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?

losingtrust Wed 03-Oct-12 12:01:47

I think you need to establish whether the private schools get better results as a result of coaching or selection. If it is selection, then maybe they are cleverer children and deserve to be at uni. There are also state school kids getting straight As at A'Level but on the whole for instance in a comp it will be a lower proportion to a selective grammer or private school. Without the research it would be unfair to prioritise one over the other. Having said that interviews should take this into account to ensure more state educated children get to Oxbridge should they choose this as the interview may be more of a stumbling block. I certainly think local professional firms should be helping to bring these soft skills to State schools. KPMG and Deloitte as examples are already looking at mentoring kids from deprived areas and interview and presentation skills may help more than extra tuition.

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Wed 03-Oct-12 13:29:00

I agree that not telling universes the schools their prospective students went to would be a good idea. I think it is very unfair that private school students are penalised when it comes to university admissions. We would be up in arms if students were denied places because they lived in a deprived council estate with a high anti social crime rate, and this is no different.

So what if a child has more attention in a private school? Should dyslexic students be discounted because they have had extra help with reading? Should my ds who has Aspergers be discounted because he has regular meetings with the SENCO to check his progress?

Places should go to the best possible students, that is all there is to it.

lalalonglegs Wed 03-Oct-12 14:08:51

But surely, Outraged, the point is that the huge proportion of students from independent schools that get offers from the most prestigious universities means that these places aren't necessarily going to the best people but the ones whose parents are able to afford a private education? I don't think anyone would suggest that the c 7% of students in private schools are necessarily the top 7% in the country but they account for about 45% of Oxbridge places.

There has to be some sort of correlation between expectation and achievement: if you are from a background where you know very few people who have attended university - and those that have maybe studied semi-vocational degrees at the local uni - then aiming to read Classics at Cambridge will seem daunting and possibly completely unrealistic even if you have the talent to do that. If, on the other hand, you know many people who have attended top universities, if you have parents/siblings/friends further up the school who all got into Cambridge and you know what is expected of you, then the goal seems within easier reach - still not a doddle but a plausible ambition, perhaps.

I don't know what the solution is but the UK is at its least socially mobile in decades and I don't think giving a leg up to people from different backgrounds is necessarily a bad thing. It is the head of an independent school that is accusing universities of disadvantaging his pupils but, as the UCAS woman says at the end of the article, given that such a large proportion of privately educated students get into Russell Group universities “This does not seem to me a sector at the mercy of social engineering or needing to boycott any universities."

sieglinde Wed 03-Oct-12 14:10:51

I'm an Oxford admissions tutor and I agree very strongly with the OP. For one thing it might restore public trust, and for another it would make my job a lot easier.

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Wed 03-Oct-12 14:14:46

Giving people a leg up isn't a bad thing. Until it is done to the detriment of other people who have done nothing wrong, and then it becomes unfair.

If one group of student has more of what Oxbridge want and expect from their students, then there is no good reason why they shouldn't take people from that group.

I think careers advice and support for university applications need to be improved, but state schools can provide that just as well as private schools. State school students do not need to be given a false advantage.

ParsingFancy Wed 03-Oct-12 14:17:30

Where the "leg up" is what, sending them to private school?

Or something else?

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Wed 03-Oct-12 14:35:10

The problem is state schools have enough on their plates getting the students good exam results. They don't have the time to intensively coach the students in interview techniques or entrance exams.

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Wed 03-Oct-12 14:42:28

Private schools have to work hard to ensure that students get good results too. Not all of them select, and even when they do, quite often their standard isn't particularly high.

Some of the success of private school students is down to parental support, so there is nothing stopping state school pupils providing the same.

lalalonglegs Wed 03-Oct-12 14:57:11

Outraged, do you think it is fair that almost half the places at Oxbridge are taken by privately educated students who account for about 7% of the total of all students? Do you not think there might be a teensy weensy bit of bias - not necessarily overt - in the way that students are selected? Can we agree that it would be desirable to make the intake more representative?

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Wed 03-Oct-12 15:03:46

I don't think it's about fair. School has to be fair, university has to be about the best.

So I couldn't care less whether its fair or not, I'd rather more important things were taken into consideration when training the country's future doctors, lawyers, scientists etc.

ParsingFancy Wed 03-Oct-12 15:06:30

Sorry, still not clear what the "leg up" is?

Freddos, are you complaining that the leg up that private schools give is unfair, as it is to the detriment of those going to state schools who do not have those pupil-teacher ratios, resources, etc?

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Wed 03-Oct-12 15:06:45

But the point is the universities aren't necessarily selecting the best. They may be only selecting those that appear the best due to intensive coaching

ParsingFancy Wed 03-Oct-12 15:12:33

I certainly agree with you that, for training the country's future doctors, scientists, etc, universities should definitely be looking for those who will be the best at university and afterwards, not just giving places to those who have the best exam results and most practiced interview technique at 18.

They look for potential, not for those who've had the most opportunity so far in their lives.

ParsingFancy Wed 03-Oct-12 15:12:58

Sorry, that was to Freddos.

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Wed 03-Oct-12 15:14:02

No, I wasn't the one that first mentioned a 'leg up'. I was responding to another poster.

Private schools do not routinely provide intensive coaching. Well, the one I went to didn't anyway. And from looking at my ds's two state schools, they both provide far batter careers advice than I ever had.

elportodelgato Wed 03-Oct-12 15:18:14

My FIL does admissions for a university and has been doing some research on the A level results of students and how they relate to their performance at degree level. He has consistently found that while private school pupils come to uni with higher A level results, they fail to translate this into better degree results - they have been selected, coached, taught in smaller classes etc in order to excel at A level, but this is not necessarily a sign of innate ability or an ability to study independently.

On the other hand, state school students who have good A levels have often gained them in spite of having learned in large classes, with often low expectations, no coaching, no tutoring etc. he says that these students consistently thrive at university because they have already overcome more barriers than the privately educated students - their success at A level is more likely to be a sign of innate ability and self-motivation.

Off the back of this, I don't think it's unreasonable at all to offer state school students slightly lower grades to get into uni if it means making some inroads to reverse the trend where Oxbridge is 50% privately educated students.

anotherteacher Wed 03-Oct-12 15:38:28

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.

But the government want more pupils from maintained schools admitted into prestigious universities and have given targets to be met. The above solution would be unlikely to help with this. It would , as Sieglinde pointed out, make admissions tutors' jobs easier as at present, they are being asked to be the agents of social change, which isn't what they signed up for. Discrimination of any sort hurts someone while helping someone else.

Cambridge this year admitted 63 % of students from maintained schools which means 37% came from independent schools. I don't know whether overseas and European students are included in that 37%.

Schools from either sector are never homogenous in their intake. There are many well to do parents at high achieving maintained schools and many less affluent in the private sector. The very disadvantaged, who reach a level by 17 that would allow an admissions tutor to offer them a place is fairly small because they fail or are failed by family or schools, far earlier. It is far too complex an area to fix through crude targets pitting maintained against independent schools.

Sonatensatz Wed 03-Oct-12 17:49:42

The problem with the government target though is it's a bit abitrary. It's not going to help the graduate sector if less able students get places in universities because they go to a maintained school and more able students don't get a place because they go to a private sector. Surely the aim should be to get the students with the most potential whichever sector they come from. Perhaps an alternative way to select the best students would be to introduce an element of the selection process for universities which allowed students to demonstrate their independent learning skills and combine the A level results with the results from these tests to identify those with the most potential.

flatpackhamster Wed 03-Oct-12 17:59:51

lalalonglegs

Outraged, do you think it is fair that almost half the places at Oxbridge are taken by privately educated students who account for about 7% of the total of all students? Do you not think there might be a teensy weensy bit of bias - not necessarily overt - in the way that students are selected? Can we agree that it would be desirable to make the intake more representative?

Perhaps we should extend this to all walks of life then. Brain surgeons to be selected via a lottery system, due to the unfairness of requiring many years of study and training. Research fellowships should be allocated through a system of random letter drops, to ensure that we get a 'more representative' mix of people doing research, rather than the ridiculous system we have now which excludes those with poorer education. We could have a phone-in system to pick people for all the really important and difficult jobs which require loads of expertise, to make it 'fair' and to remove the 'bias' inherent in the system.

The scheme to exclude pupils from higher education on the basis of the school they attended is monstrous, vile, vicious socialist social engineering.

If state schools aren't cutting the mustard, then don't blame private schools. Lay the blame where it belongs.

SmellsLikeTeenStrop Wed 03-Oct-12 19:14:13

elportodelgato other people have done similar research, one guy looked at Oxford admissions and found that among students who had similar GCSE results, state school students were more likely to get firsts than students who attended private schools.

There is an increasing amount of evidence pointing towards it being the private school students who are getting the 'helping hand' by virtue of them being private school students. Universities such as Oxford do not appear to be selecting students based on likelihood of achieving a good degree, but on good old fashioned bias towards those from privileged backgrounds.

flatpackhamster There is already social engineering going on and it is excluding people from higher education on the basis of the school they attend.

lalalonglegs Wed 03-Oct-12 19:25:12

State schools often do cut the mustard, I think a lot of them do fantastically well despite not being overly-funded and generally being entirely non-selective. No one is trying to exclude privately educated students from university, they just want to make sure a very small elite doesn't dominate some of them. You call it "vile, vicious socialist social engineering", I call it entirely desirable that certain universities do not become the preserve of the rich.

ggirl Wed 03-Oct-12 19:33:32

Sonatensatz Perhaps an alternative way to select the best students would be to introduce an element of the selection process for universities which allowed students to demonstrate their independent learning skills and combine the A level results with the results from these tests to identify those with the most potential.

yes that's a great idea...but I can imagine schools coaching kids to pass that.

My dd (state school) is in 2nd yr at university and has 4 close friends (privately educated )all of whom failed their first yr exams. they openly admit that they were not prepared for the amount of independent study and lacked motivation.
Yet to see how this affects their 2nd yr though..maybe it's a teething problem.

SundaeGirl Wed 03-Oct-12 19:48:45

'I don't think anyone would suggest that the c 7% of students in private schools are necessarily the top 7% in the country but they account for about 45% of Oxbridge places.'

The thing is, once you've put those in the 7% through ten years of the best education, they could easily transform themselves into the top 47%. That is in fact what parents are paying for.

blueemerald Wed 03-Oct-12 20:52:12

This has been happening for years now and parents of children at private schools know it. People left my school/my brother's school in droves at the end of year 11 to go to the local sixth form colleges. Parents spend the equivalent of 2 years school fees on 1-1 tuition/UCAS form advisers etc and the now ex-private school student still got the best places. I believe that any 'official' targets will just increase this practice. It is not fair on state school students. Also positive discrimination is not a good thing. It does not work. I think anonymity would be much fairer for all involved. And lower tuition fees of course.

And for every privately educated student who drops out I know a state educated student with the same story. I did an English degree (2006-2009) and the majority of my (state educated) friends were shocked and appalled that we had to write a 3,000 word essay in the first 2 weeks. They came from across the country and were nowhere near prepared for university level work.

This is from 2009:
Oxford and Cambridge are the universities with the lowest drop-out rates, with fewer than one in a hundred students leaving in their first year. In contrast, at the universities of Greenwich, Sunderland, Bolton and London Metropolitan, between 15% and 19% failed to complete their first year. At the University of Ulster, one in five dropped out.

tilder Wed 03-Oct-12 22:31:55

That is a bit of an unfair example. One of the main reason for dropping out is finance. Students from an affluent background do not have this problem.

OddBoots Wed 03-Oct-12 22:39:22
flatpackhamster Thu 04-Oct-12 08:40:45

SmellsLikeTeenStrop

flatpackhamster There is already social engineering going on and it is excluding people from higher education on the basis of the school they attend.

No, they're excluded on the basis of their A-level results. Which is as it should be.

lalalonglegs

State schools often do cut the mustard, I think a lot of them do fantastically well despite not being overly-funded and generally being entirely non-selective.

Lots of hedging there. 'Often', 'generally', etc. No, state schools are failing their pupils, both those at the bottom and those at the top.

No one is trying to exclude privately educated students from university, they just want to make sure a very small elite doesn't dominate some of them.

Why shouldn't the elite go to the best universities? Isn't that the point of elitism? Isn't the purpose to push the best as hard as you can?

You call it "vile, vicious socialist social engineering", I call it entirely desirable that certain universities do not become the preserve of the rich.

Well, naturally. I call it desirable that people can access a university on the basis of their exam results rather than on the basis of some Islington trendy's feelings.

dreamingofsun Thu 04-Oct-12 09:29:03

flatpack - i agree totally with your statement 'The scheme to exclude pupils from higher education on the basis of the school they attended is monstrous, vile, vicious socialist social engineering'.

why should my second son be excluded from uni because his state secondary school is inadequate? Why should only students who can afford decent teaching be allowed access to uni?

