Education CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by E-Skills UK

1.0 Summary

1.1 This document is the e-skills UK written input to the Education Committee’s Inquiry into the administration of examinations for 15 to 19 year olds in England.

1.2 As the Sector Skills Council for Business and Information Technology our mission is to make sure Britain has the IT skills it needs for innovation, global competitiveness and sustainable economic growth. We do this by taking our lead from employers and working with government, IT professionals and IT training providers to tackle skills needs and support economic recovery. Our strategic objectives set out a coherent skills strategy to a) Inspire Future Talent, b) Support IT & Telecoms Professionals and c) Promote the benefits of IT.

1.3 Our submission to the inquiry concentrates on whether the current system is providing the best opportunities for young people to progress in education for future employment. We also explain how employers in the IT sector are coming together to help address the issues in the education system.

1.4 The IT & Telecoms industries contribute 8% (in excess of £61 billion) of England’s total Gross Value Added (GVA). One in seventeen people (1.37 million) are employed in England work in the sector representing 6% of total employment. The sector is predicted to grow strongly to 2019 and around 96,000 new entrants to IT & Telecoms professional job roles are needed in England each year to meet projected growth and replacement requirements.

1.5 Employers are concerned the pipeline of future talent is compromised by issues related to IT education and uptake in schools. Numbers taking IT related GCSEs and A-levels continue to fall and gender imbalance is pervasive. The current curriculum is turning young people away from IT in university and employment. Employers and higher education institutions want a radically different curriculum and rigorous assessment to inspire and provide a sound academic grounding for further education and learning in the technology area.

1.6 We are strongly in favour of industry-academia partnerships in schools to ensure the best educational and employment outcomes for young people. Using this model, work has begun on the development of a brand new IT academic curriculum, through the “Behind the Screen” project, to establish rigorously assessed GCSEs and A-levels that will be highly regarded by universities and employers and attractive to students and teachers.

2.0 Introduction

2.1 As the SSC for Business and Information Technology, e-skills UK works on behalf of employers to ensure the UK has the technology skills it needs to succeed in a global digital economy. Our work covers software, internet and web, IT services, Telecommunications and business change. e-skills UK takes the lead on the IT-related skills needs of business leaders and managers and of individual workers in all sectors (IT users).

2.2 We are an employer-led, not-for-profit company, and were rated as “outstanding” in the re-licensing review of all SSCs by the National Audit Office (NAO) and UKCES. We bring together employers, educators and government to address the technology-related skills issues no one party can solve on its own and provide advice, services and programmes that have a measurable impact on IT related skills development in the UK. The membership of the e-skills UK Employer Boards can be found in Annex A.

2.3 Our strategic objectives drive a coherent skills strategy that enables the nation to create the skills needed for sustainable growth and to derive maximum benefit from the power of technology to transform competitiveness and productivity. We work with partner organisations to deliver on three strategic objectives to ensure the UK is world class in delivering maximum value from technology both in business and in society more widely:

Inspire future talent by motivating students to pursue IT-related careers and better prepare all young people for work in a technology-enabled world

Support IT professionals by helping them develop world-class skills

Promote the benefits of IT to organisations and individuals across society

2.4 Our response sets out the evidence base, briefly outlining the importance of the sector and the nature of current issues with IT related education for young people. We conclude with a summary of the Behind the Screen pilot programme for new GCSEs and A-levels where the IT sector is starting to tackle some of the key issues with IT related education in schools.

2.5 All the data used in this response is from Technology Insights 2011: England,1 (e-skills UK, January 2011) unless otherwise specified.

3.0 IT Sector Skills Needs and Education

IT & Telecoms sector skills needs

3.1 Technology is the key ingredient for global competitiveness in the private sector and for efficiency in the public sector. The IT & Telecoms industry in England currently delivers an annual GVA contribution in excess of £61 billion, 8% of the total economy and is recognised as a key sector for growth.

3.2 One in seventeen people employed in England work in the IT & Telecoms workforce – that is 1.37 million or 6% of total employment. Of these people, 1,005,000 are employed as IT & Telecoms professionals.

3.3 Growth in the sector is predicted to continue strongly to 2019 with employment in the IT industry expected to grow at 2.23% per annum, nearly five times faster than the predicted average employment growth for England. Over 480,000 new entrants to IT & Telecoms professional job roles are needed in England over the next five years to meet projected growth and replacement requirements.

IT education in schools

3.4 There are major issues with IT-related education in schools and with the uptake of IT-related subjects in higher education. Around 16,000 people a year a needed to enter the sector from education, predominantly at graduate level as IT related Higher Education remains an important source of talent for the sector’s labour force requirements. Although the number of people applying to Computing courses in Higher Education increased by 10% over the past year, for the period 2002-2009 numbers fell by 44%.

