Government to scrap GCSE and A-level ICT qualifications

GCSE and A-level information communication technology (ICT) will be scrapped as part of the government’s qualifications reforms, it has been revealed.

Ministers have decided to cull the qualification after a rise in pupils studying the reformed computer science GCSE and A-levels.

It is part of the government’s GCSE reforms for “more academically challenging and knowledge based” qualifications.

ICT was one of 73 qualifications identified by ministers as needing significant reform. Exam boards were told to submit new syllabuses for teaching from 2017.

But a consultation document released yesterday, by the Department for Education (DfE), titled “Further additional GCSE and A-level subject content consultation”, revealed IT would not be redeveloped.

It read: “The reformed computer science GCSE and A levels provide a strong foundation for further academic and vocational study and for employment.

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“Students will develop the computational thinking skills needed for today’s economy – including coding and important information technology topics such as cyber security, networking and data storage.”

It added the number of pupils studying computer science GCSE had more than doubled.

“It is right that schools continue to focus on the digital knowledge that will best prepare young people for further study and employment.

“Ministers have therefore taken the decision not to approve two GCSEs and A levels in a similar qualification space.

“The IT GCSE and IT A level will not be redeveloped.”

Joint Council for Qualifications figures show the number of pupils sitting GCSE ICT in 20015 was 111,934 – an increase of more than 15 per cent.

Figures for 2014 show there were 14,000 ICT teachers in secondary schools.

The newly released consultation seeks the views on the final group of subjects to be first taught in September 2017: GCSE short course in physical education; and AS and A levels in geology and politics.

The results of the consultation are expected to be published by the DfE in early 2016.

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  1. Ann Cook

    You quote the DfE document (p11) “The IT GCSE and IT A level will not be redeveloped.”

    They were supposedly consulting on the redevelopment of ICT GCSE and ICT A level qualifications.

    What should we make of the statement in the DfE report? “Lack of rigour” on the part of the report complier and proof reader?

  2. Gillian Matthews

    Totally ridiculous proposals from politicians who clearly have no idea. I do not believe that it is possible to make computer science accessible for all and yet there are many IT based jobs for which computer science is totally unnecessary and which will now not be catered for

    • I totally agree with Gillian’s comments. Having moved from Human Resources in industry to Secondary Education, I can confirm that businesses still need those vital and transferrable skills offered by the ICT qualifications. Yes, children come with very good hand-eye co-ordination from texting and gaming, however, basic spreadsheet modelling and data handling skills are still seriously lacking. ICT offers a wide range of cross curricular skills support. Who will deliver those skills if the ICT qualifications disappear, now that the weekly timetable is already so very busy?

  3. Lynda Mcavoy

    11 years ago teachers were given a golden hello of 4000 pounds and their student loan has been paid off to encourage students to teach this important subject called ICT.Will the government now provide the money to retrain the thousands of teachers who they invested in? This is not a soft subject and it is an insult to all the teachers who have spent years building up resources and working a 60 hour week. The government is effectively making them redundant.

  4. This is appalling. I am not an ICT teacher, though I have taught the subject for many years and I can tell you that, while it is not a traditionally “Academically challenging subject”, it has its challenges and value.

    To scrap ICT and replace it with computer science is yet more evidence that this government, specifically those in charge of education, have little understanding of modern education and how students learn.

    A stronger proposal would have been for both subjects to be offered. Those truly interested in the career options or subjects would find they are quite complimentary, but to replace the education and training provided to all students, most of whom will become users and the ICT qualifications cater to them and allow them opportunities post education, with the pure science of the subject is reckless.

    Over 111,000 students took the subject last year alone. That’s over 111,000 students trained as users of IT with a good foundation in the use of computers for their various roles in their jobs/careers/university and so on. Under these proposals, we’ll have less than half the uptake of the subject and for all of industry’s complaints over IT and GCSE’s, they’ll be left with the task and cost of basic IT user training.

  5. Lucy Snowden

    Never been so disappointed to see this. Students will never learn computer skills, in computer science. I teach both subjects. I have a degree in computing and to be honest I hated my degree as I got bored with programming all the time. I love ICT as students can be creative with Web design, computer graphics, learn key work skills in software like Excel, Photoshop etc… Vocational subjects are not respected in many schools and most schools will most likely pick NOT to go this way, which will mean kids will not get the required skills needed for other subjects, let alone the work place and real world. What else can we do to get people to change this? most adults do not have basic ICT skills and struggle, why take this away from kids???

  6. Tom Carr

    ICT used to be a groundbreaking subject, but has since become little more than a training course for Microsoft products. ICT is an essential tool in most subjects, and it is best taught there, in appropriate contexts, and a separate qualification for it is pretty useless.
    Computing Science is a misleading name for a useful vocational area, and there is great scope in teaching it creatively. It is in danger of becoming outmoded if those developing it only look at it from a traditional perspective.