CommunistMoon Thu 04-Oct-12 09:41:25

Private schools have got a fucking cheek to complain about this. The Russell Group university I attended had privately-educated students asking if there were quotas for state-school students - this was back in 1993. There weren't, there aren't and that university's intake from private schools is even more disproportionate now than it was back then. Absolute whinging tossers.

Aboutlastnight Thu 04-Oct-12 09:48:17

God forbid that privately educated children be disadvantaged in any way...hmm

More state educate young people into the professions would be a great thing, I hope universities continue to show preference to state educated candidates, it can only be a good thing for this country.

Aboutlastnight Thu 04-Oct-12 09:50:03

And I am sure most privately educated pupils will manage a place a university, they will not be cast out into the wilderness.

gelo Thu 04-Oct-12 09:53:59

elportodelgato, SmellsLikeTeenStrop and Oddboots, it's actually not as clear cut as the research you refer to makes out.

Cambridge have done similar research and found that A level grades are the best predictor of degree success (except for maths where STEP and GCSE are better) and that this is independent of what type of school they are achieved at. So at Cambridge at least, a comprehensive student is not likely to perform any better than an independent or grammar student with the same grades.

The issue is tricky. What it depends on is to what extent deficiencies in earlier education can be made up for at university age. If you miss out on the best education as a youngster then if a university can 'bring you up to speed' then they do need to do a bit of positive discrimination. If they can't (which I suspect is at least partially true in many subjects and at the upper ability end - eg at Cambridge where the pace is so fast that to start out at a disadvantage may well prove irrecoverable), then universities need to treat applicants equally based on their grades.

MrsSalvoMontalbano Thu 04-Oct-12 09:57:34

It should not be the function of universities to make up for any deficiency is state school teaching - makes no sense. If state school students are being failed by pooere teaching, find out why and address that.

Bonsoir Thu 04-Oct-12 09:58:30

Discrimination is wrong. Universities should select pupils based on how intelligent and how well-prepared academically they are to perform on their chosen course. The onus should not be on universities to compensate for the failings of state education. It is the responsibility of schools to get their pupils ready for university.

Berry72 Thu 04-Oct-12 10:04:05

I find this kind of social engineering deeply depressing. As Bonsoir said, discrimination is wrong and universities shouldn't be expected to mop up the failings of the state education system.

Berry72 Thu 04-Oct-12 10:06:21

Anyway I was thinking about this last night and to be honest the fantastic education my daughter is receiving at her (non selective) independent is so superior to the local comprehensive that even if she doesn't get to Cambridge because they have to give place to the comprehensive students, it doesn't really matter! She'll do fantastically wherever she goes. I am certainly not panicking about it and moving her to the comp at 6th form.

Bonsoir Thu 04-Oct-12 10:08:05

I would have thought that some universities would be delighted to have an en masse sudden influx of Cambridge-standard privately-educated pupils and would be more than able to meet their needs. Like you, I am not particularly anxious.

whistlestopcafe Thu 04-Oct-12 10:13:07

If two students have identical results and equally good personal statements and the university has to choose between the two candidates it is only fair that they opt for the state school pupil.

I can't see why this is a concern for people.

Musomathsci Thu 04-Oct-12 10:23:29

Universities need to know where kids have been educated so that they can gauge how well they have done in the context of the education they have been offered. Anonymising everything would stop places like Cambridge looking at a sink state-school educated candidate with average grades who turns out to be a real original thinker at interview. They do take into account things like class sizes and a school's overall grade profile to look at how able an individual is.

Yes there are plenty of bright, able kids in the state sector, but maybe there are a higher proportion of bright, able kids in the private sector because their bright, able parents have well-paid jobs that allow them to educate their children privately. Go on, flame me! I came from a very ordinary background with no special privileges and worked very hard to get to uni and get myself a decent job. Did I choose to send my kids to the local comp? Hell no. Family holidays, fancy cars, cash to splash, no, but we've chosen to prioritise education over everything else. I know plenty of people who spend similar sums of money buying houses in the 'right' catchment areas for state schools to get a good education for their kids.

I'm sorry for the bright, able kids from poor backgrounds who have no family support, but I do believe that uni admissions tutors know their job on the whole, and can pick the winners from the pile.

Aboutlastnight Thu 04-Oct-12 10:59:42

"I find this kind of social engineering deeply depressing"

If privately educating your child isn't social engineering, I don't know what is...

And we as a family have chosen to prioritise paying our mortgage and eating over paying for private education. DP and I have higher degrees, we both work hard and believe our children should not lose out because we cannot afford to send our kids to the local private school.

Bonsoir Thu 04-Oct-12 11:13:43

You cannot "socially engineer" an individual child!

Berry72 Thu 04-Oct-12 11:16:32

I went to a comp and I went to Cambridge. I would have HATED to have gone under some sort of 'affirmative action' scheme! If anything it will just prove how superior the private school students are in terms of academia if they manage to get in at all.

Aboutlastnight Thu 04-Oct-12 11:42:48

Indeed Anna - so it's great that universities are taking into account an individual child's circumstances when considering their application, isn't it. smile

flatpackhamster Thu 04-Oct-12 11:55:09

whistlestopcafe

If two students have identical results and equally good personal statements and the university has to choose between the two candidates it is only fair that they opt for the state school pupil.

I can't see why this is a concern for people.

Why is it 'fair' to select the state pupil over the private one? Where's the 'fairness' here?

You are creating a system which says to a privately educated child "Your abilities and effort are completely irrelevant. What matters is the school you went to."

Bonsoir Thu 04-Oct-12 12:01:44

But they aren't. The purpose of this exercise is not to help individuals, but to remove responsibility from the state education system for its failures. They are not going to examine a child, they are going to flag up social factors that are known to be failing.

wordfactory Thu 04-Oct-12 12:05:25

As the mother of two absurdly advantaged and independently educated DC, I am relaxed about the suggestion that DC from less advantaged backgrounds be given some small assistance.

It still won't make the system fair. My DC will still be absurdly advantaged. But it might help a bit.

However, I remain unconvinced that the most highly selective universities want to change anyhting much. They are perfectly content with their student body of intelligent, well educated students the fact that so many come from independent schools is of little anxiety to them.

Bonsoir Thu 04-Oct-12 12:08:09

IME, the more responsibility you remove from state schools for ensuring their pupils reach specific standards, the less responsibility the schools will take for doing so.

French teachers are notoriously lacking in any sense of responsibility towards their pupils, because if a pupil is not reaching the required standard a teacher may make him/her repeat the year. This is not the teacher's responsibility. Hence a massive (and costly) rate of redoublement.

If entrance requirements are lowered for pupils from state schools, those schools will have even less incentive to prepare their pupils adequately for examinations and university entrance.

wordfactory Thu 04-Oct-12 12:13:26

That's a fair point Bonsoir and goes to the heart of whether universities are looking for intelligent students or well educated/well prepared students.

My experience in universities is that they want both. Raw diamonds with high levels of intelligence who have not been well educated/well prepared, can be interesting but ultimately lecturers/tutors only have a limted amount oif time to offer. And many robust degrees require students to hit the ground running.

Interestingly, the courses with the highest number of independently educated DC have the lowest drop out rates. These courses also have high numbers of grammar students too (as opposed to comprehensivley educated DC).

wordfactory Thu 04-Oct-12 12:17:51

I suppose what I'm saying is that I do think universities should make room for the individual who really shows promise but perhaps had a difficult time in secondary education (I'm thinking of a young woman on the radio who was from a travelling fair ground community and attended schools sporadically).

However, I think once we start to work on quotas, the universities will refuse. You can't have the majority of students being raw diamonds, particularly on some of the most exacting courses.

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?

Tressy Thu 04-Oct-12 12:59:55

Stillsquiffy, I would expect the choice to be more degree specific subject that admission tutors have to choose between. e.g Indie pupil AAB in Maths, Chem and Physics - State pupil ABB in Maths, Chem and Physics.

The ones doing business and media are likely to be applying for business and media degrees ime.

LittleFrieda Thu 04-Oct-12 13:08:13

Hmm. Unfortunately, I think the game is almost over for private schools. Much like it is in the City of London. Anyone who pays for education and claims it does not confer advantage is a liar.

So the real argument is: should you be able to buy a lifetime of advantage in the UK? I don't think you should.

How do we go about ensuring lifetime advantage is not for sale? I think the Direct Grant system was a good start.

Chandon Thu 04-Oct-12 13:08:54

agree with this: "If state schools aren't cutting the mustard, then don't blame private schools. Lay the blame where it belongs."

But I am not too worried about the kids who had great A levels at private school, but did not get into Uni. With their level of education and grades, they will be welcome in many (most!) other countries, and make excellent progress there.

Back in the 90s, I spent a year at uni in Holland, and did you know that Medicine Students were selected through lottery? Not the best grades, no that would not have been "fair", but a lottery! How bonkers is that? They don't even have private schools, so all grades were from State Schools. ... still, doctors in Holland are not worse than here, I don't think. So who knows? Maybe we should not look at school grades at all, but just do an entrance exam (part of which would be to test a student's motivation)?

wordfactory Thu 04-Oct-12 13:10:05

Speaking to some of my frineds and colleagues who deal with admissions, their opinion seesm to be that if students are unable to present themselves conherently and with some degree of confidence at interview, then they will not fair well on certain courses.

I can see how that would be the case. Particularly on te one-to-one tutorial system offered at Oxbridge. No where to hide. Like and interview really.

The MA I teach on requires students to be able to take part orally in a confident, enthusiastic way from day one. It's part and parcel of how we teach it. In the first term they will all lead a commentray session, they will all present to the group and have several one to ones with tutors. Students need to be able to express themselves and their views well to undertake the course.

How much lee-way can universities be expected to give?

LittleFrieda Thu 04-Oct-12 13:13:42

I think all secondary school admissions should be by lottery. Because going to a comp in a wealthy enclave confers advantage in the same way an independent school confers advantage.

Aboutlastnight Thu 04-Oct-12 13:13:50

I think there are plenty of incentives for state schools to improve - gov targets, Ofsted - but you must also remember that state education also has to do its best for children with a eide range of skills - not all will be capable or want university.

Actually, I am very pleased with state education so far and if it becomes easier for my DDs to get the courses they want then all the better. I'm sure the teachers are not going to put their feet up just because 2% of their students might find it a tiny bit easier to go to Cambridge or wherever the mumsnet Holy Grail us these days grin

losingtrust Thu 04-Oct-12 13:14:27

Simple, presentation skills training instead of freshers work. Is it really a reason to continue with an interview system that favours those who have been trained prior to uni against those with less training. Do we want a teacher who could speak well at 18 or at 21, or a Doctor?

Nosleeptillgodknowswhen Thu 04-Oct-12 13:17:06

you might find this interesting..

www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/jan/10/how-cambridge-admissions-really-work

Article behind the scenes in the Cambridge admissions process.

Bonsoir Thu 04-Oct-12 13:17:37

Chandon - there are some truly shocking doctors (GPs) according to my well-informed sources. Now I know why! Thanks!

LettyAshton Thu 04-Oct-12 13:18:26

I don't know if anyone saw that documentary on tv recently about two posh boys at Oxford and Cambridge who were in the Tory party.

Well, it turned out they weren't posh at all: they were both from very ordinary (and in one case, very, very, ordinary) homes. But they were clearly very clever.

It did make me think, however "Kleider machen Leute" - they had adopted the dress and mannerisms of those by whom they wished to be accepted.

It doesn't matter so much (if at all) for maths and science subjects, but if one is aiming for the arts at Oxbridge I think one definitely has to talk the expected talk.

Aboutlastnight Thu 04-Oct-12 13:18:35

In terms of one-to-one tutorials - I really, really wish I'd had that at university, it would have helped me so much in my academic work and later life.

Bonsoir Thu 04-Oct-12 13:18:41

in Holland

ReallyTired Thu 04-Oct-12 13:24:35

A state school in a wealthy enclave will be as privilaged as many private schools. Rather than positive discrimination I would like the admissions process to be made fairer. Prehaps prospective students could be assessed by an educational pychologist as well as an academic tutor. A bright state school child may well have a higher IQ than a private school child with equal grades.

I don't think its fair to lump all state schools together. Its harder to get good grades from Inner city shitty comp than posh leafy comprehensive in a super rich area.

sieglinde Thu 04-Oct-12 13:26:30

Hi, LettyAshton. Fwiw, I'm an admissions tutor in humanities at Oxford, and I'm interested to know what you think the 'expected talk' is.

My own sense is that a lot of misleading rumours circulate, especially in independent-sector schools, and I'm hoping to clarify where possible and to understand better myself.

LittleFrieda Thu 04-Oct-12 13:28:44

Those who opt for private school schould be branded "PRIVATE" on their foreheads, so everyone knows to let them queue jump and give them special treatment throughout their whole lifetime.

