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ICT: Further Education

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL14476, tabled on 22 March 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the report by the Learning and Work Institute Disconnected? Exploring the digital skills gap, published on 22 March; and what steps they are taking to encourage more young people to enrol in further education IT courses.

Answered on

7 April 2021

Computing provides individuals with the knowledge and expertise to access the digital skills of the future.

This government wants every child in England to have access to a world-class computing education. That is why we created the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) in 2019, backed by £84 million of government funding, to improve the quality of computing teaching in England and drive-up participation to the computer science GCSE and A level. Since the NCCE’s creation, nearly 30,000 teachers have engaged with the programme.

The computer science GCSE was taken by over 77,000 pupils in 2019 and, from 2013 to 2019, was one of the fastest growing GCSE subjects. We recognise that some pupils who would previously have chosen to study information and communications technology (ICT), may not choose to study computer science due to the fundamental differences in content. In 2019, over 48,000 pupils took a level 2 ICT Technical Award, which are high quality equivalents to the computer science GCSE and are included in school performance tables.

The department is reviewing post-16 qualifications at level 3 and below, including ICT and digital qualifications, to ensure that every qualification approved for public funding has a distinct purpose, is high quality and supports progression to positive outcomes. Our aim is for clearer qualifications choices for young people and adults.

For 16 to 18 year olds, we are introducing T Levels as a new, high quality technical education route. T Levels in digital production, design and development are now being taught and will be followed by T Levels in digital support services and digital business services, from September this year.

For adults (19+) with no or low digital skills, we have introduced a legal entitlement to study new Essential Digital Skills Qualifications (EDSQs) at entry level and level 1 for free. EDSQs are a new qualification type, based on new national standards for essential digital skills, which will provide adults with the digital skills needed for life and work. We also continue to support the provision of basic digital skills training for adults in community learning settings through the Adult Education Budget.

Employers have continued to recognise the value apprentices bring to their businesses. Starts in the ICT sector subject area have increased per academic year from 15,470 in 2016/17 to 21,110 in 2018/19. In 2019/20, there were 18,230 starts.

In higher education, computer science degrees saw the largest percentage increase in new entrants at 7%, alongside Medicine and Dentistry and Business and Administrative Studies.

Outside of the education system, the department has invested £2.5 billion to deliver the National Skills Fund. As part of this, Skills Bootcamps are being delivered, which are free, flexible courses of up to 16 weeks, giving adults aged 19 and over the opportunity to build up sector-specific skills and fast-track to an interview with a local employer. In September 2020, bootcamps launched in 4 areas, initially focusing on digital skills such as software development, digital marketing and data analytics. Registrations opened in December 2020 for more bootcamps in three regions, and from April 2021, we are investing a further £43 million to extend further in England. These bootcamps will cover digital skills and technical skills training.

From April 2021, any adult aged 24 and over, looking to achieve a first full level 3 will be able to access a fully funded course, which will give them new skills and greater prospects in the labour market.

We will target this on subject areas that have strong outcomes at level 3 linked to labour market need, including a range of qualifications that are valuable across the economy in multiple sectors, such as digital skills, accountancy, and business skills.