Schools and colleges in Yorkshire have the lowest student uptake of computer science at GCSE and A level in the country, according to new analysis for a foundation set up by the founder of a leading technology company.
The David and Jane Richards Family Foundation (DJRFF) was established to advance the education of computer science in state schools.
DJRFF has analysed data in the Roehampton Annual Computing Education Report, which is based on studies of the Department of Education’s national pupil database and schools information service.
The charity found that just 10.2 per cent of the region’s students choose the subject at GCSE level, compared to 11.9 per cent across England.
Yorkshire also has the lowest proportion of students, 2.1 per cent, selecting computer science at A level, compared to 2.7 per cent across England.
At A level, just 7.4 per cent of females choose the subject in the region.
DJRFF is working with its first cohort of pupils at Tapton School in Sheffield and plans to roll out its groundbreaking data science curriculum to new schools in the next academic year.
Mr Richards, who is also the CEO of big data firm WANdisco, said: “Given that our economy is becoming more reliant on big data and the enabling technologies, it is alarming that students are not opting for computer science and developing related skills that will support us on the other side of the industrial revolution.
“Having been brought up in Sheffield, I witnessed the effects of new technology on the steel industry and saw automation lead to thousands of job losses.
“We need to equip the next generation with creative and imaginative skills and abilities to analyse, interpret and manipulate data for social and economic benefits.”
DJRFF says it will gather qualitative data from the schools it is working with to increase the understanding of how and why students choose computer science as a subject at GCSE and A level.
The data will include feedback from students, teachers and parents on decision-making processes and the level of information available to them about skills acquisition and paths to employment.
Jane Richards said: “We are very concerned at the low take-up of computer science at GCSE and A level, particularly among young women and people from BME backgrounds, and at the financial sustainability of these courses in Yorkshire and the Humber.
“We know education providers in our region are suffering from deep cuts with research suggesting that schools in Yorkshire and the Humber have lost an estimated £444.9m between 2015-19.
“Conversely, the tech industry is growing very quickly and creating huge numbers of exciting job opportunities for young people with the right skills and abilities.
“These attributes can be just as useful in other fields such as social justice, the creative industries and the environment.”
A foundation for the future
The David and Jane Richards Family Foundation (DJRFF) was set up by David Richards, founder and chief executive of WANdisco, and his wife Jane to educate, empower and improve the lives of children.
The foundation’s trustees are Professor Chris Brady, director of the Centre for Sports Business at the University of Salford, Lord Kerslake, the former head of the civil service, and Herb Kim, founder and CEO of Thinking Digital.
Its aims are the advancement of computing and ecology education in state schools and the advancement of environmental protection and improvement.