Aboutlastnight Thu 04-Oct-12 13:32:43

LittleFrieda - thst's not fair, just because their parents 'work hard' and sacrifice expensive cars and holidays, it's not their fault their parents are just better people than your average Joe.

StillSquiffy Thu 04-Oct-12 13:39:32

Those who opt for private school schould be branded "PRIVATE" on their foreheads, so everyone knows to let them queue jump and give them special treatment throughout their whole lifetime.

No branding required, just an absence of chips on their shoulders.

losingtrust Thu 04-Oct-12 13:41:54

'Better people', no 'chips on your shoulders' - arent you the lucky ones!

YouBrokeMySmoulder Thu 04-Oct-12 13:43:04

The other problem with this is not all state schools are equal. Indeed in superselective grammar school areas the grammars have a very similar societal make-up to the local indie schools. Will they be prioritised?

What about the children who are at indie schools on full bursaries - will they be discrminated against?

I am in favour, of course of trying to remove the advantages of fee-paying schools but this may need to be done at 11 (assited places anyone?) rather than 18.

mirry2 Thu 04-Oct-12 13:47:33

Oxbridge is not the holy grail.

At the moment I have two friends whose children have recently graduated with a science degree from Oxford or Cambridge. One was state educated and the other went to a private school at the top of the league tables. Both kids are unemployed and can't find work. All my friends can say is 'I can't understand it. They went to Oxbridge.'

losingtrust Thu 04-Oct-12 13:48:22

A state school in a wealthy enclave will be as privilaged as many private schools. Rather than positive discrimination I would like the admissions process to be made fairer. Prehaps prospective students could be assessed by an educational pychologist as well as an academic tutor. A bright state school child may well have a higher IQ than a private school child with equal grades.

This seems fair and no need for forehead branding or chip removal required

losingtrust Thu 04-Oct-12 13:52:30

mirry 2 - perhaps that is because they either got low degrees compared to a 1st from Manchester or picked pure science subjects that are not directly transferable in the workplace. Also I have to say some companies may also be directly discriminating. 'Far too clever for us' mentality. It does work both ways and kids who go there may need to be aware of this. I work with a guy from Cambridge and the Board were against him from day one as soon as they found out where his degree was from. Also some other universities may actually have a better reputation for that subject. Only heresay but on a previous thread it was mentioned that other universities were better for medicine.

DameKewcumber Thu 04-Oct-12 13:52:55

If two pupils do equally well on paper then an aptitude test of some sort (the kind which cannot be prepared for preferably) should be used to decide.

In my limited experience (three nephews and nieces at different local private schools) private schools get the middle ranking ranking students onto higher A level grades than local state schools due the to sheer numbers in state schools/class sizes. The most academically able pupils will often do well regardless of where they go unless its a truly dreadful school (bitter experience).

Why are so many people up in arms about two equal pupils and one being selected over another. Only one can be selected - there isn't an obvious "fair" way to do it - why is picking state school as a default any less fair than picking private school by default?

Aboutlastnight Thu 04-Oct-12 13:55:15

I'm not chippy, but I do get irritated at the sense of entitlement shown by some people on this thread. Private ed does not guarantee your child a place at the university of your choice. I fon't think it is appropriate to talk of privately educated children being 'discriminated against,' they are not some oppressed minority, they are massively advantaged and will not suffer as a result of universities showing done preference for state ex children on occasion.

mirry2 Thu 04-Oct-12 14:04:07

I think that Oxbridge should allocate all their places to state school pupils.

Losing trust I completely agree with you about transferability of the degree to the workplace, which is why I don't understand the obsession with getting into Oxbridge. I suspect that if Oxbridge offered places only to state school pupils, the privately educated would all flock to another place and raise its desirability.

ReallyTired Thu 04-Oct-12 14:04:58

A gifted child will be capable of deep imaginative thinking that just cannot be coached for. I feel that proper assessment with an educational pychologist, prehaps with IQ tests, pychometric testing would help select the best minds and if I dare say it "personality type" to be sucessful in a particular course.

To do well at a degree requires a certain tenacity and resilence. The type of child who does well at an inner city comp will have shown resilence as well as a work ethic. They will work things out for themselves rather than the teacher.

I think its perfectly fair to look at the background of the student, but it should never be the only factor. Especially as some children are privately educated from 3 and then move into the sixth form of the local comp. Prehaps low achieving state schools should be given advice on how to write the reference and maybe a summer course should be given to help with interview technique.

Positive discrimination is insulting and helps no one long term. What we need is different selection proceedures which are fairer.

mirry2 Thu 04-Oct-12 14:06:16

Can anyone tell me what is the advantage of going to Oxbridge?

elportodelgato Thu 04-Oct-12 14:06:32

Applauds Aboutlastnight

Roseformeplease Thu 04-Oct-12 14:13:12

I am actually fairly uncertain about this issue. I teach in a very ordinary school in Scotland and we have had an applicant penalised at Oxbridge interview for not knowing the A Level syllabus. She had very, very good grades but in Higher and Advanced Higher, not A Level. She, perhaps, should have been cut some slack and given help, by the College, with preparation.

However, I am concerned that ex-private school pupils, aged 18 or more, now adults, are, potentially, being penalised for choices made by their parents when they were 5 or younger. There is something inherently worrying about a system that seeks to select adults based on the choices made, years before, by other adults.

However, my pupils are very disadvantaged by geography and rural deprivation is an issue. They are never going to have the confidence of pupils from much larger schools. They struggle to be in sports teams and do clubs as very few of these are on offer here. All the extra tuition available in bigger places does not take place here - there are no tutors, only the teachers. Some subjects are single teacher departments which means that progress and performance are often down to a single person's input, something that can go on in a subject for many years.

And yet, although no Oxbridge success so far (probably not helped by the fee situation from now on) we have had several pupils achieve 1sts from excellent Universities. They, presumably, would have made Oxbridge material. Indeed one was offered an interview at Cambridge but did not go as she was concerned about travel costs.

So, I can see this from both sides. However, whatever the current situation is, it is not working.

ParrotTulip Thu 04-Oct-12 14:14:10

Boo hoo, my heart bleeds.

lljkk Thu 04-Oct-12 14:17:56

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

Would this apply to every state school, or was it only for the very lowest achieving state schools to have an automatic grade boost?

margerykemp Thu 04-Oct-12 14:19:15

Mirry- an Oxbridge degree is highly advantageous for a career in politics, law, finance/banking and drama.

mirry2 Thu 04-Oct-12 14:23:23

Margerykemp - why?

I have taught in all types of university and imo the difference in quality of education between universities is far less than you might think.

losingtrust Thu 04-Oct-12 14:23:48

Mirry, I agree with politics, law, actuarial, (not so sure on Finance and business) and drama. Note no science ones in then so perhaps employment prospects should be reviewed.

wordfactory Thu 04-Oct-12 14:24:46

nosleep's link to the Guardian piece is very informative and pretty much confirms what I had thought was the case.

Highly selective universities will try to cut certain students some slack if they see huge potential. Hwever, the disadvantage has to be fairly large, not just 'he went to a comp'. And the tutors sometimes feel that whatever the potential, the student will fail to thrive on their course because there's just too much catch up.

Students who attended well thought of schools (not all private) will be expected to bring somehting exceptional to the party.

What keeps state schooled pupils out of highly selective universities is a very slippery mixture.

1. They don't apply.
2. They have the wrong GCSEs and A levels.
3. They haven't read around their subjects.
4. Their references are rubbish.
5.They are insufficiently confident and articulate at interview.

losingtrust Thu 04-Oct-12 14:33:26

This has some info Mirry

www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/may/21/cambridge-guardian-university-guide-league-table

Living on the doorstep of Warwick, would I encourage DC to Warwick or Oxbridge. I don't know but may swing more in favour due to living costs as we are not mega rich.

Aboutlastnight Thu 04-Oct-12 14:34:39

I remember listening to Radio 4, when the story about the lack of students from ethnic minorities at Oxbridge came out and the overriding reason was that these young people do not apply.

Bonsoir Thu 04-Oct-12 14:37:04

Roseformeplease - your post is very interesting and highlights many issues facing pupils in deprived, isolated parts of the country where there is little on offer to provide opportunities for development besides school. With the best will in the world, I am not sure that schools can ever compensate deprived, rural pupils for lack of experience of big urban cultural and business centres. The rural-urban divide is a real one.

losingtrust Thu 04-Oct-12 14:37:12

I fell in to
1. They don't apply.
category and went to State School. It all seemed not worth the extra exam and latin/greek but I always was a bit a lazy fxxxxr and probably would not have suited the lifestyle of less group teaching and more tuition so no regrets but other children may be still worth encouraging.

sieglinde Thu 04-Oct-12 15:01:10

We like able applicants and could honestly care less about race, ethnicity, accents and all the other stuff people think we care about. We don't use interviews as the sole decider, and most people get two anyway.

Basically, I want everyone who is clever to feel bloody well entitled to try for Oxbridge. It's the lack of sense of entitlement that scuppers them. FFS give it a go. Please. if your dcs are bright and they want to get a top job, be positive! They have a good shot at it.

Of Wf's list, the following are true:

1. They don't apply. We are spending millions on outreach, but lots don't fancy it - the workload, the fact that friends are going elsewhere, and the image problems.

2. They have the wrong GCSEs and A levels. Many do. Two areas of problem - mum and dad think business studies will be useful (it won't) or the dcs think media studies sounds easy and fun (it isn't) or believe doing a subject with the same name as the one they hope to read - psychology, economics, law - will help them get a place (it won't). Also many schools try to push kids towards easier A-levels to raise them in the league tables.

3. They haven't read around their subjects. no, they haven't. A huge problem. When I say this to some state-sector teachers, I get an earful about lack of resources, but this is nuts in an age of internet and virtually free classic books. They just don't realise it matters. And it matters in sciences too. The physicists at my college expect knowledge well beyond A-level.

4. Their references are rubbish. It's true that lots of big comps turn out references with lots of boilerplate. 'Evan's french teachers say he is very hard-working and gets his set work done on time' while Westminster some big expensive places send in little lyric poems - 'Tristram's drama teachers say he lights up the stage wite his enthusiasm and artistry, as he showed in his direction of the school play ADOLF HITLER IS A GOD. This daring choice..' But frankly, we don't tend to place too much weight on references anyway.

5.They are insufficiently confident and articulate at interview. Everyone is terrified at interview, and many an overcoached product of the big London dayschools fares ill when forced off-script. Our goal is to try to find out if they can think on their feet/areteachable/can process new information/learn fast. bt it's only ever one factor among others.

Just urge your dcs to apply. Go in and try their damndest. get them a bit of coaching for the AT tests - Hat, Pat, etc. They are YOUR UNIVERSITIES, dammit. Cameron hasn't forced us to go private yet. Carpe diem.

LettyAshton Thu 04-Oct-12 15:09:18

Thanks for that reassurance, sieglinde!

Many applicants just don't have fantastically impressive referees on tap. It would be surprising if universities set much store by lyrical praise, anyway. Who would ever submit a brutally honest reference?!

It is easy to be intimidated by floppy hair and the breezy self-confidence of some public school students. On the other hand self-confidence can easily cross over into arrogance and I doubt whether that's an interview winner.

losingtrust Thu 04-Oct-12 15:09:54

Good post Seig. From all these points, parents seem to be key to encourage, to advise. Where parents cannot do this mentors good. More reason for me to encourage business leaders into the deprived state sector to give these people a level hand. When your parents just want you to get a job none of the above will apply and unfortunately many children do not have the support.

mirry2 Thu 04-Oct-12 15:21:13

Lettyashton, floppy hair and breezy self confidence isn't the preserve of public school students, nor is arrogance. Arrogance is the result of many things, not least being top of the class in a state school.
Private school pupils can also be arrogant about their ability but less so if they are from a highly selective school (eg North London Collegiate or Haberdashers Girls) because ALL the pupils there are extremely able

losingtrust Thu 04-Oct-12 15:32:38

Another element that may put state school kids off particularly from comps less so than grammar. You are one of the top dogs at comp because it is mixed ability and then all of a sudden you are mixing with other people as intelligent as you if not more intelligent and your confidence is knocked out of you. It happened to all of my friends who went. There is not alot we can do about this but resilience keeps people going. I remember meeting a very intelligent boy from my comp (one year above) As in everything - very very bright but he found it difficult at Oxford as a result. Perhaps again though that is parents - 'you are bright', I am as guilty as anyone but maybe more mixing courses at sixth form between different schools. Maybe that may be one way to prepare students like this. My DS is in this position and getting a bit arrogant.

flatpackhamster Thu 04-Oct-12 16:30:55

whistlestopcafe

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.

Thing is, you don't believe in 'fairness' at all. You believe that the state should intervene, directly, to punish people whose parents educate them privately.

That's not an equal chance. That's a caste system.

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.

As you've admitted above, the state schools are failing to reach the bar set by the private schools. You are seeking to punish private schools for being better.

