjects and have people spend 20 years giving a half/full day a week teaching or a set amount of time. Employers won't mind as it means more staff which equals lower pay so giving time off pays for itself.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Teaching IT doesn't have enough money

        I would be very happy to help out in local schools or colleges - but not for the godawful GCSE syllabus we have that seem designed to suck the life out of the subject.

    4. 45RPM Silver badge

      Re: Teaching IT doesn't have enough money

      …and, sad to say, university level IT / computing isn’t well taught these days either. The first thing that I have to do when employing graduates is teach them C - and, once they have C under their belts, then they can begin to become adept in the other languages that I may need them to use.

      Other (basic) things that they don’t know / understand include:

      modulo arithmetic

      matrix transforms

      how a computer actually works (to most it’s just a magic box for running software)

      algorithmic efficiency (big O and so forth)

      Fortunately, they’re all bloody clever - so they pick it up quickly - but that doesn’t alter the fact that, as an employer, I shouldn’t have to be the one who teaches them this stuff.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Teaching IT doesn't have enough money

        @45RPM

        "Fortunately, they’re all bloody clever - so they pick it up quickly - but that doesn’t alter the fact that, as an employer, I shouldn’t have to be the one who teaches them this stuff."

        This is very much the problem with business, they want it all for free.

        When I was young and the UK manufactured things then those children that were not going to achieve high academic sucesss were given the basics and then business would train them for the jobs the businesses wanted filled. Then the UK destroyed manufactoring and education and threw away apprentiships to kill the trade unions.

        Now anyone seeking higher education is paying for it themselves, if businesses want people trained up so they can make money off them and be able to dictate what they learn then they are going to have to put money into education.

        1. 45RPM Silver badge

          Re: Teaching IT doesn't have enough money

          "This is very much the problem with business, they want it all for free"

          How do you work that out? What I want, what business wants, is for schools and universities to build a solid foundation on which I can add business specific skills and training. And given how much I pay, both as a taxpayer and in direct contribution and funding to my kids education, and how much students pay in tuition fees, I'd say that that's the very least I can expect.

          A graduate with a degree in computing should have a solid understanding of how computers and networks work, C programming (and not some trendy, mainly educational frippery like Haskell), and a solid grounding in mathematics. SQL would be nice, Linux is essential and everything else is a bonus.

          With that foundation they can pick up pretty much everything else on the job.

          1. Law

            Re: Teaching IT doesn't have enough money

            "What I want, what business wants, is for schools and universities to build a solid foundation on which I can add business specific skills and training."

            I don't see that reflected in job advertisements.

            I know most of it driven by HR departments not understanding how it all works, or agencies... But all jobs seem to run similar to this now:

            "Graduate level post: You will be a full stack web developer, 10 years embedded c experience required. Some C# and Java knowledge essential. Mobile development experience desirable. You will be a thought leader and agile evangelist, with experience of teaching others the benefits of XP and scrum. Conference speaking a bonus. £18k + 12 days holiday + bank holidays."

            1. rmason Silver badge

              Re: Teaching IT doesn't have enough money

              @law

              This. Can't upvote this enough.

              I took a call from a recruiter this week (i'm network admin rather than a coder). They had a position they thought i'd be interested in.

              CCNA/CCND/MCSE were all mentioned in the job description. Years of experience, windows stuff back to server '03 and upto server '16 it went on and on and on.

              They were offering 22-25k "depending on experience". It would have been difficult to build these skills up without having 5-10 years in IT under your belt. 22--25k. That's where a large Nottinghamshire employer puts that sort of experience and training, and that's on top of the degree they would "prefer" candidates to have.

              1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

                Re: Teaching IT doesn't have enough money

                I spoke to someone recently in a large firm who was trying to recruit for a fairly specialised role in IT security.

                In order to get the role categorised to allow for a competitive salary he had to tick lots of boxes relating to skills that weren't specifically required (otherwise HR would classify the role as a lower tier and limit the salary on offer).

                So, imagine the surprise when it's hard to get people applying with the right skill-sets.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Teaching IT doesn't have enough money

            @45RPM

            "And given how much I pay, both as a taxpayer and in direct contribution and funding to my kids education, and how much students pay in tuition fees, I'd say that that's the very least I can expect."

            Everyone with kids pays the same and no, I agree not enough goes towards meaningful higher education. However since everyone with kids in higher education is also is paying the same you then they get an equal vote about what they are going to pay for their children to learn.

            If you want to dictate the syllabus then where is your business contribution?

            How about instead of waiting for the Government to think of your needs instead of their mates, you instead recruit someone to put through their degree.

            Then you get to pick the course and syllabus and you can tie them into a minimum time working for you after they are qualified, especially if you withhold any wages above their loan repayment threshold being saved up by you to pay back their student loan. Your company controls the saved cash and any interest earned so staying with you for the agreed time gets their student loan repaid in a lump at the lowest rate of interest and you not needing to go to court if they are poached by the other companies waiting for someone else to address the issue.