    Change is necessary, but teachers are right to be worried whether we are going to get the right sort of change.

    • Jane Broxton

      I cannot believe your statement with regards to GCSE being little more than a Microsoft trading ground. The GCSE includes scope to use a multitude of different applications and creativity to successfully produce the required outcomes. An earlier comment stated that Computer Science and ICT compliment each other, I have seen many students study both and enjoyed the experience. The outcome of this will only see a shortfall of unskilled individuals that may understand some code but cannot budget finances, produce documentation or manipulate data. Yet again a political disaster for education.

      • Tom Carr

        You are confusing the knowledge of how to use the tools with the ability of being able to use them creatively and effectively. Bugeting finances existed long before spreadsheets existed, and knowing how to set up and use a spreadsheet does not teach you budgeting. However, Business studies might. Knowing how to use a web design application does not lead to well designed pages – but learning about Graphic Design should do. Good web pages are designed by designers who can use the tools, not ICT people who can use the tools. Trawl the web, you will see what I mean.

        So lets drag the subject into the 21st century, and start looking at where today’s students will be in 10 or 20 years time.

        • I have taught ICT, Computer Science, Programming, Advanced Networking, Cisco qualifications, IT Project management and Software Project Management to BTEC Diploma and degree students for 8 years. Maybe it is not much, but that is my experience in teaching.
          During these eight years, I have seen that knowledge of how to use a tool is nothing when it comes to the skill of how to apply that knowledge to a certain scenario in a creative way. I have to agree with Tom, that learning some MS Office applications and Dreamweaver, or even a programming language, does not make you a specialist in the field, it does not make you a software developer or a web developer.
          Solving problems using IT tools is more important a skill than some knowledge about a tool.
          I always tell my students that from the first year in primary school till the day that finish a degree course they learn two things:
          – How to learn. They should be able to master on their own whatever is thrown at them at work.
          – To apply whatever knowledge they have obtained as part of this learning process to real life situations and adapt creatively.

          No system is perfect, but I can see that finally soembody is trying to improve the current system that it does not produce plodders who alawys ask, “Miss, Sir, what do I have to for this P2 criterion?”
          I want to teach marketing students how they can use spreadsheets to analyse data obtained from surveys, questionnaires or interviews.
          I want to teach advertisers how to use HTML5 to implement their ideas about an advert.
          I want to teach a creative designer how to use IT tools to their benefit.
          I want to teach programming to a software developer who has ideas about a system or a game and knows the algorithm of the system or the game.
          When you give students step by step instructions on how to use an application, you can see them “watching a game of tennis” – their heads move from left to right (or the other way around) until they go the end of instructions, but they canot rememeber what they have done or why they have done it.
          That is why I try to teach them concepts and logical steps. The ecaxt techniocal knowledge of configuring comething or the syntax of a language can be forgotten after some time, but the concepts and the logiucal steps will remain with them and they can research them self to regain that knowledge. Everything is on the Internet. You only have to have the skills to find it.
          So Tom, I am with you in this debate.

    • Mrs Crys Smith

      Tom Carr – you say “ICT is little more than a training course for Microsoft productI” If this is true in your school then your school needs to change. In my school in which I am Head of ICT and Computing this is certainly not the case. We teach high level skills using proprietary and open source software including HTML and web design, graphic design , how to use advanced spreadsheet and database tools, research skills, E- safety along with all the other Social, Moral, Spiritual and cultural issues surrounding the use of ICT. Parents at parents’ and open evenings continually tell me how valuable they consider what they learn and how much they enjoy it and have also commented on how their children have helped them in their own businesses or have helped them with skills they themselves need at work. Yes I agree the ICT needs to be reinforced across the curriculum and this is again something that is promoted at my school but let us not assume that all teachers regardless of subject are ICT specialists. Therefore who will teach these young people the high end ICT skills that will be needed for both university and work. This is an extremely short sighted decision by the government and one which I very much fear they will eventually come to regret and we will have the all too familiar U turn. By the way I also teach computer science and love it so this is by no means a rant by a disgruntled ICT teacher. This however give me the right to an opinion that both subjects are completely different and should therefore be retained. Instead of scrapping ICT why not consult with teachers like myself about how ICT could be made more rigorous – I would be more than willing to take part in such a consultation.

        • Interestingly some state that ICT should be taught across all subjects and not just as a discrete stand alone subject. As an ICT Teacher pulled form the IT private sector [when the government needed ICT teachers!] I see that most teachers are clueless on basic ICT – admittedly the youngers teachers coming through have more of an idea – but I wouldn’t trust to have either the skills or the time to deliver the ICT skills in an already packed curriculum. Where would they find the time to teach the basics of spreadsheets in Maths amongst all the other skills they are expected to cover? Same for Business Studies.