What's 'fair' about that?

flatpackhamster Thu 04-Oct-12 16:35:40

I'd like to thank Sieglinde for injection so much useful information in to this discussion. It's nice to hear from the horse's mouth (no offence meant) how wrong the Class Warriors on the thread are.

Tailtwister Thu 04-Oct-12 16:44:29

It shouldn't matter where a person was educated. The results should speak for themselves and the school shouldn't be on the application form.

The issue of fees exclude far more students and should be addressed.

lunar1 Thu 04-Oct-12 16:51:00

As much as I think everyone should have equal opportunities, if I have to go under the surgeons knife again I want to know they are the best at what they do. I do not want to wonder if they got a c in gcse biology but were admitted due to lower expectations.

ReallyTired Thu 04-Oct-12 16:51:27

I think that not puttting the school on the application form is ridicolous. It is part of the background of the child.

This is the sort of student the UK needs at its best universities. It is hard to get top results when you miss huge chunks of the school year.

www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2189845/Gypsy-schoolgirl-works-seafront-amusement-arcade-wins-place-study-English-Literature-Oxford-University.html#ixzz24DVHNpgw

Surely the country needs to select the brightest and best for top universities. I think that more research is needed to detemine how best to do this.

Tressy Thu 04-Oct-12 16:53:32

Hi Sieglinde just out of interest, do all your students get a least 3 A grades at A level or are some students (say from low acheiving state comps) accepted with lower grades?

MrsSalvoMontalbano Thu 04-Oct-12 16:57:43

There is a lazy assumption that all state schools suffer from worse teaching than all independent schools. There are many schools where pupils are better connected than many private schools.

whistlestopcafe Thu 04-Oct-12 17:02:38

No flatpack - I am advocating fairness. I'm
not suggesting that universities lower their entry requirements for state school pupils I'm just suggesting that all things being equal they favour the state school pupil as the privately educated kid has already had an advantage. I'm also talking about average state school pupils not pupils of Dr Challoners Grammar school or the offspring of the Milibands.

I gave my own example which was in part a failure of the school that I went to. My school was not typical of the average comp it was an appalling dump that should have been condemned years before it actually was. Thankfully state schools have moved on since then. The contrast between my 19 year old self and my colleague was not just due to the education that we received but also our background. My friend grew up surrounded by books and went to the theatre etc her parents were successful people . My background was completely different and I didn't reach my level until much later.

Anyhow I didn't even apply to university but if I had I would have compared unfavourably to someone from a privileged background despite having potential to excel.

losingtrust Thu 04-Oct-12 17:58:52

I have to admit one of the reasons I am against lower grades for state school and more mentoring in schools is that I think it would go against state-educated kids. Uni can be a shallow place and they could be looked down on because they could be perceived to be lower level to the private school kids that had to get the higher results.

Also when I see a work applicant with a good degree from a really bad state school, it increases my perception of how that person will have worked and lifted them out of their normal surroundings. Whilst this could also be criticised for bias I look more to kids from rough inner city comps who go to Oxbridge (my old colleague's son has just gone from a very working class family - first generation to uni) and I am already impressed by the kid before I meet him. His parents left school at 16 but his mother did A Levels at night school and I respected her more for that than had she done them at sixth form.

sieglinde Thu 04-Oct-12 17:58:56

Everyone has to get 3 As whatever school they attend, and we never make a lower offer. Once in my 14 years we took someone who had missed one of the As, but we really regretted it. sad

Totally disagree that we need to know a child's background. They are NOT children at 18, and it's none of our BUSINESS. I repeat that virtually no Oxford academics are Etonians and none of us can afford Eton either. We're on the other side of the class divide these days.

losingtrust Thu 04-Oct-12 18:06:47

Let's face it there are two current Government ministers who have done the same degree at Oxford, one went to Eton (heavily moaned about for being elitist, one from an inner-city Birmingham comp. Just on those aspects - it is hard not to think well-done to the Brummie and 'you don't know us' about the Etonian. We don't know what class degree they had, one could have been a first, the other a third but the point is one is more easily accepted than the other. Therefore I do think in later life sometimes it pays to have done well from a comp than a private school, although no doubt I will be shot down for this.

alemci Thu 04-Oct-12 18:09:16

I don't agree with this happening. Mine don't go to private school. TBH i don't think all the teaching in private schools is that wonderful.

MrsSalvoMontalbano Thu 04-Oct-12 18:24:20

In my the major academic indie schools, increasingly those with the most glittering results are opting for US universities, anyway, so if Oxbridge don't want them they'll go elsewhere, leaving Oxbridge for those that are happy to be selected on social engineering rather than academic grounds. ( I heard today Oxford is slipping down the global rankings). Little Englanders seem to forget that we are in a global market now, and the more swithed on ones will wiegh up all options, not just hose wallowign in past glory.

losingtrust Thu 04-Oct-12 18:46:15

I wish them luck with those student fees. You are right though about international fees and I would certainly encourage mine to go abroad. I could not help them if they went to the US though but Europe is worth considering and would give kids an edge with the language as well. Certainly mine will get uni in Sweden free due to their father and some of the universities there do English courses and are higher than many UK unis. I just know DS is going to want to go to Aus and DD to the US though and DD is on her own with a student loan on that one. I need to retire at some point!

sieglinde Thu 04-Oct-12 18:56:07

MrsSalvo, that is untrue. Oxford is second in the latest rankings. The piece in the Daily Hate to which you allude was about the decline of other UK unis.

And we don't do social engineering; where is your evidence that we do? Bristol does, and is proud of it...

grovel Thu 04-Oct-12 18:56:57

Our local comprehensive had never sent anyone to Oxbridge. A new headmaster was appointed 5 years ago. He had been at Oxford. The school has now sent 11 young people to Oxbridge. It's no coincidence - he just made teachers and pupils aim high.
Most of the staff had been at respected universities but were, in his words, "in awe of Oxbridge". Most of the parents thought Oxbridge "wasn't for people like us". He put them straight.
He recruited as many graduates as he could get from Teach First.
The man's even more brilliant with "lower ability" children.

MeFour Thu 04-Oct-12 18:57:06

I don't know how I feel about this. I have children in both state and private. My private Dcs there on a scholarship with bursary and very small top up from family (Private school fees are higher than our take home pay) so they're not really advantaged in any other way.
We encourage them all equally and try to help them make the best of themselves but I would struggle to coach them on the practicalities of university entry as I never went myself.
Not sure I feel my Dc should be penalised for being in the position they are.

Tressy Thu 04-Oct-12 22:17:05

sieglinde thanks for your reply. I can see why students are put off applying from some state schools when it's very rare to get 3 top grades in academic subjects.

A friend of a friend of a friend missed her offer and rumor had it was going to be let in a B grade.

flatpackhamster Fri 05-Oct-12 08:46:18

whistlestopcafe

No flatpack - I am advocating fairness.

You keep calling what you're doing fairness, but it isn't. It. Isn't.

I'm not suggesting that universities lower their entry requirements for state school pupils I'm just suggesting that all things being equal they favour the state school pupil as the privately educated kid has already had an advantage.

'Already had an advantage'? You are saying that it doesn't matter how hard someone has worked, all that matters is where they went to school. Your policy would explicitly punish privately educated pupils - and grammar school pupils, it seems.

I'm also talking about average state school pupils not pupils of Dr Challoners Grammar school or the offspring of the Milibands.

How would this policy even work? Would you pick and choose state schools on the basis of a particular quota system? So grammar schools would be penalised. What about comprehensives? What about places like Holland Park comprehensive, whose nickname is 'The Socialist Eton'? That's a comp, but its catchment area is - ahem - somewhat exclusive. What does an average state school even look like?

I gave my own example which was in part a failure of the school that I went to. My school was not typical of the average comp it was an appalling dump that should have been condemned years before it actually was. Thankfully state schools have moved on since then. The contrast between my 19 year old self and my colleague was not just due to the education that we received but also our background. My friend grew up surrounded by books and went to the theatre etc her parents were successful people . My background was completely different and I didn't reach my level until much later.

Anyhow I didn't even apply to university but if I had I would have compared unfavourably to someone from a privileged background despite having potential to excel.

You were failed by the state system. And instead of doing what needs to be done, your solution is not to push the state system to meet the standards of the private and grammar system, but to punish the private system.

This is really about you. You're using the guise of 'fairness' to deal with your own feelings of inadequacy and projecting them on to the education system.

I really think you need to look long and hard at your use of the word 'fair'. There is nothing fair about what you're doing. Yes, you're giving person A a place at university over person B. Person A might not have gone to that university otherwise.

The real message you're sending out is "What really matters is how the government perceives your social status. We have this form which decides where you can go to university." You are demonising the concept of working hard to achieve something. Think about the consequences of that. You are reinforcing the failure and the lack of aspiration already endemic within large chunks of the state education system.

flatpackhamster Fri 05-Oct-12 08:52:18

whistlestopcafe

A final thought before I go to work. When you bring in your new rules, what do you think the consequences will be? Who will be the real winners?

I'll tell you. The real winners will be the aspirational middle class parents. What they'll do is pull their kids out of the local grammar or private school for sixth form and send them to the worst comp in the catchment area. And they'll have their kids tutored in their spare time to ensure they get the grades they need. Because, helpfully, your new system has just freed up a whole heap of cash for them by making it cheaper for them to hire a tutor and send their kids to the state comp.

The people you want to help with your 'fairness' won't get a look-in.

ReallyTired Fri 05-Oct-12 09:11:43

We need the best students at the best unis. Rather than dumbing down grades I feel we need to be more creative on how we help the high fliers of the state sector achieve their potential. By potential I don't necessarily mean going to to Oxbridge, but having decent careers advice, the option of studying three seperate sciences at GCSE or doing two modern languages and access to decent subjects at A-level.

Prehaps we need a gifted and talented programme at sixth form level with a meanful level of funding in deprived areas. Coursea offers fanastic online learning opportunities for the more able.

There is no excuse for not reading about your subject when there is so much on line. I am sure that tutors expect an insatiable enthusiasm for learning to be demonstrated, even at the lesser unis.

wordfactory Fri 05-Oct-12 09:39:50

I'm not convinced we'll ever get the best and brightest into the most selective, because way before sixth form, probably way before GCSEs the die are being cast. Talent and brains are wasted long before.

Can education be the cure all for social inequality? I used to think so. I bought into Blair's education x 3 policy. But it didn't work. A record amount of money was spent on education. Great minds put there...great minds to it. The will was most definitely there...

Yet social mobility plummeted.

Hugely disappointing.

whistlestopcafe Fri 05-Oct-12 10:28:01

flatpack, I really can't see why my view is annoying you so much.

If I was suggesting that there were different entry requirements then I could see your point of view but I'm not, I'm just suggesting that all things being equal it would be fair to consider the state school pupil above the private school pupil.

Pupil A (Alex) Alex educated at Haberdashers (well regarded private school) 2 A* 1 A at A level. Mixture of A* and As at GCSE. Excellent reference and performs well at interview.

Pupil B (Ben) Ben is educated at Harefield Academy (state) similar grades to Alex also performs well at interview and like Alex shows potential.

You are the University admissions tutor. Who do you select and why?

Alex has been educated at one of the top independent schools in the country, there is a culture of achievement in the school. Virtually everyone succeeds and the children will come from privileged backgrounds and been afforded more opportunities than the average child.

Ben goes to an academy in a demographically mixed area on the outskirts of west London. 40% of children achieve 5 or more good GCSEs. The school is improving with good leadership and dedicated staff. The school is non selective and has a higher than average number of children who qualify for school meals and a higher number of children with SEN. Harefield Academy will not have been able to provide it's pupils with the same cultural enrichment as Haberdashers, not many children for example can afford the 2 week cultural excursion to Italy and the majority of children will not have had their learning supplemented at home with trips to the theatre etc.

I select Ben for obvious reasons. If that makes me a class warrior or gives me a chip on my shoulder then so be it.

Who do you select Flatpack and why?

alemci Fri 05-Oct-12 10:30:00

I think you make a very relevant point flat pack. But that seems to be what goes in 2012 using the guise of 'fairness' to grind your own agenda when you feel life didn't quite turn out the way you wanted it to.

make it rotten for some kids because their parents may have worked hard and scrimped and saved to send their dc to private school. maybe they go without other things that people not paying school fees have.

or maybe the grandparents pay the school fees and the parents are not well off. it has all become very silly.

sieglinde Fri 05-Oct-12 10:31:10

wordfactory, I think everyone here is really committed to making things work better. You are right that the die is often cast before we at Oxford even see a kid, but on the other hand we also try hard to look beyond polish to discern a hunger to learn, and I have been lucky enough to find this in applicants from all over the place.