            The fact is that in any subject requiring the range of abilities you are asking for then you are going to need a business interest guild if you want to control the quality and content, then only your certified courses will be recognized as being meaningful for business where you operate

        2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Teaching IT doesn't have enough money

          This is very much the problem with business, they want it all for free.

          Sorry, if the subjects are unlearned or not though, fuck them, that's not the CV I was looking for. There is space for people ready to do menial tasks.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Teaching IT doesn't have enough money

            "Sorry, if the subjects are unlearned or not though, fuck them, that's not the CV I was looking for. "

            So basic English not a requirement then?

    5. Nick Z

      Good teachers don't have enough students

      Perhaps the problem is that good teachers don't have enough students, rather than students not having enough good teachers.

      I've been studying computer programming at school and taking online course from a website called udemy.com at the same time. And my online courses definitely beat any courses I've taken at my college.

      For one thing, learning from videos is more effective than learning from lectures. Because in a classroom lecture, the instructor has limited time to cover his material. He goes fast. Some, or even many students make mistakes and fall behind, when they try to code together with the instructor.

      The problem is multi-tasking. When you constantly need to switch your attention between the classroom screen and your computer screen and listen to the instructor talking at the same time, then this in itself leads to mistakes and confusion.

      But learning from videos online has none of these problems. Because you can pause a video any time you want and learn it at your own pace.

      Some of my instructors at udemy.com have graduate degrees in computer science. Some are from Cambridge and some are from Oxford. And one of my instructors there had a count of over 125 000 students for one of his courses. Their courses are broken up into many videos. And each video has a separate discussion group, where people can ask questions and get answers.

      I think teaching computer programming in a classroom is a wrong way to do it. Because computer programming requires the kind of teaching and learning that works best online.

    6. R3sistance

      Re: Teaching IT doesn't have enough money

      Honestly, most of my IT skills are self taught and what training I have had has surpassed the education in IT that I got from school or university. Most of what school or university did was cover things that were either irrelevant or that I already knew, school was all windows based stuff and university had to drop it's Unix course because they couldn't get anybody willing to teach it.

      Now that I do have over 10 years in IT, If you even wanted me to look at another job, you'd need to be talking 40K min, probably more likely 45~50K if you really want me interested.

      There is of course the other issue that since now everybody has to do IT, the IT courses are easier. Heck, when I was 13 I was learning QBasic, making simplistic 3D projections for fun where now you have people going in that don't know the difference between a div or a span in html....

    7. Eponymous Cowherd
      Unhappy

      Re: Teaching IT doesn't have enough money

      A few years ago I was made redundant. I was kind of pissed off with the rat-race, so looked at teaching as an alternative.

      Now I have a CS degree and (at the time) 12 year in industry as a software engineer and sysadmin, so I thought they'd be keen.

      Sorry, Mr Cowherd, I was told, Your English qualification aren't good enough (I have a D in English Language). Never mind the fact that all of the projects and theses I did at uni have probably pushed my standard of English way above GCSE. Never mind that English teachers seem incapable of drilling the difference between "their", "there" and "they're" into students. I didn't have a piece of paper so they weren't interested.

      Now I see my 15 year old daughter being taught Computing by a complete muppet who thinks an Apache server is a waiter in an ethnic restaurant.

      No doubt his English is excellent, though.......

      Still working it IT. Currently a dev for an R&D outfit. Enormous fun, so I'm kind of glad I got turned down for teaching.

      1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

        Re: Teaching IT doesn't have enough money

        "Sorry, Mr Cowherd, I was told, Your English qualification aren't good enough (I have a D in English Language). Never mind the fact that all of the projects and theses I did at uni have probably pushed my standard of English way above GCSE."

        You're right about the project and thesis work improving your English.

        Having done the standard Maths/Physics/Chemistry up to A-Level, my own English writing skills took a massive leap forward when I did Anthropology as a side course in my first year at Uni. That taught me how to write essays as opposed to lab experiment write-ups.

        Add a collection of English, German and French classics my girlfriend pointed me at, and by the end of my degree course I was far in advance of my O-level English result.

        All of which helped considerably when it came to writing business reports once I got into the outside world.

  2. h4rm0ny
    Paris Hilton

    Isn't C supposed to be average?

    And therefore you would expect less than half to get a B or more?

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Isn't C supposed to be average?

      K&R C was distinctly average. But I'd say C99 was above average, except for the idiotic tgmath.

      What?! Somebody had to pun it. And I'm between builds.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Isn't C supposed to be average?

        How many got C++?

        As were doing puns I thought it would be rude not to.

        1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Isn't C supposed to be average?

          I might have done but got frightened by the Python

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Isn't C supposed to be average?

            But we started with B, then C and now have D - the industry is obviously going in the wrong direction

            1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

              Re: Isn't C supposed to be average?

