A House of Lords Committee has backed a BCS policy recommendation to introduce a new applied computing GCSE and create a digital literacy qualification more relevant to pupils, the job market and society. This follows a call for evidence by the House of Lords Education for 11-16 years olds Committee, at which Julia Adamson MBE, D for Education and Public Benefit, gave evidence.

Giving her reaction to the Committee’s report, Requires improvement: urgent change for 11–16 education, Julia said: “England’s schools system is the only at-scale route to equip every young person with the skills and knowledge for the future – and that future is undeniably digital. 

“The Committee agreed with our recommendations, including that the Government should introduce a new GCSE in applied computing as soon as possible and explore launching a basic digital literacy qualification that can be taken at key stage 4. This will ensure all pupils have the skills to participate effectively in post-16 education and training, employment and wider life.” 

BCS analysis shows that 94% of girls and 79% of boys drop computing at age 14. During the Committee hearing, Julia proposed the introduction of a new qualification that would recognise “higher-level technical knowledge and skills at the GCSE level”, valued equally to the computer science GCSE.

BCS Distinguished Fellow Prof Simon Peyton-Jones and BCS Fellow Prof Dame Muffy Calder also told the Committee hearing that the GCSE computer science qualification is by design “academic and challenging” and does not cover “the more applied parts of the curriculum”.  

The Committee heard from a wide range of other witnesses, including pupils, teachers, school leaders, academics and ministers. The cross-party Committee concluded change is needed to the 11–16 curriculum and assessment model to “create more space for technical, digital and creative areas of study, and reduce the burden of GCSE exams”.

The Committee also called for the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) to be axed. It was introduced by the Government in 2010 and aims to ensure pupils take English, maths, science, geography or history and a language at GCSE. They also recommended ‘an adequate set of literacy and numeracy qualifications available to pupils aged 14 to 16, focused on the application of these skills in real-world contexts.’

The Committee said the current system limits pupils’ opportunities to study a broad and balanced curriculum and develop core skills and that reform is ‘urgently needed’. They pressed the Government to implement several reforms to the 11-16 curriculum, such as “reducing the dominance of rote learning” and “providing more opportunities at key stages 3 and 4 to study creative, cultural, vocational and technical subjects”.

BCS also submitted a written response to the Committee and is now urging all major parties to include these recommendations in their manifestos as the UK moves into a general election year.