The problem is that it is indeed unusual to get 3 top grades in the state sector - though grovel's story does give a good deal of hope! - but we are trying to find the unusual. In the old days of the entrance exam, independent schools benefited even more because they coached for it. So that was no good. Clearly, the state system needs to put in the hours/resources/monies for the able top end just as it does for the less able lower end. If we were to start taking people with Bs, the result would be misery - you NEED to be a high flyer to make much of the course.

alemci Fri 05-Oct-12 10:32:42

anyway whistle isn't Harefield academy ok. I know of someone who has just got a 2:1 in a difficult subject who was placed there. His parents were not happy him going there.

also not everyone who goes to Haberdashers is from a priveleged background. I know some quite ordinary people who went there.

dreamingofsun Fri 05-Oct-12 10:38:28

many of you are talking about schemes that help high flyers or kids with the poorest parents at state schools. Don't forget about the kids that are (or could be) in the top 20% who probably would have gone to a grammar in the old days and then onto uni. these may not be classified as high flyers or have really poor parents but many are currently being let down by the state system (i have one myself). Many of these kids are brighter than better qualified kids who went to private schools and who've been spoonfed.

Help with personal statements is one example. oldest son (grammar school) had his reviewed and improved by 2 different teachers; middle son's class (comp) were just told to write about themselves - that was it - no reviews, no tips.

something needs to be done to make it a fairer playing field so all bright children have access to degrees. if the only way that can be done is varying the grades a bit then so be it.

MrsSalvoMontalbano Fri 05-Oct-12 10:38:42

Sieglinde - why the reference to the 'daily hate' - whatever that might be?There was a guy on radio 4 yesterday representing Oxford - admitting it had slipped, whining saying that it was not because Oxford had deteriorated, but that other countries are 'funding' their universities better grin. Of course Oxford still has a strong brand, and will continue to attract those for whom that has cachet, but the 'brightest and best' now have many more optios, and are better informed to make decisions based on the course and the research, not on sentiment. if my own DC choose to go to Oxford, I wouldn't stop them but would just ensure that the decision they are taking is founded on rational assessment, rather than 'dreams'

whistlestopcafe Fri 05-Oct-12 10:47:28

I think Harefield is ok Almeci although it never used to be. I was just trying to think
of somewhere fairly average. I'm sure there are pupils at Haberdashers that aren't fabulously rich but they are still more privileged than the average state school pupil.

If private education doesn't provide children with an advantage as lots of people on here seem to suggest why bother paying for it? If that's the case you may as well use the money to gamble on a horse.

sieglinde Fri 05-Oct-12 11:32:04

The only list I know of that was published yesterday is the THE list. On which we are second. The only list I know of on which we had slipped one place is the World Universities Ranking. All UK unis are down on the Shanghai list. The Daily Hate is mumsnetspeak for the Daily Mail.

Yes, spin guys will be spin guys grin.

I'm wondering if those rushing eagerly off to the Ivies are really the brightest? What's the evidence for that? My own DS is 18, and his brightest friends are all applying for Oxford and Cambridge. A slightly less able boy was approached by Yale because he is a champion rower smile. Nobody last year or the year before rejected their Oxford place to go off to Harvard instead.

If they are all heading for the Ivies, they may be surprised; undergraduate classes are far bigger - 18 is considered small.

Prarieflower Fri 05-Oct-12 11:41:53

Sorry I don't see a problem with private kids being at a disadvantage at all as if parents are really bothered they can just pull their dc out of their private school with tiny classes,extra facilities,zero social issues etc and put them in the local comp with huge classes and all that comes with a mixed collection of children.Easy peasy.

But of course they won't as obviously said private kids will find it far easier to get better grades at a private school for the privileged.

Sooooo instead of having everything handed on a plate private kids are experiencing disadvantages and we're expected to feel sorry for them.hmmSorry it's life,we all have to face disadvantages at some point in life.

Perhaps said privately educated kids need to work just that bit harder to get even better grades.Comp kids have to move mountains to get into a top uni why not private kids?

alemci Fri 05-Oct-12 11:44:05

I think it used to be John Penrose. I do take your point Whistle but even if the DC didn't go private then the parents may pay for a tutor and still ensure their offspring got good grades at a comprehensive school.

Of course private education is advantageous. I think it is more than good grades.

Prarieflower Fri 05-Oct-12 11:48:32

A tutor is peanuts compared to private fees.I often wonder how advantageous tutoring actually is as what really matters is the quality of teaching all day and every day not an hour of add on tutoring per week by somebody with dubious qualifications.

If parents want to spend their money on tutoring it's something open to far more kids and if it raises standards would only be a plus to a class as a whole.

wordfactory Fri 05-Oct-12 11:54:43

prairie students applying to Oxbridge are usually already predicited or have achieved the top grades. What more can they realistically do?

Are we really saying that tutors at Oxbridge should turn down an applicant with top grades, good PAT scores, and a good interview in favour of someone with lesser grades?

Are we really saying that will improve Oxbridge?

Because except in extremely unusual situations, a student with lesser grades is not going to succeed there. And the unusual situations are already being flagged up and concessions made.

Excellent state school applicants are not ebing turned down at present. State school applicants are currently being turned down for having the wrong grades, the wrong subjects, not reading around the subjects, poor PAT test resulst etc etc.

If we insist that Oxbridge have a quota then they will be forced to take some applicants who are not right. And won't be ready.

stickylittlefingers Fri 05-Oct-12 11:56:46

I think this is a ridiculous argument tbh - trying to ascertain by just how much a state school pupil's grades should be topped up, or a private school pupil's should be discounted is (obviously, to me at least) going to be unfair unless you look at every child at every school and every background. Which clearly isn't feasible.

So what you do is: abolish the private sector altogether. Improve state provision. And work at eradicating poverty altogether. Try as hard as we can to give every child the same (good) start in life.

Now I am going to run away!! smile

LittleFrieda Fri 05-Oct-12 11:57:09

It is absolutely true that you buy advantage if you pay for school. My son was pretty spoon-fed as regards the admissions process for medicine and given mock interviews by medical school admissions staff etc. Contrast this with one of his fellow unviersity medics, who was told by his state school that the UKCAT was an enhanced CRB check. grin

It is as much about navigating the system as getting the A level results. Oxford and Cambridge (esp Cambridge with their supplementarty form) and medical schools make this very complicated for students for whom this is uncharted waters.

I mean, is there any evidence that the LNAT or HPAT etc levels the playing field at all, or is it just another hurdle at which many state school students will falter?

Obviously some state schools are good at this stuff. Most are not.

sieglinde Fri 05-Oct-12 12:03:23

Yes, wordfactory; that's my point too. Applicants from ALL sectors who aren't ready won't like it once they get here.

What we need is for the state sector to devote more resources to its top achievers than it does at present. At the moment it often fails them.

My own DS is at an FE college - his choice since he had a scholarship at a private school - in a mentoring role. Yesterday he told me one of his mentees had been prepped badly for statistics by the teacher, who hadn't told him how to use tables. He was amazed, as his teachers there are very good, but it's this kind of minor problem which lets down the very hard-working and able kids and tutors.

I absolutely don't believe that Oxford gives a monkey's nut about the 'other things' that private schools add, supposedly and whatever they are, but we do care about the academic preparation, so that could be replicated EASILY in the state sector if there was the political will to do it. The many very good 6th form colleges are exemplary in this respect.

It's economic lunacy to throw away so many of our most talented young people...

Bonsoir Fri 05-Oct-12 12:03:46

The son of a friend of mine applied to Oxford to read PPE. He is, by anyone's standards, highly accomplished - fluently quadrilingual (including one unusual language), very widely/deeply travelled (not in the holidaying sense of the word), had relevant work experience with MPs in two countries, national prize for mathematics, climbed Mont Blanc as a teen etc etc. Went to a top school in France and was among the top 1/1000 in his bac. Also very pleasant company, not at all arrogant.

He didn't get in (he was interviewed). That's the level competition.

Bonsoir Fri 05-Oct-12 12:04:53

of competition

Prarieflower Fri 05-Oct-12 12:05:36

How do you know that.If they have achieved amazing results and gone to a shite school I'm sorry they have every right to be at Oxbridge as somebody with slightly better results that have had huge advantages in getting those results.It's an unfair playing field not to acknowledge this.

Oxbridge are going to take anybody with shite grades but the best from a less advantageous system.

By not right or not ready I'm guessing you mean not born with a plum in their mouth and not having had the best education that money can buy.I find it a bit patronising that the little people might not be right or ready just because they're a few points behind somebody that has had years of a superior education and quite possibly life experiences. A superior education and life experience shouldn't give any child more of a right than another.

I find it bloody sad that my super bright son won't have a hope in hell of getting into Oxbridge simply because less or equally bright kids will have had years of a superior education and life experience.It's not fair and not right.

Prarieflower Fri 05-Oct-12 12:08:22

And I totally agree with Stickysmile but clearly that isn't ever going to happen,sadly.

sieglinde Fri 05-Oct-12 12:11:44

Nope, prarieflower. Not a plum in sight round our way. I don't sound cut-glass myself.

Not right or not ready doesn't mean anything to accent-related, and we don't care if they eat peas off the knife etc. I mean, really - this is the bloody 21st century. Nobody cares.

Not ready means they haven't done the academic work they need to have done to cope with the course.

I'd love to see your super-bright son apply. How old is he? He sounds great. He's got the support he needs in YOU, and that's fabulous. Don't give up hope for him, not yet.

MrsSalvoMontalbano Fri 05-Oct-12 12:14:01

Hardly 'getting the support from you' when Prairie flower is so defeatist about her son's chances sad.

sieglinde Fri 05-Oct-12 12:14:56

Oh, and LittleFrieda - v. short answer on the ATs. Yes, and yes. 1. They predict first-year exam outcomes very well 2. Private school kids do better in them. Very grim and we know it is. Still working on ways to improve the tests and to improve state sector outreach on them so horror blunders like the one that affected your son's friend don't happen.

sieglinde Fri 05-Oct-12 12:16:51

Mrs S, she and other mums need encouragement from within the ancient universities, and that's why I hang out here. grin Some private school parents need encouragement too. Our image is a real handicap to us, and we work on it and throw money at it and it's still the biggest problem we face.

wordfactory Fri 05-Oct-12 12:21:28

Not a plum in sight from this yorkshire lass either.

Being not right or ready is someone who doesn't have the right Alevels. Yes, they might not have been well advised. Yes that's not fair. But what are tutors supposed to do? Pretend that an A level in Business is as useful as an A level in Maths for someone wanting to study, say, economics?

Being not right or ready is someone who has not read around their subject. Yes, they might not realise they have to (tho lord knows it says so on every bloody college website), yes they might not have had advice from a teacher/mentor. Yes that's not fair. But how are tutors to gauge the supposed brilliance of a student if they haven't done it? Are they to pretend it doesn't matter?

Being not right or not ready is someone who flunks their PAT test. Yes, they may have been ill advised about it. Yes, they may have failed to look it up on the t'internet. Yes, that's not fair. But what are tutors meant to do? Pretend it doesn't matter?

It is all wrong that too many state schools badly advise their students. But blame them, don't expect Oxbridge to fix the problem.

Prarieflower Fri 05-Oct-12 12:29:25

Said son isn't gifted but he's bright pretty much like David Cameron I guess.smileThat's the difference.If you're not gifted and are state educated you're stuffed.

Ds is only 9 but in a "satisfactory" school with fires to fight that quite frankly has better things to worry about than ds(and the other bright kids in his class)achieving even more than "above expectations".In a Satisfactory school "above expectations" are enough and they get bored,used to low expectations and years are wasted.Getting your child pushed to compete nationally is an intimidating battle.

It's a spiral effect.They don't get pushed in primary so they start secondary in lower sets or lower levels than they could,year on year they drop.

I was a teacher myself and feel totally intimidated and quite frankly dis advantaged.You are looked on as strange,pushy and that parent if you ask for info and kids to achieve more.It's horrible,stressful,time consuming and exhausting.You can nag,moan,ask for info all you like but at the end of the day you aren't there all day and it's down to the school.Parents with no knowledge or expectations and a whole lot of educational insecurity are even more handicapped.

Now I could research and tutor him myself(lucky me that I have the qualities necessary to do that at the moment,I won't when he's older)but I have to balance that with the possibility of my child hating me and still not getting where he wants to be anyhow.They are also utterly knackered after school however little they are pushed so tutoring I feel is kind of pointless.Many parents also have to work.Parents of kids in private school that push,compete with the best don't have to deal with this.

I will obviously do everything in my power to get him where he wants to be when the day comes but quite frankly I don't think it will be enough.

LittleFrieda Fri 05-Oct-12 12:29:46

How many state school kids read classics, does anyone know?

Bonsoir - perhaps he did badly in the TSA?

wordfactory Fri 05-Oct-12 12:34:45

prarie I think it was like that in the past ie kids from good indies could get in with mediocre results. But not any more.

The competition is fierce. The majority of DC applying from independent schools don't get a place. They are competeig with Dc from all over the world!

