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Girls and Computing

(20 Posts)
Freddiecat Wed 10-Oct-12 22:37:46

Something I thought Mumsnetters might like to know about.

There's a big campaign at the moment to change ICT lessons in school to become less "how to use computers" and more Computer Science. Computing At School ( is a great grassroots organisation which is having an enormous effect on this. There are now 4 GCSE courses available in Computing (2 years ago there were none) and changes are being made in many schools to teach more Computing at Key Stage 2 and 3.

Of particular interest at the moment is the apparent lack of interest by girls in Computing. It's been a long term issue in Computer Science degree courses but GCSE numbers have also been hit (my option group has 16 boys and no girls). Schools are clearly offering Computing to boys and girls equally and are in many cases doing a lot to see what interests girls and what turns them off computing.

A new campaign has just been launched (not related to Computing At School) called Little Miss Geek ( with a book (which I have just ordered).

Is anyone here interested in this? If so, join CAS and add your support. But talk to your daughters about Computing. It's a great subject, logical, methodical, academic and interesting. There are lots of women out there doing brilliant things such as the brilliant Emma Mulqueeny who runs Young Rewired State (

jennywren123 Thu 11-Oct-12 09:13:11

I'm not sure that the use of the word geek in this campaign will help the cause.

Definition - 1 an unfashionable or socially inept person.
• [ usu. with modifier ] a knowledgeable and obsessive enthusiast: a computer geek.

Goldidi Thu 11-Oct-12 09:20:57

I'm not sure if that's true jenny I know quite a few teenage girls who openly state that they are geeks (my dd1 is rather proud of being a geek, as are most of her friends). I know dd1 will choose to do computing at GCSE as long as she has enough space in her timetable but she also loves Languages so if she has to choose between them she will do a Language at school and just do some Computing at home as a hobby.

I did a Computing Science degree and was one of 2 women on my course with over 200 young men. I rather enjoyed it. A friend's dd is currently doing Computing A level and is the only girl in the class, she's loving it, especially the bit about being the only girl as she likes the attention.

Whistlingwaves Thu 11-Oct-12 09:26:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

bruffin Thu 11-Oct-12 09:36:06

My niece has just left university with a degree in computer science. There is nothing geeky about her whatsoever.
I agree that Little Miss Geek is a dreadful title.
Both my Dd and Ds have been considered gifted in the area.
They have both been put off it because the curriculum has been so awful and Ds teacher admitted that there was nothing to encourage more able students. There should be a move to include more programming etc. The problem is with IT in school not just for girls.
As it is Ds does want to be an engineer and Dd a sn teacher.

wanderingalbatross Thu 11-Oct-12 09:43:20

I also don't like the word 'geek'. I realise many people identify with it, but maybe they're the ones already likely to take computing subjects. I think to attract a wider range of girls to computing, it needs to try hard not to present itself as a subject only for geeks. I work in a tech field and don't really identify myself as geeky, and neither do many of the women I know. There are plenty who do though.

Am glad to hear there are more computing GCSEs available, what are they in? I remember having to do IT GCSE which required little more than being able to do mail merge with Word.

I am all for encouraging girls into the tech industry though. It's a great place to work, can be really flexible if you have a family, and the work is very interesting, creative and cutting-edge. Will take a look at your links smile

bruffin Thu 11-Oct-12 09:43:34

Also I thought that maths at a level was more important to take a degree in computer science than any IT qualifiction.
My niece did a Dida but it took intervention of her tutor to actually get her on the degree course.

Goldidi Thu 11-Oct-12 10:04:38

That was my understanding too Bruffin. Maths was definitely more important when I did my degree, I had no IT qualifications at all when I started my Computing degree but had a Maths A level. The assumption at the start of the course was that we all knew very little but would learn very quickly, and that's what happened. Those who had Computing A levels were caught up by those of us without very quickly, it didnt seem to make much difference.

wanderingalbatross Thu 11-Oct-12 10:14:29

I agree that maths is more important at A-level, but I can see that doing some computing at GCSE might encourage more people into it.

Maybe maths A-level should include some programming? After all, much of the advanced practical maths is done with computers now, so a small nod to that in A-level might be useful smile

Myliferocks Thu 11-Oct-12 10:16:30

At my DDs old school the ICT GCSE was one of the compulsory subjects that everybody had to take.

bruffin Thu 11-Oct-12 10:19:20

IT is compulsory at ks4 at dcs school as well.

ByTheWay1 Thu 11-Oct-12 10:31:34

I am proud to be a geek..... never did a degree though - just started working in computer networks design and management straight from school (I started getting interested when the main computer for students' use at our primary school was the size of a mini and you fed in a stack of graphite marked cards and got out ticker tape.....).

