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August 25, 2016

GCSE results in STEM should be ‘warning cry’ for UK innovation

News: STEM subjects were among the worst performing GSCEs.

By Hannah Williams

Many students across the UK have today picked up their GCSE results; while many will be celebrating there has been the biggest ever year-on-year decline to the lowest level since 2008.

In comparison to the results of 2015, the overall proportion of students achieving A* to C grades fell from 69 percent to 66.9 percent. Those students achieveing top A* grades have slipped from 6.6 percent to 6.5 percent.

Looking at the results of more than five million GCSE students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, engineering and science was again one of the worst performing GCSEs. Students struggled to get the top marks in these subjects, with just 0.9 per cent receiving an A* in engineering, and 0.7 per cent getting the top marks in science. STEM subjects suffered again when looking at ICT, chemistry, statistics, biology and physics. The five subjects garnered the largest falls in  attaining top grades since 2011.

Computing did not fare any better with A* results being achieved by only 5.7% of students, while computing was down 4.7 percentage points when looking at those achieving A* to C grades. Even the core subject of Maths failed to report gains, with the overall proportion of students getting A8 to C grades falling 2.3 percent.

These result paint a worrying picture for the future of IT and technology, with GitHub’s Kakul Srivastava saying the results couldincrease concerns about the “digital skills gap’ worsening in the future and hindering industry growth.” Although many in the industry welcomed the increase in students choosing courses such as ICT, many warned of the dire consequences of continuing declines in STEM grades.

“The drop in results in critical STEM subjects should be a warning cry for the UK’s plans for digital growth and innovation.” Said SAS regional vice president Mark Wilkinson.

“The UK is missing an opportunity to propel its economy forward using the insights drawn out of big data, but it is currently being held back by the dearth of talent with analytical skills.”  

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Adding to the bad news on results day was the fact that the results again highlighted the gender gap. As the tech and IT industries struggle to dispel the old stereotype that STEM is a ‘boys subject’, this year’s results showed that boys accounted for 9 out of 10 students in Computing, Construction and Engineering. Commenting on the problem plaguing both students and the tech industry, Darren Norfolk, UK Managing Director at Rackspace, said:

“Despite the increase in students, there is still a marked divide between the genders when studying these courses, with roughly nine times as many men as women achieving a qualification this year. With recent research finding that one in ten tech teams in London having no female employees,  this is a further reminder that technology’s gender problem has not gone away, and there is still a need to inspire young women to pursue education and careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.”

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