Private schools 'handicapped by university targets'

(264 Posts)
Sonatensatz Wed 03-Oct-12 11:07:47

Just read an article in the times commenting that new government targets for universities to take more pupils from state schools is putting those in private schools at a disadvantage, essentially because if their are two equal students the universities should prioritise the state schooled child with an addition that they should lower the grade boundaries for state schooled children. (sorry can't link it's behind the pay barrier)

The article got me thinking that surely the fairest way to select students for university would be to remove the requirement for them to put their school on the application form. Each student could be provided with a reference from their school or college on a standard form which didn't reveal the school on it. That way each pupil would be assessed on their merits and not on the type of school they went to.

Also if, as it seems part of the issue is the level of extra coaching private schooled children get to get them through the exams perhaps a scheme (supported by businesses or private schools as part of the requirement for them to benefit the wider community in order to gain charitable status) could be set up to identify the most talented disadvantaged youngsters from across the country and provide them with bursaries to access extra tuition.

What do others think?

Bonsoir Thu 04-Oct-12 12:23:19

All the better universities are geared up to well-prepared/educated and intelligent students who can hit the ground running. That is what they are designed to do - take those students further in their chosen course of study.

Bonsoir Thu 04-Oct-12 12:24:36

All the research points increasingly to the best return on investment in education for the less privileged being the years 0-3 (the years most systems ignore).

mirry2 Thu 04-Oct-12 12:25:10

Lets do way with offering oxbridge places to privately educated students altogether. If private school pupils only make up 7% of all pupils we won't notice the difference and the degree results will go through the roof. wink

whistlestopcafe Thu 04-Oct-12 12:26:02

flatpack I am talking about students who are EQUAL on paper. If their grades, personal statements and references are virtually identical how do you differentiate between the two? In this situation I would say that it is fair to give the state pupil an advantage, the privately educated pupil has already been given an advantage.

It's better than picking names out of a hat.

swingticket Thu 04-Oct-12 12:26:19

I don't understand why the degree results will be better?

swingticket Thu 04-Oct-12 12:27:24

I don't think you would ever have two students who were identical though would you??? Exam results maybe but after interview?

whistlestopcafe Thu 04-Oct-12 12:34:40

They probably won't be identical but they could show equal levels of potential.

I assumed that this went on already. When you decide on schools for your children you have to take this into account.

I'm looking at schools for my son, we are in favour of comprehensive schools but have considered grammar schools too. There are pro and cons to both.

Aboutlastnight Thu 04-Oct-12 12:36:15

It is not a level playing field. I am delighted my state educated children may have some advantage. God knows we can't afford to buy it. It's great news for our family grin

It means my DDs as individuals do not have to lose out due to the 'failures' of the state system.

losingtrust Thu 04-Oct-12 12:36:52

It is at interview level where most state students struggle against independent students and this really should have no bearing on the final degreee. Take a child from a deprived background whose parents or parent are working all hours to keep a roof and put a meal over their heads who have never been to university and one with either a boarding school background who can devote time to reading as opposed to working a part-time job to keep up-to-date or with Oxbridge-educated parents. There could well be a difference in the conifdence with which they come across. Intereviews would therefore be the key and this is where state school kids should be given an advantage.

LettyAshton Thu 04-Oct-12 12:39:42

I'm not generally a fan of positive discrimination.

But - in the case of schooling, a clever child from an ordinary state school will rarely come across as well in interview or on paper as a pupil who has been to a top private school.

My ds used to enter a lot of chess tournaments. His opponents were frequently from public schools. It was obvious there that ds, in a sweatshirt and jeans with his mum in tow, was no match for someone in a striped blazer with an accompanying chess master. Who knows if ds was better or not than these boys? But he hadn't got the self-confidence or the back-up (he did beat chess captain of Winchester College though grin ) to take on the might of know-how. And likewise with university, some schools know all the ropes - they can coach appropriately, the masters may know the admissions tutors. Above all the candidates feel comfortable with the process, which is no doubt half the battle.

flatpackhamster Thu 04-Oct-12 12:41:44

whistlestopcafe

flatpack I am talking about students who are EQUAL on paper.

I know what you're talking about.

If their grades, personal statements and references are virtually identical how do you differentiate between the two?

Interview process. Which, IIRC, is what the universities already do.

In this situation I would say that it is fair to give the state pupil an advantage, the privately educated pupil has already been given an advantage.

And I still don't see how it's 'fair' to tell a private school pupil that their effort and ability are irrelevant because they went to the wrong school. That's what you're doing, isn't it? "Sorry, kid. Your parents wanted the best for you, and you worked your heart out, but some vicious upper-middle class Islington socialists who can afford to buy a big house near the best comprehensives decided it was 'fair' that their kids got to go to uni and you didn't."

It's better than picking names out of a hat.

As I wrote above, the universities use an interview system to pick their candidates. Why is it that private schools do better at the interview system? Is it a failure of the state system to adequately prepare their pupils for interview?

LettyAshton Thu 04-Oct-12 12:42:31

I don't think the "deprived background" kids have a monopoly on unfairness. As I posted above, the middle-class but not especially well-off or well-connected pupils face the same hurdles.

Tressy Thu 04-Oct-12 12:43:56

DC was offered places on the lowest grade requirements last year e.g Grade criteria AAB-BBB conditional offer was BBB. I presumed it was because they looked at the state school attended, which is fair I think.

Oxbridge was prepared to take a pupil from a lower achieving school who missed the offer, which again I think is fair.