              "But we started with B, then C and now have D"

              The mistake, here, was going to D instead of P

        2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Isn't C supposed to be average?

          "As were doing puns I thought it would be rude not to.[C++]"

          I couldn't figure out how to do it with without restarting the C++ is better than C flame war. (It is. Obviously.)

      2. tojb

        Re: Isn't C supposed to be average?

        Yes! 50% of students are below average. That is life.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Isn't C supposed to be average?

      Isn't C supposed to be average?

      Depends what you're trying to measure. In my view exam scores shouldn't be set to deliver a normal distribution across each year's cohort. In my opinion, that's very poor thinking, from academics who put their own "let's select the top 5%" interests above the practical needs of employers.

      The most important thing for employers is that the grades should represent the same thing year on year, that individual "X" has achieved a level of competence "N". If improved teaching (or merely state schools aping any "unfair" practices of independent schools) results in rising average grades or changing distribution, that should be a good thing, not a reason for Daily Fail teeth gnashing. Look at the damage that Smeagol Gove has caused in trying to being back the days of Tom Brown, and everything resting on final exams. Obviously the man's been scarred by being a Scottish Tory, and the intellectual inferiority of having a degree in English.

      Now, many will posit that exams ARE easier, and that a B in CompSci isn't worth the paper its written on, but both are separate questions to the distribution of results, and to the fact that improvements SHOULD occur from greater transparency, adoption of best practices, and culling of the weakest teachers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Isn't C supposed to be average?

        @ledswinger

        Firstly, I agree that grading exams graded by the results of everyone else taking the test is unfair and unrepresentative of ability.

        I will add though that creating meaningful exam questions requires a level of understanding higher than the level being tested, no matter how you grade the results. In otherwords for meaningful tests you need people who have a much higher level of understanding in that subject than the people taking the tests. Here is where it all falls down in the UK, anyone with the level required to write tests is classed as being too expensive to employ in education.

        If you want high level employees for business then you are going to have to spend money training them up so they can teach and create meaningful exams.

        If you want them cheap then you are going to have to keep paying into education for decades.

        Importing high level people changes nothing because the best are not going to be employed in education they are going to be grabbed by businesses desperate to compete with the rest of the world. However since these same businesses are unwilling to pay to train even their own staff the imports are not going to be teaching anyone and so business has to keep importing ability that degrades over time. Degrading because ground breaking in the field is being done elsewhere.

        The situation we find ourselves in now down to the decades of short sighted and narrow minded business practices destroying what used to be the best education in the free world, perhaps it is time to seperate education from the abuses of business and instead return to viewing education as being the country's investment in the future that it should be.

        To business, if you want high level people then you need to pay for their education, if you want the price to go down over time then you are going to have to pay for research in education as well.

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Isn't C supposed to be average?

        "In my view exam scores shouldn't be set to deliver a normal distribution across each year's cohort."

        That's more or less what GCSEs were supposed to do but instead we just got 3 decades of grade inflation so they've given up and the new scheme boils down to percentiles. (The actual rules are stupidly complex, but the constraints at top, middle and bottom of the 1-9 scale mean that you'd need a truly perverse population to deviate far from a simple percentile arrangement. It looks very much like a committee designed the rules so that they could reintroduce percentiles without the arts graduates noticing.)

        1. Mark Dempster

          Re: Isn't C supposed to be average?

          "In my view exam scores shouldn't be set to deliver a normal distribution across each year's cohort."

          In my view, however, that's exactly how it should work. As a population we are NOT getting more intelligent on an annual basis. And as the article describes, teaching isn't improving either. So the only explanation for consistent grade rises year after year is that the subject is getting easier.

          At the school 2 of my kids went to they were allowed - even encouraged - to keep resubmitting their coursework multiple times in order to address the comments the teacher had made, and improve their marks. Followed to a logical conclusion there was no excuse for any pupil not to get an A* in every subject. The consequence of which is, employers/colleges have no way to differentiate between the new applicants based on academic ability.

          You don't get that in an exam, which makes it a better test of a child's real ability. And while I accept that some don't thrive under exam pressure, they probably wouldn't do under pressure at work either for the same reason. And in order to prevent distortion of results by the exams being judged to be harder/easier than normal this year, you work out the grades based on the fact that the top X% get the top grade, the next Y% get the second-best grade, and so on.

          There are very few things that the tory government has done that I approve of, but this is one example.

          1. BlokeOnMotorway

            Re: Isn't C supposed to be average?

            "As a population we are NOT getting more intelligent on an annual basis."

            The Flynn Effect. Take a look at it.

          2. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

            Re: Isn't C supposed to be average?

            "You don't get that in an exam, which makes it a better test of a child's real ability. And while I accept that some don't thrive under exam pressure, they probably wouldn't do under pressure at work either for the same reason."