But you are right, it is absolutely not fair that the die is cast way before sixth form and that some DC will not have had a suitable preparation for Oxbridge and the like, despite being talented. But I can't see that it is Oxbridge's duty to fix that. If you think about it, how can they?

MrsSalvoMontalbano Fri 05-Oct-12 12:39:53

Wordfactory is spot on - there is so much information out there about what colleges need, if these kids really are so bright, and capable of independent learning, they really ought to be able to find that information, rather than expecting their teachers and parents to do it for them!
Many years ago I read languages. Before I went to college there were no exchange trips, travel was more expensive, and there was no way in a provincial town to get foreign reading matter, radio, tv, films,etc, whcih are all available at the click of a mouse online now - yet a friend who is an Oxbridge tutor despairs at the lack of preparation candidates demonstrate sad.

Prarieflower Fri 05-Oct-12 12:47:31

You're right but I think doing nothing isn't an option either.I think the targets will be the best of a bad job to be frank.Do you think there could be a better way to solve the problem?

Will be back later,got to prepare for meeting re other ds at school.Have to hunt out my hard hat,settle my stomach in order not to be fobbed off(yet again).

Bonsoir Fri 05-Oct-12 12:52:47

LittleFrieda - he did marginally less well in the TSA than other candidates, according to his college. He was also a year young (by English standards - he was in-year by French standards). He was advised to reapply the following year.

He has gone elsewhere and is very happy!

Bonsoir Fri 05-Oct-12 12:53:17

that should read: the college he interviewed with

Bonsoir Fri 05-Oct-12 12:54:52

MrsS - on the Oxford languages thing - there are Oxford-specific tests for languages these days that you can look up on line. We got (bilingual) DD aged 7 to do the Oxford French test, orally - she did pretty well, and was 100% correct for some parts of the test.

Prarieflower Fri 05-Oct-12 12:55:19

Mrsalvo

1) said child may not be aware they're uni quality let alone Oxbridge

2)said child may not even know where to begin looking,get lost and disheartened once they look.

3) said child may have had a mediocre or shite education from the age of 5

Private kids have it handed on a plate.They're made to think from rec that they're uni quality and they're pushed from rec and then encouraged,informed,encouraged right the way up until they start their Freshers Week at uni.

I'm having enough trouble getting the info re my 9 year old's spelling let Oxbridge applications and I was a teacher.If you're a child with parents that don't have plenty of time and aren't determined,confident and educated quite frankly you're stuffed.

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Fri 05-Oct-12 12:59:32

I've just spent the last hour reading and considering this thread, and the debate largely (bar a couple of posts) seems to assume that all private schools are the same and all state schools are the same. They are not.

Private school pupils may be disadvantaged by the fact that their parents work too many hours to be able to give them regular support with homework, while state school pupils have the advantage that their parents have the time to help and spare cash to pay for tutoring, private admissions advice, extra curricular activities. Children at state schools often attend school closer to home so don't have to spend a lot of time commuting each day and more time and energy to study.

Not every private school is great with careers/admissions advice and some comps are excellent at it.

Universities need to look at the student that is presented to them and see how motivated they are, how much knowledge they have, not which school they went to. It is not the job of universities to mop up where state schools (or private schools for that matter) may have failed. It is their job to take the best students who have the most chance of success so that they can go forward to benefit the whole country.

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Fri 05-Oct-12 13:02:56

It simply isn't true that private school pupils have everything handed to them on a plate. I went private from 5-15, and the school I went to wasn't like that. Yet had I applied for university it would be assumed that it was. And it would be assumed that any state pupil didn't.

People really need to find out more about what being educated in some private schools and some state schools is like before they make incorrect assuming judgements.

Bonsoir Fri 05-Oct-12 13:08:25

It is simply unfair and makes no sense for universities admissions tutors to discount appropriate developmental opportunities that life has offered applicants, that they have willingly seized, when assessing their suitability for a course of study.

Many universities discount A-levels in a student's mother-tongue, including the "other mother-tongue" of bilingual pupils. What is that about? Being properly bilingual is a lot of hard work - sure, there was luck involved but pupils to have work at that opportunity.

wordfactory Fri 05-Oct-12 13:10:18

Having two privately educated DC I don't think they have everyhting handed to them on a plate...but access to things is easier and smoother. The school is on hand to advise.

That said I got into Oxbridge a million years ago, from the worse school in the world. I'm convinced I did well because I had seriously read around my subject. Not that I knew you had to. No one told me. And there was no friendly t'internet. But I had a job in a all night petrol station and there wasn't much to do but read grin.

wordfactory Fri 05-Oct-12 13:14:06

Also this whole debate need not be Oxbridge centric. There are many other highly selective universities and the same rules apply.

The law department from Nottingham univeristy requires higher grades at Alevel than Oxbridge I think. And would certainly require a good pre test in law and a decent interview.

whistlestopcafe Fri 05-Oct-12 13:15:36

Right so families with children in state schools have more money than families with children in the private sector. I'm obviously living on a completely different planet because thats not my experience at all. hmm

wordfactory Fri 05-Oct-12 13:21:57

Looking at the 'posh list', the university that does worst (ie has the highest % of privately educated) is Oxford. Sorry seig. Closely followed by Durham, then Cam.

sieglinde Fri 05-Oct-12 13:23:23

Outraged, we do know that 'state' and 'private' are ridiculously wide categories, but efforts to refine them are problematic too (postcodes, parents' occupations, school's postcodes and academic track records - but tutors can also disregard all the above...). The categories are pretty much driven by the government's demands for figures...

I do NOT agree that ANY young person gets everything on a plate. I once taught a girl whose parents were multimillionaires, and she had been to a private school, yet there wasn't a book in her house, and they were actually in organised crime... Having pushy encouraging parents can be a disadvantage. It's also unjust to dismiss someone with 12 A*s or whatever from Eton on the grounds that Eton made it easy - how could they have done any better?

On the other hand, how can we possibly eliminate all variables? We have to base our judgements on what's in front of us.

Can't we focus on what kind of secondary system the country needs to improve things at all elite universities?

wordfactory, since law requires 3 As I assume you mean A*, and Oxford has been very dubious about the value of these... Cambridge has embraced them, though.

wordfactory Fri 05-Oct-12 13:25:23

Yes Nottingham requires A*AA, wheras you guys want AAA I believe.

wordfactory Fri 05-Oct-12 13:26:13

seig I asume also that certain courses have a higher contingent of private school students.

History of Art, Classics, PPE?

Bonsoir Fri 05-Oct-12 13:26:22

"Can't we focus on what kind of secondary system the country needs to improve things at all elite universities?"

If it were up to me, I would want all schools to offer a full standard range of academic GCSEs and a full standard range of academic A-levels. If schools aren't even offering the subjects that top universities require, that is grossly unfair on both pupils and universities.

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Fri 05-Oct-12 13:27:43

Whistlestop, families with children in state schools may well have more disposable income than families with children in private school, and it's the disposable income that actually matters.

There are all sorts of things that affect a child's opportunities, and it is very small minded to just blindly assume that all private pupils have massive advantages over all state pupils.

That is exactly the point I was trying to make. All schools are very different, and there is probably much more similarity between the 'affordable' private schools and the comps in expensive areas than there is between the cheaper and most expensive private schools or the top performing and sink state schools.

LittleFrieda Fri 05-Oct-12 13:27:57

Most private school kids have motivated parents who have engaged with the admissions process. 18 year olds today are not the same as 18 year olds in 1982. They used to go alone to uni open days but now the parents go and take the 17/18 year olds along. We have infantilised our youth by making the admissions process too complicated and by making university viewed as an investment by the parents. grin

LittleFrieda Fri 05-Oct-12 13:28:36

Bonsoir - where did that lad go as a matter of interest?

wordfactory Fri 05-Oct-12 13:29:01

I think here in the UK, most schools in whatever sector offer all the usual suspects. It's just that they also offer the less academic subjects, and teachers ferociously defend them as equivalent.

To be fair to young people it must be hard not to trust these teachers. A youg man I know is studying a smorgasbord of things that will not qualify him for the law degree he wants to study. He has had shit advice from his school.

gelo Fri 05-Oct-12 13:29:38

On mother tongue languages bonsoir I can agree and disagree. It clearly is a lot of work to become bilingual and a very worthwhile skill, but what the universities who discount an A level in a mother tongue are really saying is that they want to see evidence that a child can study 3 A levels in 2 years and cope with the workload. The problem with mother tongue A levels is that in many cases the work has been put in over a lifetime rather than in that 2 years of study, so the candidate offering this combination may only be able to manage 2 A level's worth of workload rather than 3 at a time.

whistle of course a lot of private school families have loads of residual income, but many have used it all up on the fees and scrimp along on very little. Just as it would be incorrect to assume all state school families are on the breadline you can't assume all private school families are loaded either. I guess the point is that if you take two families of equal wealth and one chooses the private education path and the other the state, the state family will have a lot more spare cash than the other.

Bonsoir Fri 05-Oct-12 13:29:41

He's at Sciences Politiques in Paris and is one of a small contingent doing a double degree in Political Science at Sciences Po and Mathematics at one the Paris universities.

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Fri 05-Oct-12 13:29:56

On the other hand, how can we possibly eliminate all variables? We have to base our judgements on what's in front of us.

Exactly. Judge on what you are presented with, not the background it came from.

LittleFrieda Fri 05-Oct-12 13:30:01

Wordfactory - BUt nobody would choose Nottingham law school over Oxford or Cambridge.

MrsSalvoMontalbano Fri 05-Oct-12 13:30:53

Can't we focus on what kind of secondary system the country needs to improve things at all elite universities
Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

wordfactory Fri 05-Oct-12 13:30:58

I think a lot of students up north would littlef

And I think a lot of students from norhtern comps would consider Oxbridge not for the likes of them.

Bonsoir Fri 05-Oct-12 13:33:47

wordfactory - I think you are a little naïve. I know for fact that some of the less academic "comprehensives" in Kent offer a very restricted range of academic A-levels, meaning that pupils who fail their 11+ and whose parents don't pay for private school are unable to access, say, French at A-level.

whistlestopcafe Fri 05-Oct-12 13:35:02

On the whole Outraged state school families have less disposable income than families who educate privately. Most people don't choose state school because they want to enjoy spending all their disposable income. The average family doesn't have any disposable income once bills are paid.

nicknicknick Fri 05-Oct-12 13:35:12

I feel very personally about this, I was rejected from Oxford in the early 90s. I was the "star" pupil at a fairly rough comprehensive school and everyone expected me to get in. I walked into the interview room a confident 17 year old and left in bits, they had me for breakfast. It may be that i just wasn't good enough but I remain convinced that I simply had no idea what to expect or how to behave and was floored by the whole process.

I did go to a Russell group university and have a PhD so I did OK in the end but I still feel cross at the way my younger self was treated by these people.

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Fri 05-Oct-12 13:38:50

On the whole doesn't matter when we are talking about two individual students who are having their future decided for them. The decision has to be based on them as individuals, not everyone else.

And you need to realise that your experience is only that. There are plenty of state school families that can afford far more with their income than just paying the bills.

MrsSalvoMontalbano Fri 05-Oct-12 13:39:50

Of course those rejected will blame the system - no surprises there.

Prarieflower Fri 05-Oct-12 13:41:38

No disposable income doesn't make all the difference,what a silly thing to say.For a start the vast maj of parents with kids in state schools have no disposable income.

A few ballet/tennis lessons does not an Oxbridge candidate make and I really just don't see the value in tutoring (which at £30 an hour is widely out of most parent's reach anyhow)after an exhausting day at school and homework to do.Also a lot of these tutors(not all but many)are no more qualified than me to tutor.

Being in small classes with little disruption, pushy teachers not fighting fires and the top facilities is what makes all the difference.

I'll swap with any parent privately educating if you like.grin

Prarieflower Fri 05-Oct-12 13:44:57

Nick my best friend in the 80s was Oxbridge material,always was.She seriously stood heads above every pupil in every way at my crappy comp.Everybody assumed she'd get in and she didn't.I think she had a rough time too.Twas very disheartening for all.

whistlestopcafe Fri 05-Oct-12 13:46:10

This thread is getting silly now so I think I will leave it here.

If parents think that they are disadvantaging their children by paying for private education and having less disposable cash than state school pupils, the question that springs to mind is why? hmm

I can only assume that it is because they have been taken in by the manicured topiary gardens either that or they don't want their children to mix with the riff raff.

It really is quite amusing that people cannot accept that private education gives their children an advantage over state school children.

flatpackhamster Fri 05-Oct-12 13:46:23

whistlestopcafe

flatpack, I really can't see why my view is annoying you so much.

Because you keep referring to it as 'fair' when it is anything but. It is a moral judgement but it isn't 'fair'.

If I was suggesting that there were different entry requirements then I could see your point of view but I'm not, I'm just suggesting that all things being equal it would be fair to consider the state school pupil above the private school pupil.

See? What's "fair" about choosing the state school pupil here? Why is it 'fair'?