Aboutlastnight Thu 04-Oct-12 12:46:11

Losing trust - I agree with that. We did not have debating societies, we had 30 to an A Level class and though many of us came out with top grades I know I would have found an Oxbridge interview very, very tough as was not used to attention from someone in charge,, articulating my opinion and not panicking when challenged on it and the sheer intimidating atmosphere of it all.

Presentation is something private education is very good at.

margerykemp Thu 04-Oct-12 12:46:54

The 7% statistic is being misused/ misunderstood here. Many more DCs go private at 11+, 13+ and 16+ so the member in private by 6th form is 20% of pupils not 7%.

But they are still generally advantaged.

margerykemp Thu 04-Oct-12 12:47:14

Number not member

losingtrust Thu 04-Oct-12 12:47:43

And I still don't see how it's 'fair' to tell a private school pupil that their effort and ability are irrelevant because they went to the wrong school. That's what you're doing, isn't it? "Sorry, kid. Your parents wanted the best for you, and you worked your heart out, but some vicious upper-middle class Islington socialists who can afford to buy a big house near the best comprehensives decided it was 'fair' that their kids got to go to uni and you didn't."

And personally I dont see how its fair to tell a state school pupil that their effort and ability although hampered by less strong influences, the need to work and do A Levels at the same time or lack of interest from their parents should count against them. I understand about the best comprehensives point and this is the reason universities backing out of it but there is no competition between some children in terms of their upbringing.

StillSquiffy Thu 04-Oct-12 12:48:15

There's a huge problem. But it shouldn't be the Unis that solve it by a handicapping system.

There are a shedload of relevant factors but two issues are at the heart of the problem:

1) firstly you cannot isolate the effect of the schooling environment from the aptitude of the student toward academic study at degree level.
2) You cannot 'correct' for the effect of taking 'rigourous' academic A levels versus 'ology' A levels without making sweeping generalisations.

If an admissions officer is faced with a two students, one of whom is an indie student who has predicted AAB in Maths, chemistry and Physics, the other is state educated and has predicted ABC in Maths, Business Studies and Media Studies, who would YOU pick? Only one of the students is a low risk option.

This article Is absolutely bloody brilliant in crystallising some of the issues here. Pity those poor clever kids in Knowsley getting steered away from the likelihood of a good uni education simply because they are getting poor advice from their teachers about A level choices. And the thing that has probably created that is no doubt the league table obsession in this country.

As always the answer is to look at why the private schools get better results than the state schools and try to learn how to replicate the useful bits so that you remove the disparity of results, rather than trying to get the universities to try to 'adjust' for the disparirty. And if you could get cross party agreement to actually look at a long term strategy for education and remove the topic from the political arena, then so much the better.

losingtrust Thu 04-Oct-12 12:53:21

I didn't even apply to Oxbridge because my parents did their best to put me off. It will be full of snobs, you wont fit in, you wont be able to pay the cost of housing. I am different with my children now and will coach them if they wish to go for the interview but my kids will benefit from that. I will also invest in tutoring when required. I cannot say the same for a child in inner-city Birmingham, whose parents may not speak much English and who are working all hours to fit into a new country or the child of parents who have never worked and do not see any point in an education. Perhaps children from those schools and background need the help to break out of this environment.

Aboutlastnight Thu 04-Oct-12 12:54:43

"And I still don't see how it's 'fair' to tell a private school pupil that their effort and ability are irrelevant because they went to the wrong school. That's what you're doing, isn't it? "Sorry, kid. Your parents wanted the best for you, and you worked your heart out, but some vicious upper-middle class Islington socialists who can afford to buy a big house near the best comprehensives decided it was 'fair'"

Hmmm now my ALevel English class taught me that the above comment is an ' extreme case construction' usually used to win an argument but having no basis in reality.

Bonsoir Thu 04-Oct-12 12:55:10

"It is not a level playing field. I am delighted my state educated children may have some advantage. God knows we can't afford to buy it. It's great news for our family grin

It means my DDs as individuals do not have to lose out due to the 'failures' of the state system."

I fear that your opinion is short-sighted and naïve. The state system will just have increasingly less incentive to perform.

losingtrust Thu 04-Oct-12 12:55:24

I agree with your points Still but it will take time for schooling to change.

Bonsoir Thu 04-Oct-12 12:57:16

Schools will change when teachers are recruited from among the best-performing students of their generation and are paid competitively for their brains and skills.

whistlestopcafe Thu 04-Oct-12 12:57:59

Flatpack I won't defend my position too strongly because I don't actually have any experience of University admissions procedures.

I believe in fairness and I believe that children should be given an equal chance. Discriminating in favour of a state school pupil is sometimes the fair and right thing to do.

State school pupils are doing more to coach pupils on University interviews and our state school is following the public schools and takes part in debating etc. It isn't just about the education they receive at school, private school pupils have often had completely different backgrounds and advantages right through their childhood.

At 19 I worked in alongside a university placement student who had attended a private school. I was in awe of her, she was so much more confident than me, her parents were company directors she had travelled the world etc. At a university admissions interview she would have wiped the floor with me. I grew in confidence as I got older and was just as successful at work as she was but at 19 we were poles apart.

Abra1d Thu 04-Oct-12 12:58:09

So state schools with have less incentive to improve because their brightest pupils will be excused top grades.

And wealthier pupils who have tutoring to supplement a state school education will be advantaged over private school pupils from poor backgrounds on 100% bursaries.

How is this fair?

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