            I respectfully disagree there, Mark. The motivational factors at play in a work environment were a lot better for me than those in a full time school environment.

            Apart from obvious things like pay rises and the chance of a company car, there was immediate feedback from satisfied business users. Putting concrete solutions in place was satisfying in a way that exam results could never be,

  3. samzeman
    Flame

    I wish I had the willpower to do a proper rant about the new GCSE grading system. It's complete BS. Terrible idea. I don't even really know why, I just really, really don't like it. My main problem with it is that it seems entirely unnecessary. Every new Education Secretary thinks they know a new /revolutionary idea/ that I know first hand just makes it harder for students to know what the fuck is going on, and honestly? Students are pretty disorientated as it is, even without the system changing like pan's labyrinth.

    Apparently I did have the willpower.

    1. h4rm0ny

      Have you ever wondered why there are so many diet books? It's because everyone would rather hear about some new easy idea that will get them what they want, rather than exercise more and eat less.

      Ideas are cheap. Effort and resource are not.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Rant

      My blood pressure was raised by the journalist who let some talking head get away with saying that 'it will all bed down in 5 years' and everyone will understand the new system.

      The chance of any part of the education system getting 5 years of stability without some half-baked clever reorganisation being dropped from upon high is about 1 in a million. In 5 years time they will be smugly congratulating themselves on their new colour based grading - based on rainbows, with ultraviolet as the highest grade,orange as a pass and infra-red to allow us to discriminate the PPE graduates-to-be.

      1. B*stardTintedGlasses

        Re: Rant

        I have a feeling (and hope) that is a "Paranoia" reference.

        ALL HAIL FRIEND COMPUTER

    3. Mark Dempster

      Re:Fewer than half GCSE computing students got a B or higher this year

      >I wish I had the willpower to do a proper rant about the new GCSE grading system. It's complete BS. Terrible idea. I don't even really know why, I just really, really don't like it. My main problem with it is that it seems entirely unnecessary. Every new Education Secretary thinks they know a new /revolutionary idea/ that I know first hand just makes it harder for students to know what the fuck is going on, and honestly? Students are pretty disorientated as it is, even without the system changing like pan's labyrinth.<

      What's so hard about the higher number being the better result? Seems pretty intuitive to me. And it has the bonus that if you want an overall summary of a pupil's exam results, you just need to add them all together and have a single number - which incorporates both the number of subjects taken and their final grade.

  4. m0rt Silver badge

    "These concerns were echoed by Martin Golloghy, the director of the SAP University Alliances programme in the UK and Ireland, which links up universities and high schools with SAP experts and resources."

    *shudders*

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      99% of the recruits will be accountants.

  5. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    IT snobbery

    "Around 60 per cent of ICT teachers have no degree in an ICT-related subject,"

    That annoyed me. Ditto the woman on the radio this morning suggesting that because open source contributors don't have PhDs they are "hobby programmers".

    I have zero qualifications in computing yet earn my living from it.

    Signed, another disgruntled graduate of the 8-bit micro school of coding.

    1. ARGO

      Re: IT snobbery

      My mother used to be an IT manager, and started her career in the days before there was such a thing as a computer science degree.

      She wouldn't touch most CS graduates with a bargepole - an exception was made for OU graduates, but they were generally self taught and got the paperwork later.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: IT snobbery

        @argo

        Was your mother qualified in Computer Science then or was she just another Business Studies graduate who managed to get into computing when they changed the name to IT?

        The whole reason IMHO we are in this mess is because of Business Studies graduates intentionally pizzing in everyone else's pool during the '90s to make themselves appear useful for something other than just placating ignorant upper management.

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          Comprehension test

          1. @anon asks, "Was your mother qualified in Computer Science..."

          @argo writes, "My mother...started her career in the days before there was such a thing as a computer science degree."

          Therefore, I think, we can safely deduce that, no, she wasn't qualified in Computer Science.

          2. @anon continues speculating about things "Business Studies graduates" did "during the '90s".

          There were most definitely Computer Science degrees in the 90s---I used to tutor a CS undergrad on the side---so I think we can say argo's mum predates the 90s, probably by decades.

          So I think, anon, we'll award you an /A*/, where the * matches zero times.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Comprehension test

            >There were most definitely Computer Science degrees in the 90s

            There were most definitely Computer Science BSc degrees in the late 1970's in the UK - got the piece of paper to prove it...

            1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

              Re: Comprehension test

              "There were most definitely Computer Science BSc degrees in the late 1970's in the UK - got the piece of paper to prove it..."

              There were a few in the early 70s, but as far as I recall, only in places with a strong scientifc/engineering emphasis like Loughborough.

              At my university, the computing centre was under control of the Maths department.

        2. ARGO

          Re: IT snobbery

          Depends how you define qualified.

          Did she have a bit of paper? No.

          Did she have over 30 years experience as a programmer, systems analyst and then manager? Yes.