Answer - it isn't. You're penalising the private school pupil.

Pupil A (Alex) Alex educated at Haberdashers (well regarded private school) 2 A* 1 A at A level. Mixture of A* and As at GCSE. Excellent reference and performs well at interview.

Pupil B (Ben) Ben is educated at Harefield Academy (state) similar grades to Alex also performs well at interview and like Alex shows potential.

You are the University admissions tutor. Who do you select and why?

Alex has been educated at one of the top independent schools in the country, there is a culture of achievement in the school. Virtually everyone succeeds and the children will come from privileged backgrounds and been afforded more opportunities than the average child.

Ben goes to an academy in a demographically mixed area on the outskirts of west London. 40% of children achieve 5 or more good GCSEs. The school is improving with good leadership and dedicated staff. The school is non selective and has a higher than average number of children who qualify for school meals and a higher number of children with SEN. Harefield Academy will not have been able to provide it's pupils with the same cultural enrichment as Haberdashers, not many children for example can afford the 2 week cultural excursion to Italy and the majority of children will not have had their learning supplemented at home with trips to the theatre etc.

I select Ben for obvious reasons. If that makes me a class warrior or gives me a chip on my shoulder then so be it.

I don't care whether you're a class warrior or a crazed nazi. What I care about is your relentless abuse of the word 'fair' to describe the caste system you're trying to create.

Who do you select Flatpack and why?

If they really were completely equal? I'd find room for them both.

LittleFrieda Fri 05-Oct-12 13:46:50

Bonsoir - are there any comprehensive schools in Kent? I thought Kent operated a Grammar/High School system.

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Fri 05-Oct-12 13:47:31

The vast majority of parents in state school have no disposable income? What, none at all?

Seriously?

Where are you getting that from, because I don't believe that to be true at all. It's certainly not my experience, or the experience of the vast majority of people living in my area.

Either way, the point is that there are too many variables that need to be taken into consideration when choosing between two students with identical grades, and it is too simplistic and inaccurate to automatically believe that the best student will be the one from the comp. And that's what we want right? The best student? Universities aren't charities for the disadvantaged.

sieglinde Fri 05-Oct-12 13:48:19

I've had some brilliant students from Northern comps - and Southern comps, too.

But I agree about the shit advice some kids get, and it makes my blood BOIL. It's an absolutely criminal waste.

What can we do that we're not already doing?

How about mandatory training for one teacher per school in university admissions, including a shadowing scheme with an admissions tutor? This should be run by and from the universities.

I think it would also help if we had groups of subject tutors coming to universities for refresher programmes - most colleges have a visiting schoolteacher programme, but that could be extended a LOT. So too could the Sutton Trust's summer residence schemes.

Subject heads should be in regular touch with what is going on in first year uni courses in their discipline.

Finally, the government needs to commit RESOURCES to bringing the top 10% of the state sector up to scratch with what the private schools offer academically. This could be in partnership with private schools and indeed with the universities, and it needs to involve the kids' parents if they want to be involved. Everyone needs more HOPE and more support.

Utterly impressionistic and maybe valueless - my sense is that many state school kids are reluctant to try for an elite uni because of the risk of failure - if the world hasn't given you all that much self-esteem, why risk it? Private school kids are more willing to try and fail, often more than once. It's the private school kids who email me and ask if they should try again next year, or write to ask for feedback. More power to them, because they HAVE more power/confidence. The state school kids just feel their low sense of self has been confirmed.

I once very reluctantly turned down a very able girl who was Access, and I wrote to her to tell her to try again (it was just a ridiculously good year). She wrote back and said it had never occurred other even to think of it. She did try again and got in 2nd time round. By contrast, I know of half-a-dozen Westminster boys trying again this year.

LittleFrieda Fri 05-Oct-12 13:52:57

Sieglinde - hmm It's about being able to afford to try again, gap years, especially in this climate, are costly.

Prarieflower Fri 05-Oct-12 13:53:05

Sieg interesting post and heartening to see you care.

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Fri 05-Oct-12 13:53:36

The whole Ben v Alex thing is ridiculous because it assumes that Alex is at a particularly well regarded independent school and that Ben's school has a high number of children on FSM and with SEN and that it is in a deprived area.

When the reality is that Alex could be at a very mediocre private school that is non selective and basically caters for the non academic children middle income parents who just want to avoid their children going to the sink comp they have been allocated. And Bens school could be an oversubscribed comp where people have to live in properties that are worth over £350,000 and much much more to be able to secure a place.

Can't you see that minor flaw in your argument that actually makes what you think is fair, not fair at all?

LittleFrieda Fri 05-Oct-12 13:53:44

I think Oxbridge should operate an interviewed once and you are out policy.

flatpackhamster Fri 05-Oct-12 13:54:19

LittleFrieda

Bonsoir - are there any comprehensive schools in Kent? I thought Kent operated a Grammar/High School system.

There are plenty of comprehensives in Kent.

wordfactory Fri 05-Oct-12 13:55:40

seig I think you observation might be right.

I know oodles of privately educated students who give it a whirl. Why not? They certainly don't worry if they're unsuccessful. Off they pop to Exeter or Ivy or wherever. Or they reapply.

Fear of failure is s huge drawback in life.

wordfactory Fri 05-Oct-12 13:56:36

And they're encouraged to do so by school. Whereas no one (apart from me) has ever even suggested it to my niece who is predicted stellar grades.

sieglinde Fri 05-Oct-12 13:57:04

Why, Little Frieda? Don't think this would help much. Often applicants find later interviews easier to cope with - it probably gives the shy a better chance.

Agree about the price of gap years, though no reason not to get a job straight from school and do or redo an A-level at the local FE or 6th form college.

sieglinde Fri 05-Oct-12 13:58:53

and prarie, I do bloody care, a lot.... Thanks for seeing that. Let me know if I can help more. That goes for any of you...

elastamum Fri 05-Oct-12 13:59:30

There is no doubt that the educational system between state and the best private schools is unequal. As a comprehensive school girl with 2 DC at very good public school I can see that their educational experience bears no relation at all to mine. BUT it is impossible to say that my DS2, who is on an academic scholarship might be less good than any child from a different state school. After all, he passed the scholarship test to get in there in the first place!

FWIW I dont really care if you put my children at a disadvantage in UK university admissions. I am far more interested in getting them the best education I can. If the best UK universities dont want them because of governement policy, then I will send them somewhere else in the world. Ultimately they will just become part of the brain drain from the UK.

We need to improve access to great secondary education for all really bright children, not paper over the cracks by fiddling with university admissions criteria.

Bonsoir Fri 05-Oct-12 14:07:06

LittleFrieda - yes, there are comprehensives. I think there is every sort of school known to the United Kingdom in Kent, actually!

LittleFrieda Fri 05-Oct-12 14:07:41

Sieglinde - Well of course interviews second time round will be easier to cope with, familiarity with the whole process will also be hugey advantageous. So it's actually a policy that favours those who can afford gap years, ie mostly independent school kids.

LittleFrieda Fri 05-Oct-12 14:09:23

Bonsoir - Ha, yes, so it seems. I assumed it was entirely grammar/high school. grin

Bonsoir Fri 05-Oct-12 14:12:17

It's actually very interesting and curious to observe the Kent schools situation. It's certainly not the worst place to have children at school, that's for sure.

Prarieflower Fri 05-Oct-12 14:14:01

Seig I might take you up on that.grin

Ds saw something about Oxford or Cambridge on TV,was fascinated. He's very driven.Rest assured in 8 years time if he's still so keen I'll do everything I can to get him in or somewhere else he's equally pleased with.I like the fact the whole global market has opened up for kids as regards uni.

Interestingly my dsis got into Bristol in the 90s with errrr dubious A level results from said crappy comp(but better different 6th form) and life experience. She'd done a lot and impressed them at interview.

grovel Fri 05-Oct-12 14:19:45

LittleFrieda*, my DS's gap year cost me nothing. He worked for 6 months and then went travelling on the proceeds.

JumpJockey Fri 05-Oct-12 14:43:29

I applied to Cambridge for History with 5 A-grade A-level predictions, back in the days when most people only did 3 subjects (it was unusual enough that I got into the national press when I did get them all). Plenty of extra-curricular activity etc. From a grammar school with a good record of Oxbridge success.

I did appallingly at interview; looking back I really had no idea about historical theory, which was what we discussed. I think this goes to show the difference between A-level and university study, and why you really need to have a genuine interest in your subject if you want to get a place; just knowing the basic facts of your A-level syllabus isn't good enough. I didn't get offered a place either by the college I applied to, or by the two places I had pool interviews at, but my teachers encouraged me to try again if I felt it really was the right place for me to be studying.

I deferred the place I'd been offered at another uni, had a hastily planned gap year (think £3.50 an hour jobs, living at home) and applied again, to a different college. Having done lots of reading over the 6 months between summer and interviews, I was more "ready", able to engage in a properly thought out conversation, and much more confident about my own opinions and beliefs about history as a subject. I ended up staying on to do a PhD.

Not sure exactly what this says; either the interview process is unrealistic for most 17-year-olds and means Oxford and Cambridge (as I think the only two unis who still interview every single candidate) miss out on people who have potential to go on to bigger things. Or 17-year-olds who really have a passion for their subject need to prepare themselves by reading around it and not just sticking to the A-level syllabus. That's something anyone from any school can do if they really want to.

mirry2 Fri 05-Oct-12 16:14:15

Hey ho every year it's the same discussion - stuck up thicko snobs get into oxbridge, taking the places that should rightfuly belong to alll the super bright disadvantaged state school pupils.

Maybe we need to abolish private schools and have an eduaction system so standardised that it's the same across the whole country.

IMO we also need to stop treating Oxford and Cambridge as if they are massively superior entities. They are not and once you get there nobody gives a stuff what school you went to.

Moving onto the comments about privately schooled kids being spoonfed and less able than state educated ones, if we are going to talk about the educational background of the of privately educated student at Oxford I think we should look at just which schools they went to. The cream of the academic crop of privte schools are at the top of the league tables. They have been through a really rigorous selection process, educated in large classes, expectd to intelectually curious beyond their years and to put in a huge amount of work. They are definitely not spoon fed. If 7% of privately educated students end up at Oxford or Cambridge, I would bet that most are from this cohort and absolutely deserve their place.

grovel Fri 05-Oct-12 17:12:58

A fair % of the Oxbridge students from "top" independents were at those schools on scholarships and bursaries. Many of them would otherwise have been educated in the state sector.

This surely balances the argument a bit?

Abra1d Fri 05-Oct-12 17:13:40

So if Oxford and Cambridge aren't massively superior why do you care that 'thicko snobs' get in to them?

'Thicko snobs' can still get in via the state system, you know. They just quietly use expensive tutors, as do many of my friends' children who have the misfortune to go to our low-performing local comprehensive.

mirry2 Fri 05-Oct-12 17:16:54

Aorry Abrld maybe I didn't make my post clear. I was reporting what I saw as the viewpoint of a lot of other posters. I certainly don't hold the 'thicko snob' view.

Abra1d Fri 05-Oct-12 17:19:22

I beg your pardon, then, Mirry! I read the top of your post and the bottom of another post further up and thought they were the same person posting.

Really sorry. shock

mirry2 Fri 05-Oct-12 17:19:40

grovel, I agree with you last post.

There is also often a shuffle round at 6th form time, with some children moving from state to private while others move from private to state.

LittleFrieda Fri 05-Oct-12 17:22:55

Grovel - my son's gap year cost me nothng either. But not everyone lives in a favourable place for jobs.

sieglinde Fri 05-Oct-12 17:23:29

JumpJockey, what an encouraging story! You really deserved your success because of your tenacity and commitment. And we KNOW we make mistakes; we're human. sad

As said, interviews are known not to be the be-all and end-all. They are one factor.

But maybe you all can help me here; if I say pretty much what JumpJockey said - you need to read around and have real passion and appetite - many state school teachers will respond by saying that no state school can give the time or resources to this extension work. I find this pretty dispiriting.

mirry, I agree that the discussions can seem repetitive, but I note the players change, and that makes it worthwhile.

LittleFrieda Fri 05-Oct-12 17:29:24

sieglinde - why has Oxford become such a slave to GCSE results. I know a few really brilliant young people who performed poorly at GCSE but went on to excel at A level. Oxford used to be interested in these people, why not now?

alemci Fri 05-Oct-12 17:31:47

I think if the kids are 'thicko snobs' they won't get in at the red brick unis. getting good grades at A level is really hard work even at private school and A levels are difficult. I am working at this level in a school and the subject matter is dense and it is not like GCSE.

yes the ps kids may have smaller classes etc but if they are not A* material, they won't get in however exclusive the school is.

elastamum Fri 05-Oct-12 17:36:47

As I watch DS2 (11) doing his scholarship set maths, I cant really recognise the 'thicko snob' heading for oxbridge anywhere in his peer group. Yes he has excellent teaching but he also works incredibly hard. His maths is at GCSE level, he is expected to do a couple of hours extra work a night. and write structured essays on topics such as 'Does history really matter?' to develop his POV.