          I firmly believe that there should be computer Science and ICT as two different subjects and separate qualifications. The analogy of not everyone wants to design and build a car but most people want to learn to drive springs to mind. This is true of ICT And computer Science – not everyone wants to design and create computer programs but everyone needs to know how to housekeep and stay safe on a PC [as well as having a general Digital Literacy].

  7. Trevor Blunn

    It’s a bit like scrapping biology as a subject just because pupils are already studying physics. Putting aside software skills (name me a work place where someone isn’t using spreadsheets) many important aspects of ICT such as legal framework, health and safety and impact on society are not there in computing. I have taught both subjects for over 20 years. Computing is a facinating subject for a small minority but doesn’t cater for the majority who find it boring as hell

  8. Andrea Croce

    The numbers taking Computing is still very small compared to ICT. The number of female students taking A level Computing across the is a couple of hundred or fewer. There will be Computing or vocational courses. ICT straddles between the creative side of multi-media and the technical side of Computing.

  9. Bob Owen

    Education is far too precious to stand back and allow it to be seriously damaged by half-baked political decisions. Whilst I am no expert, I seriously wonder if this decision is something that could and should be challenged by judicial review, possibly on the grounds that:

    the decision is irrational;
    the procedure followed to reach that decision is unfair or biased
    it is actually counter to the public interest

    If it is a reasonable course of action, can anybody suggest who/how such a challenge could be mounted?

  10. Bruce Nightingale

    The awarding bodies led by AQA submitted proposals for new, revised content leading to the awards of GCSE/GCE IT (nee ICT). The awarding bodies had 10 months to refine the proposals and ensure the content was sufficiently distinguished between IT and computer science. This didn’t happen.These proposals were rejected.

    It remains unlearn as to who is actually the ‘subject association’ for IT (nee ICT) – UKforCE (no teachers, unelected, appointed by who?), NAACE (largely a seller of services), CAS (a grassroots organisation promoting computer science).

    I am disappointed and annoyed at the failure to put forward proposals for revused GCSE/GCE subject content.

  11. Bruce Nightingale

    The awarding bodies led by AQA submitted proposals for new, revised content leading to the awards of GCSE/GCE IT (nee ICT). The awarding bodies had 10 months to refine the proposals and ensure the content was sufficiently distinguished between IT and computer science. This didn’t happen.These proposals were rejected.

    It remains unclear as to who is actually the ‘subject association’ for IT (nee ICT) – UKforCE (no teachers, unelected, appointed by who?), NAACE (largely a seller of services), CAS (a grassroots organisation promoting computer science).

    I am disappointed and annoyed at the failure to put forward proposals for revised GCSE/GCE subject content.

  12. Wendy Whittaker

    This just shows how little government ministers understand ICT and computing. An absolute disgrace! Get a grip please, for goodness sakes. I voted you in, now show us your worth…

    • Craig Machin

      HaHa – sorry, i’m a teacher – TEACHER! for goodness sake indeed! Why did you vote ‘them’ in. You voted for them, so suck it up and get on with learning Python.

      It’s a stupid decision, made by plastic people that have not a clue. We might as well stop teaching reading, why? because we can all read. It reminds of the old saying “can you read? – thank a teacher” 🙂

      oh look we can all use ICT – why’s that then?

  13. In 10 years time there will be a skills gap. I teach A Level and its more than just learning Office type skills. It involves systems analysis and problem solving, key attributes for working in a business environment. As per usual, we’ve got politicians jumping on the “Let’s all be programmers” bandwagon.

  14. The teacher in the picture looks errrr umm what’s he done now, and I can’t figure out how to fix it!

    Bit like this government, tinker where its not needed. As a miss quote from Lord Alan Suger, “why fix it when it ain’t broke?” Bwoody medling fools (Gov’t) trying to justify there jobsworth!

  15. The cliche and obvious metaphor: driving a car and knowing all the engineering aspects of a car… You do not need to know both. You can be a normal or professional car drive such as a racing car driver, it does not mean you have to know how the combustion engine works. Both areas require a certain level of skill. Normal road drivers need to learn many areas about driving a normal car in normal conditions. A lorry driver has to learn more, a formula 1 race car driver has to learn more still. People have careers in driving with out knowing how the engine works!..

    It is the same for computing. Computing can be split into two main areas just like the car metaphor, the computer program user or the programmer.

    I simply believe as a previous ICT teacher and now a Computing teacher that there needs to be a more balanced approach. ICT and Computer Science should be delivered with flexible options and all ICT teachers should and need to be given more support in developing the technical knowledge required to teach the science and programming aspects of this subject. Since the government is insisting that we all become a mechanic as well as a driver!!..