          When she was an analyst she also lectured at the local poly - something that stopped when they became a university and decided all their lecturers had to have bits of paper :-/

    2. John G Imrie Silver badge

      Re: IT snobbery

      I left school at 16 with 3 O levels. I've spent the last 30 years of my life working in IT.

      PS I don't work for Capita, you can't blame their crap code on me ::-)

    3. MrJOD

      Re: IT snobbery

      She was really awful.

      Ranted about sexism and lack of equality representation in technology and ended with "and women are better programmers". Pot, meet kettle.

    4. Law

      Re: IT snobbery

      "I have zero qualifications in computing yet earn my living from it."

      Up voted you because of course you're correct, but I think you're the exception, not the rule. The norm is my auntie in law, who's been teaching gchq ict for decades (mostly word processing, but now the other stuff). She can't even secure her own WiFi router, never mind explain how it's different to 4g, or even ethernet. She also forwards cool messages like this on Facebook : "don't accept friend requests from anon1234, he's a hacker and has a computer connected to your account. Once you accept his friend request he'll take over your computer and empty your bank account. Forward to all your friends." :(

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: IT snobbery

        "Up voted you because of course you're correct, but I think you're the exception, not the rule."

        Not one of the people I work with has a higher qualification in computing, yet here we are running the IT for a multi billion pound (IT) business.

    5. James Anderson

      Re: IT snobbery

      You hit the nail on the head.

      Computer programming is an art. You either have a brain capable of logic and pattern recognition or you don't. No amount of teaching can make up for a lack of basic aptitude. Conversely anyone with aptitude can pick up the basic skills without formal training.

      Nobody complains that John Lennon never attended a school of music, that Jack Vetriano never went to Art College etc. etc.

    6. rmason Silver badge

      Re: IT snobbery

      I'm 34. So I did GCSE's and A-Levels rather than O and A levels.

      GCSE "computing" was using the MS office suite, with a piece of software written in visual basic as coursework.

      A-Level computing was regurgitating solutions to problems in FORTRAN (i'm 34 remember, they had to get someone in who was in his 60s/70s at the time to teach us that bit). We were not taught fortran, we were taught 3-4 specific functions they knew would be in the exam.

      In short, I learned absolutely nothing useful, except perhaps for the most sneered at bit, a familiarity with the MS office suite that meant I could support users who have managed to sit in front of a computer for years and learn exactly nothing. Everything else was taught on the job, or self taught. I don't think I actually learned anyhting useful until my second job.

      Job number one was looking after AS/400 servers on a night shift and the top and bottom of it was swap tapes when needed, and if the backup went wrong have a flick through the A4 binder provided and run one of the 20 commands listed before restarting the backup job,

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: IT snobbery

        Personally I think that the education system would do well to teach core skills, rather than specifics.

        Things like:

        Don't be afraid to experiment

        How to break things down into first principles so you can apply the knowledge across multiple disciplines

        F1 - What is it good for? (RTFM)

        What kind of attitude gets the best results

        How to change your attitude if you're not currently happy with it

        How to use online search engines to discover possible answers to your current problem

        How to filter out the information you don't need and focus on the information that is relevant

        etc.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: IT snobbery

        This!

        I'm a year behind at 33 but my A level course could only be described as pitiful. Didn't go uni as I'm too tight fisted to go and do it without a job in mind but still ended up working in a small software shop don't sales. Then support... then development (since I usual had to fix the demos one thing lead to another).

        I'm now working for one of the largest telecoms companies but only because a recruiter knew his job well enough to take a punt on experience over degrees, yet I'm one of only 3 people in the office that doesn't hold some sort of degree but been complemented on my work for understanding how to code for teams, keep it simple and most importantly how to make it maintainable.

        None of those things ate taught it seems sometimes (ymmv since I can't comment on ever uni in the world ote even every teacher. That and some get offended when i mention I don't think they play nicer with others)

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IT snobbery

      I failed CDT (as it was back then), as Computer studies were very limited due to only having 4 Commodore PET's in the school.

      Never had a permanent teacher, nothing but temps, many of whom had no idea how to use a OHP.

      99.99% self taught. The very few courses I've been on were either shit or top ups to what I already knew.

      Better qualified in forklift driving, than IT.

      Yet here I am looking after a huge part of the IT estate.

      School, just like driving lessons, gives you the foundations, not the skills.

  6. ratfox Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Students plateauing

    If I remember correctly, students finishing a computing GCSE also have abysmal employment rates. So my question is:

    What do young people in UK do, when they are intelligent and want to learn computing?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Students plateauing

      Teach yourself and hope you are one of the lucky ones to have proper computers (not just game consoles) from an early age.

    2. Ucalegon
      Facepalm

      Re: Students plateauing

      "What do young people in UK do, when they are intelligent and want to learn computing?"