When I got to school leaving age, a CS degree was done mainly by folks who went to the paperwork side of things (or went to work in the civil service), geeks were employed straight from school - by software gurus trawling shareware sites looking for new talent....

GrimmaTheNome Thu 11-Oct-12 11:47:10

ICT isn't a compulsory GCSE at DDs school - she doesn't like it anyway. She's delighted they are going to be introducing Computer Science, that should fit the bill much better - this is at a girls school with a science specialism.

I'm not entirely sure how useful it is at this level; I write software for a living - my qualification is a PhD in chemistry because in scientific software the hard part is knowing what to write not how to write it - coding is relatively easy to pick up and the languages you need to use change. But it seems like a better idea than learning how to use microsoft applications.

I don't know if maths a-levels should include any programming, but perhaps science a-levels could - and I'd be fairly certain that electronics GCSE (which DD is going to do) does to some degree - even in yr8 they had to do a little control program for their chips. I think done with a GUI rather than writing lines of code but that's ok for starters.

Little Miss Geek sounds designed to put girls off. Never mind the Geek; 'little miss' will piss off any self respecting schoolgirl (from Reception upwards!). Maybe its meant to be ironic but it doesn't look that way . confused

lljkk Thu 11-Oct-12 12:33:46

I've been hanging out with proud geeks for 25 years, too.
But agree it's too loaded a word to use in a campaign. Even my very geeky son shudders at the word.

Freddiecat Sat 20-Oct-12 01:42:29

The Geek thing is potentially controversial. But I think the tide is turning on the word.

Anyway - in answer to your questions: ICT is still taught in most schools although syllabi are changing from the old PowerPoint and spreadsheets to include more technically challenging stuff.

My GCSE Computing class are currently learning JavaScript and next year will do Python programming. They also do theory and learn concepts such as algorithms, networks etc.

RiversideMum Sat 20-Oct-12 07:24:34

I persuaded my DD to do computing AS (instead of GCSE ICT - as you say no computing GCSE when she started). She found it really hard, despite being an A* mathematician. There was also a lot of overlap with electronics, which is also a boy-heavy course. I'm not a Gove fan, but this is one of his better ideas and is something that has needed sorting for a long time. However, typically he has thrown the baby out with the bathwater. All children need a basic grounding in ICT - whether they should all do computing is another thing. The ones that are really interested may well have already worked it out for themselves. And a hook up with Microsoft is not massively inspiring when they can't even sort out that thing in Publisher where you scroll down to where you want to be and then it jumps back into the box where you just were in the first place that you have scrolled away from.

CommandoBlueberry Sat 20-Oct-12 07:36:45

IT/ICT is not the same as computing - not by a long shot and the two should not be confused. One is a secretarial-lite qualification, the other is the foundation of software in a modern age taken from the ticker-tape computing of the 60s.

I have a degree in Software Engineering, ration of men:women approximately 10:1.

If you don't have maths you're fucked, even more so when studying formal methods or having degree-level statistics thrown at you as part of business intelligence programming.

Some women seem to take pride in being computer illiterate luddites. I once had a very pretty, glamorous woman tell me how she didn't want to know anything because it was so "masculine".

mummytime Sat 20-Oct-12 08:24:10

DCs school has teachers who know far less about Computing than I do (and don't bear comparison to their father's knowledge), they only teach ICT, although the head of IT has considered teaching Computer Science. Unless taught by the head the lessons are uninspiring, and it is pitiful how much my DD doesn't know. What my DS knows he has pretty much self taught, or been taught via YRS.

The old syllabuses for Computer Science (when any kind of computer in the home was rare) were much much better, and maybe rolling out access to Rapberry PIs in school could help, not Microsoft. I am very pleased with the Computing I learnt (from an interested amature teacher at school, and as part of a Chemistry degree).

But then it will be really hard to get suitably qualified individuals as they could earn so much more using their skills in industry, unless of course they have a real passion for teaching.

sashh Sat 20-Oct-12 10:39:51

But then it will be really hard to get suitably qualified individuals as they could earn so much more using their skills in industry, unless of course they have a real passion for teaching.

My degre is a joint with 50% computer science. I did O Level Computer Studies and A Level computer science. I'm qualified to teach in FE.

I applied to teach IT i a local college, they wouldn't even consider me without ECDL.

GrimmaTheNome Sat 20-Oct-12 23:24:28

>There was also a lot of overlap with electronics, which is also a boy-heavy course

My dd (yr9) was excitedly telling me that the yr10s who have started doing Computer Science this year seemed to be taking computers apart at the moment- she reckoned it was going to be something like the non-boring bits of ICT crossed with electronics ...which she's doing anyway, along with 50% of her year, necessarily girl-heavy as its a girls' school grin

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