3.5 The number of students taking A-level Computing has fallen for the 8th consecutive year, to just 4,000. This accounts for just 0.5% of all A-levels sat in the UK. The GCSE results for 2011 also show a further decrease in entries from 2010 to 80,440, 28% down from the number of entries in 2010 for all ICT courses (full, short and double awards). As a proportion of all GCSEs sat in the UK, ICT GCSEs have declined from 2% in 2010 to 1% in 2011.2

3.6 e-skills UK research shows students’ experience of IT at Key Stage 4 is a major factor in the decrease in IT-related education at school and beyond and these issues are seriously compromising the pipeline of future talent.

3.7 Students are avid users of technology, from mobile phones to gaming, but there is currently little in the current school curriculum to develop the knowledge and understanding needed to progress to IT related higher education or employment. Employers and higher education institutions want to see a radically different curriculum in schools with rigorous assessment to inspire and provide a sound academic grounding for further and higher education and learning in the technology area.

4.0 Solutions for IT Education in Schools

4.1 In order to meet the needs of the sector and the economy as a whole, a new approach in IT related education is critical. We need to:

Promote the sector as a high growth, high skill sector with excellent earning potential and career prospects for young people and adults.

Ensure that IT-related qualifications and curriculum are valued by industry and delivered by quality providers.

Ensure teachers have access to relevant CPD in order to deliver an industry endorsed curriculum.

4.2 e-skills UK and employers are setting out to establish a brand new academic curriculum, including new, rigorously assessed GCSEs and A-levels through the “Behind the Screen” pilot. The programme topics are designed to be highly motivating to students, interesting and topical but also underpinned by a formal academic process to deliver skills and knowledge.

4.3 Our objectives are that these new qualifications are highly regarded by leading universities and employers (on a par with science, maths and English), and highly attractive to students. They will not focus on IT literacy; that needs to be covered at an earlier age, and as a basic skill rather than an academic subject. They will focus on IT as the enabler of business and society in the modern world.

4.4 Behind the Screen, is led by a partnership of employers including IBM, the BBC, Blitz Games, Capgemini, Cisco, Deloitte, HP, JohnLewis, Logica, the Metropolitan Police Service, Microsoft, National Grid, Procter &Gamble, Sainsburys, SAS, Steria and TATA. 20 schools, 100 students and a cohort of teachers have volunteered to participate in the pilot. This new model of academic/industry partnership is key to ensuring young people develop the scientific understanding, problem solving capability and creative flair to keep the UK at the forefront of a technology-enabled world.

4.5 Employers are demanding students acquire an appropriate body of knowledge and go through a rigorous assessment process to ensure that only those passing a tough exam can achieve the qualification.

4.6 Academic substance in the new qualifications will include computational principles, systemic thinking, software development and logic. Coursework will develop deep analytical, problem solving and critical thinking skills. Industry-backed challenges will encourage creativity, entrepreneurship and team work. Tough exams will motivate and differentiate. Teachers in schools will be supported by industry, both in their own development and through access to a rich online resource pool—including online lessons from national and international experts.

4.7 Through this action, we want to place IT as the spearhead for a new model of academia/industry partnership in schools, and we want to put the UK ahead of its international rivals in its education of young people for success in the e-enabled future economy.

Annex A



David Thomlinson

Country Managing Director, UK & Ireland


Sally Davis

Chief Executive

BT Wholesale

Philip Oliver


Blitz Games

John Pluthero

Executive Chairman, UK

Cable&Wireless Worldwide

Phil Smith (Chair)

VP and Chief Executive, UK & Ireland


Craig Wilson

Managing Director and VP, UK and Ireland

HP Enterprise Services

Stephen Leonard

Chief Executive UK, Ireland


Andy Green



Gordon Frazer

MD, UK and VP, MS International


David Callaghan

Senior Vice President


Gayna Hart



A. S. Lakshminarayanan

Vice President and Head – Europe

Tata Consultancy Services

Nick Read

CEO of Asia-Pacific & Middle East Regions



Paul Coby (Chair)

IT Director

John Lewis

Philip Langsdale



Tiffany Hall



Lesley Hume


Cabinet Office

Simon Post

Chief Technology Officer

Carphone Warehouse

Joe Harley

Government CIO; & CIO, DWP


Ailsa Beaton

Director of Information

Metropolitan Police Service

David Lister


National Grid

Catherine Doran

Director Corporate Development

Network Rail

Angela Morrison


RBS Insurance

Rob Fraser

IT Director


Richard Thwaite

MD CIO, Global Asset Management IT


Ben Wishart

Change and Information Director


November 2011


2 e-skills UK analysis of JCQ Provisional A level and GCSE results, August 2011

Prepared 2nd July 2012