      Take the AQA GCSE in Computer Science?

      http://www.aqa.org.uk/subjects/computer-science-and-it/gcse/computer-science-8520/specification-at-a-glance

      As a current main stream (requires improvement, natch) Comp Science Teacher (5 years) following 20 years in Software Development I would say AQA courses (GCSE & A-Level) are the gold standard in the UK if you're looking to develop a broad understanding of computational thinking.

  7. myhandler

    Is it really so bad in schools? My daughter did a bit of Python programming in year 9 ICT.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      With good staff being in such short supply, it is going to depend on the school.

  8. Daedalus Silver badge

    Numbers numbers numbers

    OK so out of maybe 700,000 kids in the annual cohort, about 64,000 are registered for the ICT exam.

    How is this bad? To me it looks like more than you would expect based on natural ability. Good coders are where you find them, just like good mathematicians, good engineers, and good cricketers, for that matter. Teaching coding isn't like teaching numeracy or literacy. You don't use it in everyday life: the only possible justification for exposing everyone to it is to counter the FUD that most have of technology, regarding it as one step below black magic. Good luck with that, by the way.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Numbers numbers numbers

      That justification sounds like a pretty good one to me.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Numbers numbers numbers

      That estimated is strikingly similar to an estimate from one of my classes on logic 20ish years ago, that mentioned of only around 10% of the population are prone to use the type of logical analysis that is used in programming. Sure other people can learn to do it but that probably is a factor in how many people drop it after their first class.

  9. Adair

    Obligatory anecdotal evidence...

    Daughter working as TA at a decent secondary school (~1000 students), while waiting to move into her first 'proper job'.

    Only the Head of IT knew anything about IT, all other teachers dragged into covering, but basically knowing nothing, e.g. one describing the base units as 'the CPU' -- this to the whole class, repeatedly!

    Daughter has a degree in Eng. Lang. (but a personal interest in IT -- builds her own machines, basic knowledge of scripting, etc.). Instantly becomes 'essential' teaching staff to the Head of IT, as the only other member of the teaching staff who actually knows 'anything' about IT, and can usefully deliver the curriculum. And this is in a school well regarded locally and by OFSTED!

    Daughter has just left her TA post; Head of IT disconsolate; students - high and dry (apart from the ones who teach themselves).

    [sigh]

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "technical and digitally skilled"

    "It is estimated that the UK will need more than 1.2 million new technical and digitally skilled people by 2022."

    What the hell does that mean? Programmers? People who can produce 3d Bar Charts in Excel? People who can wrangle contractors from the Sub Continent?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: "technical and digitally skilled"

      "digitally skilled" = can point at something with a finger

      1. Christian Berger Silver badge

        Re: "technical and digitally skilled"

        ""digitally skilled" = can point at something with a finger"

        Probably more. It probably also includes holding things.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: "technical and digitally skilled"

          Probably more. It probably also includes holding things.

          That would be manually skilled - I think we have managed to stamp that out in schools

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "technical and digitally skilled"

      3D bar charts are so unfashionable these days. They're teaching them to do flat, greyscale charts in Excel now.

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: "technical and digitally skilled"

        Unfashionable? The protagonists should be made to walk the plank ->

  11. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

    really young kids that don't have the same fear of technology

    I think a healthy respect is required. Total lack of fear basically means they will trust anything associated with technology and trust their entire lives to little bits of silicon in other peoples' possession. Oh.

    Also, what does anyone expect when all the kids are seeing are no-talent shitheads getting boatloads of money for just being famous shitheads. Why bother with all that hard work of actually learning something when route-1 is to take part in a reality TV show and be more outrageously thick/controversial than the previous lot.

    Race to the bottom doesn't even cover it.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Also, what does anyone expect when all the kids are seeing are no-talent shitheads getting boatloads of money for just being famous shitheads.

      And there you have it. There's the real problem.

      Who in their right mind wants to work hard for shite money when grifting is so much easier?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Number of CompSci GCSE students dropping is probablty in first couple of years everyone chooisng opions thought it would be the same as the old ICT course but then as peopel were doing it they (and probably their schools) realized it was much harder with resulting lower grade expectations so people steered (or were steered) away from it towards "easier" subjects.

    When my sons had GCSE option choices the ICT teacher at the open evening did a big sales pitch for ICT which basically amounted to (i) its a BTEC so its worth 2 GCSEs and (ii) its mainly coursework which you can submit as many times as you want until you get the grade you want - so choose ICT and you can almost guarantee you'll get a BTEC equivalent to two GCSE grade As. I think there was also a line of "your just building web pages and posting videos to YouTube so its fun".

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      IT Angle

      When I had to choose which O level course I would take, I had to make a choice between History and Computer Studies. CS won, but I loved history. In fact, my history teacher actually cried and tried to convince me not to take CS (lovely lady, great teacher as well).

      How life turns on a single decision made when you're 12 years old eh?

