New 'Gender Balance in Computing' project announced

30 April 2019

We are excited to announce that the Department for Education has granted £2.4 million of funding to the ‘Gender Balance in Computing’ research project. The project will trial a number of new initiatives aimed at improving girls’ participation in computing. This award comes at a crucial time in computing education, after research by the University of Roehampton and the Royal Society recently found that only 20% of candidates for GCSE Computer Science and 10% for A level Computer Science were girls.

Barriers which may impact girls’ engagement with computing in schools include a lack of role models in computing, and a perceived lack of relevance of computing to students’ future lives. The project will respond to these and other challenges through a range of tailored interventions, all run as randomised control trials. The effectiveness of each intervention will then be measured and add to the evidence base of how to support more girls to study computer science.

Over 15,000 students and 550 schools across England will be involved in the trials, which will run from 2019–2022 in key stages 1–4. The study represents the largest national research effort to tackle this issue to date.

‘Gender Balance in Computing’ is a collaboration between the consortium of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, STEM Learning, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, and the Behavioural Insights Team. Apps for Good and WISE will also be working on the project. ‘Gender Balance in Computing’ is one of the programmes associated with the wider National Centre for Computing Education – as part of an overall £84 million package to improve computing education in England by providing support for computing teachers at all levels, from primary to A level.

Sue Sentance, Chief Learning Officer at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, said:

“The challenge of encouraging more girls to take up the subject has long been a concern, and overcoming it will be critical to ensuring that the nation’s workforce is suitably skilled to work in an increasingly digital world. I'm very proud to be working with a range of excellent organisations on this important research project on such a scale, and together, we have the opportunity to rigorously trial a range of evidence-informed initiatives to improve the gender balance in computing in primary and secondary schools.”

Elspeth Kirkman, Director of Health, Education, Community & Local Government at the Behavioural Insights Team, said:

“We’re delighted to be working to grow the evidence base around gender and subject choice in computing. This builds on BIT's existing work in this area, including our Gender and Behavioural Insights Programme (GABI) and our extensive experience working in schools.”

Helen Wollaston, Chief Executive of WISE, said:

“Technology is transforming every aspect of our lives, and we will need more people with an excellent mix of technical and interpersonal skills. With so many new opportunities and career paths, it is essential that we engage more girls in computer science at GCSE and A level so that they can fulfil their potential. WISE is excited to be working on this project, bringing our knowledge and experience of engaging girls in STEM to the programme and working towards evidence-based solutions that make a real difference to the number of girls choosing computing. It is vital that we show girls the skills required for opportunities in computing now, so they can make well-informed decisions about their future.”

Sophie Ball, Co-Managing Director of Apps for Good, said:

“A young person's location, background, or gender should never be a barrier to their future success. Apps for Good empowers young people to change their world through technology, and we have a strong track record of engaging girls in computing. We are excited to be a part of this important work to develop, test, and scale solutions to inspire more girls to pursue technology in education. We look forward to helping to build a more diverse talent pool of future tech creators.”

About the Raspberry Pi Foundation

The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a UK-based charity that works to put the power of computing and digital making into the hands of people all over the world. They do this so that more people are able to harness computing and digital technologies for work, to solve problems that matter to them, and to express themselves creatively.

They provide low-cost, high-performance computers that people use to learn, solve problems, and have fun. They offer outreach and education initiatives to help more people access computing and digital making. They develop free resources to help people learn about computing and how to make things with computers, and they train educators who can guide other people to learn. For more information, visit www.raspberrypi.org.

About the Behavioural Insights Team

The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) is a social purpose company. BIT was mutualised in 2014 and is partly owned by the Cabinet Office; Nesta (the innovation charity); and its employees. The team works to generate and apply behavioural insights to inform policy, improve public services and deliver results for citizens and society.

BIT works in partnership with governments, local authorities, businesses and charities, often using simple changes to tackle major policy problems. BIT started life as part of the UK government in 2010 and now has offices around the world. The team’s work spanned 31 countries in the last year alone. For more information, visit www.bi.team.

About Apps for Good

Apps for Good is a tech education charity, with a mission to grow the next generation of problem-solvers and digital entrepreneurs. Apps for Good partners with schools and colleges across the UK and provides free online CPD training to upskill educators to deliver their programmes to students aged 10–18.

Apps for Good has impacted over 130,000 young people in 1,500 schools and colleges across the UK since their foundation in 2010. They are an organisation committed to improving diversity within the tech sector, engaging schools within deprived and challenging contexts and enthusing girls to pursue a pathway in computing; in 2018 56% of students participating in an Apps for Good programme were female. For more information, visit www.appsforgood.org.

About WISE

WISE enables and energises people who increase the participation, contribution and success of women in the UK’s scientific, technology and engineering (STEM) workforce. Since 1984, they have supported young women into careers in STEM and are committed to raising aspirations and awareness for girls in school to help them achieve their full potential. My Skills My Life has been built from evidence, feedback from girls and independent evaluation. In the past 3 years, their programmes have inspired over 13,500 girls. For more information, visit www.wisecampaign.org.uk.

About STEM Learning

STEM Learning is the UK’s largest provider of education and careers support in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It has a mission to improve lives through world-leading STEM education. For more information, visit www.stem.org.uk.

About BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT

BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT is the professional body for computing and, as part of its Royal Charter, sets and maintains academic and professional standards in computing. For more information, visit www.bcs.org.