University of Galway research has highlighted significant gaps when it comes to the provision of computer science classes in schools around the country.

The study shows a lack of qualified teachers for the subject is the main barrier to greater access and participation.

The report, conducted by the University's School of Education, found that there were just 34 accredited computer science teachers at the start of this academic year.

Only 16% of schools are offering the subject to senior cycle pupils and the majority of teachers are giving classes, without Teaching Council accreditation to do so.

The research also identifies a gender gap among those studying the subject, with more than two thirds of Leaving Certificate computer science students in 2022 being male.

The lead author of the report, Dr Cornelia Connolly, said the findings showed a significant volume of work was needed to ensure that all students had the opportunity to develop essential computer and coding skills.

She said the subjects needed to be viewed as a "foundational competence for all".

Dr Connolly also suggested that computing education be introduced at an earlier age so that students’ technical use and understanding correspond with their high level of access to phones and smart technology.

The report was commissioned with the support of Google.

Computer science is a new addition to the curriculum in Ireland.

Students in 40 pilot schools were first assessed in the subject at Leaving Certificate level in 2020.

In 2021, 706 students were assessed, compared to 1,600 students in PE, a subject that was introduced at the same time.

Dr Connolly added: "Although the Irish education system has embraced computing in the curriculum at post-primary - by introducing coding as a Junior Cycle short course and computer science as a stand-alone Leaving Certificate subject - we are a long way off making this important 21st century subject available to all students."

The report found that 15.6% of schools were offering computer science at Leaving Certificate - 114 out of 728 post-primary schools.

It found that 117 schools were offering short courses in Junior Cycle coding.