  13. Data Mangler

    One of the problems facing schools is the relatively low take-up of some GCSE options in combination with serious funding issues. Teaching GCSE computer science is not a full time position for which they've been able to recruit specialist staff. Therefore what most most schools have had to do is to migrate staff from the old IT curriculum to teaching CS.

    I would add that, while working as support staff in a secondary school, I've seen an experienced PE teacher teaching IT very well and an experienced IT professional being a totally useless teacher. It's not all about professional experience in the subject being taught.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not surpised about teaching on GCSE Computing

    The reaching of Computer Science when down the pan when the teaching professional got its name changed to ICT. Instead of learning how computers work, they taught how to use a Spreadsheet, Word Processor and creating Powerpoint presentations. After so many years of ICT, how you can expect them to understand let alone teach computer science. The current GCSE Computer Science books which I purchased this year are little more than comics with pictures and a few sentences not the 300 page brick that I used.

    Unfortunately it has extended into the degree area when talking to young colleagues they explained than when they studied different computer architectures it was Intel and AMD x64 designs. When a better choice would have been Intel or AMD compared to ARM or MIPS.

    My son decided not to study Computer Science due to choice of syllabus (not all exam boards are the same) and teaching he had already received. While disappointed, I indicated that he could always study it later.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Not surpised about teaching on GCSE Computing

      To be fair it has always been crap.

      Back in the early 80s when I did the newly created O-level computer studies it was about the difference between mainframe, mini and microcomputers and drawing flowcharts with stencils. Together with writing trivial programs in BBC basic. A-level was the same crap but using Pascal.

      Degree course weren't much better - which is why everyone who has been working in the field for the last 30years did maths / physics or electrical-eng

  15. RegGuy1

    Remain an advanced economy?

    Bill Mitchell, director of education at BCS, the chartered institute of IT, said the UK "really needs to do much better than this if we hope to remain an advanced economy in the digital age".

    Bill Mitchell really does need to keep up -- has he not heard? We voted to leave.

  16. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    "GCSE computing results showed little improvement on last year."

    Maybe, shock horror, this year's pupils are no smarter than last year's pupils.

  17. adam payne Silver badge

    "Around 60 per cent of ICT teachers have no degree in an ICT-related subject," he said. "That means there are likely to be more than that without a computing degree... and the new curriculum is very challenging."

    What is it with these people who believe that you need a degree to be successful in a job.

    I would take job experience over a degree any day of the week.

    1. quxinot

      >What is it with these people who believe that you need a degree to be successful in a job.

      They're teachers. It's kinda their whole industry, isn't it?

      The issue is (and always has been, from what I understand) that owning a piece of paper may not accurately reflect/predict ability in real-world applications. But it's very much more easy to test if a person has a piece of paper, and very much more difficult to test if a person is capable.

      The counterexample is that you can work in a given industry for many years while showing no competence at all. I suspect that everyone can think of at least one coworker or ex-coworker that fits this description.

  18. Andy 73

    The rot starts early

    Our local primary school hands children over to their secondary education with no experience of coding at all. Not even Scratch or any of the other visual programming for kids type things. The secondary school has to start its CS lessons with stuff that should have been taught years earlier.

    Why? Because not one teacher in the whole school is confident enough to teach it. They dismiss it as 'not important' and avoid it.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: The rot starts early

      It is "not important" because it is not part of the year 6 SAT. Schools are effectively penalised for delivering a broad education. Blame the UTTERLY STUPID politicians who all think they are experts in teaching because they went to school.

  19. J J Carter Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    On the road to nowhere

    Given the ongoing outsourcing, poor prospects and minimal pay it's only thickies who'd choose GSCE computing...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: On the road to nowhere

      "poor prospects and minimal pay it's only thickies who'd choose GSCE computing.."

      That's the spirit!!

      After 20 years of constant grind (way worse than any MMORPG) I can finally lay claim to a solid £650/day 100% remote working contract with excellent prospects of renewals for a couple of years, plus an excellent reputation that will ensure I have no trouble getting another contract later.

      Using the standard contractor->salary conversion of rate*5*48 that makes a gross income of £156k

      I'll admit that not everyone has the stamina or aptitude to reach this level, and I can assure you nothing was handed to me on a plate.

      If I were to place one skill above all others, it would be attitude.

  20. J J Carter Silver badge
    Trollface

    It's an ill wind...

    Minimal understanding of ICT makes them ideal for Fast Track placement into GDS.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I recommended my son not to do it

    I am a 25 year+ SW engineer - senior position at a large manufacturer of silicon. My son is bright, interested in software and has shown himself to be pretty capable.

    I advised him against GCSE Computing. Course delivery in Visual Basic and no coursework (the final exam has sample questions along "show how you would use a for loop to..." lines). He would have been bored to tears.

    I know it is particularly difficult to come up with a meaningful syllabus for a subject where a small number of students are hugely motivated, very capable and will probably out-pace their teachers and the majority will find it tough. I was told by the Head of Dept that "many students find Java too hard" when asking "why VB".

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: I recommended my son not to do it

      VB or VB.net?

    2. h4rm0ny

      Re: I recommended my son not to do it

      I don't believe IT should be taught as a subject at GCSE or A level. There should be components in General Studies or somesuch where people are familiarised with computers. Schools should make sure people have the basic concepts of a word processor and a spreadsheet and can fulfil common tasks. But there they should stop.

      It is not possible to adequately teach programming at GCSE level and not really possible to teach it at GCSE level. Programming is a huge subject that requires experience almost as much as it does instruction.

      Schools should focus on fundamentals at GCSE to make sure everybody has a solid foundation in the requirements for further learning. You don't teach word processors, you teach English. You don't teach spreadsheets, you teach Maths. And you sure as fuck don't teach Java which you'll not be able to do to any level that is useful. Every child will either immediately forget most of it if they don't take it further, or could easily learn it if they do (and learn it more properly, too).

  22. Vince Lewis 1

    All this money spent of education...

    ... and yet still half the population remains below average.

  23. Lee D Silver badge

    A system judged on expectations of everyone getting good grades is one flawed before you even start.

    Sorry, little Johnny, but if there's not at least a 50:50 change you'll fail, that qualification is bloody useless.

  24. YARR
    Megaphone

    e-learning / Computer Based Training

    There's a simple solution to a shortage of qualified teachers: convert the entire course to an e-learning syllabus, with video material prepared by a few experts. Employ a few of these experts to answer student's questions in an on-line forum, then all you need are some classroom supervisors. Every student can learn at their own pace. Simples.

  25. davidp231

    Also....

    There is a MASSIVE difference between ICT and IT.... the first basically preps you for how to work in an office, using Office; and the other is actually something useful.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Re: Also....

      I have to disagree with you there.

      When I dropped out of Uni after my first year I did some ICT courses to fill the time (they were free) whilst I was looking for work etc.

      They've come in very useful over the years. People who have used Excel for years often ask me how to do things, especially when they see some of my 'thrown together' reports expressing functionality they hadn't even considered.

      Also, making my design documents look professional by understanding how to format Word documents properly helps too.

      Powerpoint, yeah - fair enough.

      The point is, it isn't an either/or choice, and ICT isn't completely useless in IT.

  26. RonWheeler

    Elephant

    Less than 50 percent getting B or higher is what the distribution SHOULD be. Seemingly the other subjects have an -everyone gets an A-culture.

    1. Ucalegon
      Holmes

      Re: Elephant

      "Less than 50 percent getting B or higher is what the distribution SHOULD be. Seemingly the other subjects have an -everyone gets an A-culture."

      One up vote seems too small a reward.

  27. ganymede io device

    Zero based scoring

    Why are the new GCSE scores 1 to 9 (9 is best) ?

    The Germans are proud to say they received "eins" = 1 which is their best.

    And anyway, Edsger Dijkstra argues from research on bugs found using the Mesa programming language that numbering should begin at 0.

    Can we move to 0 to 7 (or even 0x0 to 0xF for failed/ungraded) when the GCSE computing scores switch to numbers from letters ?

    A perfect exam paper's answers would have 0 errors.

  28. Zippy's Sausage Factory

    This didn't immediately strike me as a problem - there shouldn't be prizes for everyone, people should have to put the work in.

    Unfortunately I then remembered my A level computing teacher, and remembered that yes, bad teachers make for bad grades.

  29. ecofeco Silver badge

    There is exactly one thing they should teach

    There is only one thing they should teach at the pre-uni level: A+ cert.

    That's right. A+ repair cert.

    If the kids want more and have shown aptitude, then simple programming.

    Or...

    Teach the entire Office suite. There's plenty right there for several years worth of classes for most people.

    Basically, keep it simple. Daily basic computer use is still very difficult for most people. Why, is another story (*cough*dumbasses programming*cough*) but it literally takes years for most people to just master surfing browsing, email and office software.

    So teach that.

    That is, if they can find people willing to work for such shite wages.

  30. tryptic

    I'd like to look at this issue logically. This result is a norm referenced result, not a criterion referenced one. It is based on comparing each result with all the others in this year's cohort. It does not show that the pupils are competent or otherwise, merely that some are more competent than others. In no way can it reflect on the quality of teaching. To do that it would need to measure performance in some direct way, say by stating x% could correctly point to the CPU when required.

    If, as has been suggested, the examining body is using percentiles, then they have decided that only 40% will be awrded a grade B. Otherwise, it is possible that the results show a significant, but relatively small number of candidates acheiving very high marks, pushing the marking system out of line. This is entirely possible with IT, as some will have been trying to hack the school servers for a year or two, but without knowing how the thresholds are determined, it is impossible to say wether this would explain the anomaly.

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