If he does get into Oxbridge - assuming of course he is interested - he will have got there on years of graft.

sieglinde Fri 05-Oct-12 17:47:27

Short answer, LittleF, is that we're desperate for something to reduce the applications field. We get 5 applicants per place across the board, and we can't interview all of them.

That said, if there's good reason to think that someone has overcome some problems and is forging ahead, this should show up in their performance on the Ats and in interview, and in the school reference, and then we might well make an exception.

I think the thicko snob is BTW an incredibly unhelpful stereotype, perhaps most unhelpful of all to those most likely to mention it. In many years here I've had brilliant students from all sectors, and a few - a very few - disappointing ones also from all sectors.

My ds was in a scholarship set once too, elastamum. I think there's almost a bunrout factor sometimes.

grovel Fri 05-Oct-12 17:50:01

There is a danger of fixating on Oxbridge. Durham, for example, is stuffed to the gills with straight A students who never applied for the "Big 2" but would certainly have been viable candidates. Sometimes they preferred the course available. Some of them have had 5 years at schools with glorious dining halls, chapels etc and want a more "studenty" environment. Some of them want to be close to the Northumberland coast and to be able to party in Newcastle. Etc.

alemci Fri 05-Oct-12 17:51:38

Yes Tim nice but dim springs to mind

sieglinde Fri 05-Oct-12 18:03:52

BURNOUT. Sorry! Though you could argue for a bunrout too.

grovel Fri 05-Oct-12 18:06:42

I liked bun rout.

It sounded like a tradition at Oriel or Jesus (not Merton).

ReallyTired Fri 05-Oct-12 18:31:45

I don't think that any student at Oxbridge is a thicko snob. That is a comment made by someone who is jelous they neither they or their offspring had the talent to get Oxbridge.

I never went to Oxbridge and I don't believe that I lost out in anyway whatsoever. I sincerely believe the university I went to was every bit as good. I know a couple of gifted students who transfered from Oxford to my university because they could not cope with the intenstiy of enviroment. Both these students were from very socially deprived back grounds and dropped out of Oxford because their mental health collapsed.

I feel that there should be some kind of assessment to see that a candiate is resilent enough to stand up to the Oxbridge enviroment. It seems a terrible waste of a place to have someone drop out during the first year.

Shagmundfreud Fri 05-Oct-12 18:38:31

"Or 17-year-olds who really have a passion for their subject need to prepare themselves by reading around it and not just sticking to the A-level syllabus. That's something anyone from any school can do if they really want to."

No - you should have been prepared properly for your interview by your tutor from school. You were let down. I worked as an A-level tutor for a while and used to go through students' personal statements and talk them through how to prepare for interview.

JumpJockey Fri 05-Oct-12 20:55:57

Shagmund - that's possible, but it was back when people didn't get 3 A's very often let alone 4 or 5, and it was basically assumed that I would walk in. (mid 1990s) My memory is that the general college interview was fine, it was the subject interview that let me down and that's something that really should have been my responsibility - if I was so keen to study history, why didn't I regularly read (eg) History Today in the school library, or know about very much beyond the two periods we studied for the exams? I don't know that teachers should be expected to coach pupils in that way; they can offer guidance maybe, but it's down to the individual to do the actual work and have the inspiration.

flatpackhamster Sat 06-Oct-12 10:45:04

JumpJockey

Shagmund - that's possible, but it was back when people didn't get 3 A's very often let alone 4 or 5, and it was basically assumed that I would walk in. (mid 1990s) My memory is that the general college interview was fine, it was the subject interview that let me down and that's something that really should have been my responsibility - if I was so keen to study history, why didn't I regularly read (eg) History Today in the school library, or know about very much beyond the two periods we studied for the exams? I don't know that teachers should be expected to coach pupils in that way; they can offer guidance maybe, but it's down to the individual to do the actual work and have the inspiration.

But did you know what to expect from the subject interview? If you didn't, and there was no easy way to find out what the interview would be like, then I'd point the finger at the school, whose responsibility it is to coach you for interview. Agree that it's down to the individual to do the work, but how are you to know what's required for university is different to what's required for school? You're 17.

sieglinde Sun 07-Oct-12 13:25:56

Jump, I assume I'm Shagmund? grin

I don't think you should blame yourself, and I agree that it's PERFECTLY possible for a good A-level teacher to prep students properly, but many don't. Friends in teaching have told me that sometimes their DOS loathes Oxbridge and literally won't allow any applications.

Another idea: what if 6th form state funding was made more contingent on number of applications to the Russell Group? A budgetary incentive might encourage more applications. They would have to be random spot checks for plausibility.

I have no idea how we can test for resilience. There's lots of evidence that intellectual ability correlates with depression and even schizoid-range illness, and of course with Asperger's. So I think we might shoot ourselves int eh foot easily. I also think it's not our business to ask. For the record, our dropout rate is one of the lowest in the UK.

Xenia Sun 07-Oct-12 16:31:52

1. There are few thicko snobs at any decent university. Children at fee paying schools will often not get into a good university. Look at Prince Harry - no way was he going to get into a university so he left school after A levels. One suspects Prince Charles mightnot have quite met the grades but got into Cambridge but he is reasonably bright and inciteful and the decision to admit him in his day was probably not wrong. Prince William would not have got into Oxbridge and did not try. Thicko snobs don't get in.

2. It is of course unfair to give extra credit to children with low grades from a rough comp if a child from the same council estate is on a fully funded place at Manchester Grammar private school. If some universities become too anti private then the private schools will notice, point that out and avoid advising their students to apply there. I don't think it is a major issue yet. The universities still want the best people.

3. Resilience - one of my favourite topics. I think my older daughter is going well (went to Bristol, works with lots from oxbridge) because of resilience. Like all our family we never give up, we never take days off sick, we woudl be the sort when our arm was shot off in battle saying we had a little light bit of bother, we can work through the night, be at work the day after giving work, everyone entrusts us with everything as we never let anyone down and we keep bouncing back no matter what goes wrong - that is the family ethos, utter reliability. I suspect another reason for the reslience is eating good healthy proper foods, not junk and being fit. Now I cannot generalise and say that the academic private schools who are great at sport too and hopefully teach those values are behind the reason some private schools may do well but that may be so. In some ways the universities need sometimes to avoid the perfectionists who will commit suicide and have anorexia and drop out and go for the good all rounders who have a wide range of hobbies and are fun as well as bright but love their subject. (I am still waiting to have a perfectionist rather than laid back all rounder child.... it must be easier in some ways as a parent to have one).

mirry2 Sun 07-Oct-12 16:54:05

Xenia is right. resiliance is essential. The ability to accept and bounce back from harsh academic criticism with greater determination to do well. Top private schools oftem mete out such criticsm to their pupils whose work
isn't up to the expected standard.

Xenia Sun 07-Oct-12 17:10:18

It is certainly not a preserve of private schools. It tends to come from being within a hard working family which could just as much be someone at an Essex comp whose father drives a taxi and mother is a nurse and who never missed a day's work in their life as much as a private school although I do think there is something about the ethos of some private schools which can help develop that resilience and the confidence you often need in many jobs (and it is the life/jobs after university rather than the university entrance itself which really matters).

I don't think we give enough attention to the impact of types of food, exercise and fresh air on mental and physical health and thus working life.

mirry2 Sun 07-Oct-12 17:22:13

Xenia there are nurses and taxi drivers with children at top private schools you know.

LittleFrieda Mon 08-Oct-12 01:44:03

The UK will have turned the corner when Oxford offers 'the Knowledge' at some of their colleges. grin

sashh Mon 08-Oct-12 04:44:03

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.

In that case you have no idea of a deprived background.

There is a family I know, their mother dragged them out of school in one town (literally marched into the eldest's school and took him out of the SATs) to another. SS had been involved because the children were stealing food from other children.

In the second town she moved in with her mother, who had one spare room so they shared one bedroom, mum, dad and 6 kids. The room had no bed and no carpet.

The eldest started secondary 3 weeks late because his mother claimed she didn't know how to apply.

Mother then fell out with grandmother so dragged the kids to their paternal grandparents. While there she didn't bother finding a secondary for the eldest, it was better that he took the younger ones to and from school.

He then had to stay up into the small hours to tell his dad how to progress on a computer game.

Then there was another falling out (after about 6 months) and they went back to the second town. Grandma now has custody of three children, their aunt has custody of the other three. The mother complained about the gran getting custody because that meant she would get 'my money'.

So, how many middle class children have that kind of start? How many middle class kids sleep on a bare floor sharing a sheet with a sibling? How many middle class parents don't feed their children?

mirry2 Mon 08-Oct-12 09:22:19

Sash the situation you describe is far more deepseated than can be fixed by changing the education/Oxbridge allocation system

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Mon 08-Oct-12 09:46:20

Sashh, harsh as it sounds, a child who has been brought up in circumstances like that is highly unlikely to be a good Oxbridge candidate. Not because of a lack of intelligence or determination or anything else, but because he simply hasn't been taught to learn. It would take an exceptional person to be able to cope with an upbringing like that and to then be able to get successful GCSE and A level results and make the most of a place at Oxbridge.

Universities do not owe people from disadvantaged backgrounds a favour, they are there to prepare scholars who can go on to benefit society.

Also, a child in that situation is not representative of the vast majority of state school pupils, and you can't base a policy on extreme situations.

alemci Mon 08-Oct-12 10:46:45

sashh

could that mother done better for herself. sounds like her situation was of her own making to an extent. why have 6 kids in this day and age, if you cannot support them properly. alot of people come from bad situations and don't carry on like that.

you could argue that the 'middle classes' have become that way by working hard at school and making sensible choices. many of them may have come from rubbish backgrounds.

yes i agree totally awful for her poor children

ReallyTired Mon 08-Oct-12 11:32:02

People from deprived backgrounds often do learn how to learn at a later date. I went to uni with someone who joined the army at 17. He left the army in his thirties, did an access course and then went to uni to study biology where he did really well.

The student in challenging circumstances may well not be ready to study at 18, but make an excellent mature student at 22.

mirry2 Mon 08-Oct-12 12:24:09

I agree with you reallytired. I think the OU has been a huge benefit for amny people who missed out or had bad education experiences when they were younger.

sieglinde Mon 08-Oct-12 12:46:33

mirry, I didn't meet too many taxi driver parents in my dcs sojourn in private schools.

xenia is also right to say that resilience isn't confined to people from any particular social group. I've known some very resilient people from comps and some fragile blossoms from the private sector. I've also had some fragile sports stars and some resilient couch potatoes. I think it's all character, personally - the student's and the parents'.

mirry2 Mon 08-Oct-12 12:59:45

Siglinde Well there were plenty with similar occupations at my dds top performing private school: off the top of my head and amongst my friends I remember a school cook, a police constable, a driving instructor, a taxi driver (black cab) a nurse (single parent), pharmacist, half a dozen state school teachers and a few GPs.

sieglinde Mon 08-Oct-12 14:05:08

Sounds lovely, mirry; wish we had been so lucky. GPs abounded and so did solicitors, but most were frighteningly rich and 20-bedroom manors were not uncommon.

ReallyTired Mon 08-Oct-12 14:35:28

I don't think its a university (Oxbridge, red brick, ex poly or otherwise) to solve the ills of the world. There will always be unfairness in the world, and prehaps the best way to improve the world is to give the places at the best universities to the best students.

It must be hard to decide who you think is going to make the best of an academic opportunity.

sieglinde do you think that Oxford would be interested in this young man if he choose to apply. William Kamkwamba has had far great handicaps in life than virtually any university student in the UK.

news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8257153.stm

Yet look at what he achieved.

mirry2 Mon 08-Oct-12 14:36:50

Siglinde it just shows that people shouldn't make assumptions about the backgrounds of kids from private schools, although my dd's is a London day school (with awesome results) and maybe boarding schools are different. I went to boarding school and remember the stream of bentleys.

Xenia Mon 08-Oct-12 14:38:02

I certainly mean ti imply the children of nurses are not at private schools, of course they are and my point was resilience and staying power is a personality thing. I do think some private schools manage to teach it and confidence better than many state schools but as I said they have no monopoly over it. You want someone who does not collapse under pressure and is in tears all the time at work and constantly off sick.

MrsSalvoMontalbano Mon 08-Oct-12 15:13:55

er - my dc are one of the top academic indies - there are several nurse parents I know personally ( they are also single parents as it happens, so anotehr myth exploded) - along with parents of numerous other job types...

sieglinde Mon 08-Oct-12 16:19:11

ReallyTired - heavens, yes! He sounds great. We'd have to look into his academicals, but we could probably arrange something Acessish for someone so obviously outstanding.

MrsSalvo and mirry, don't get me wrong. All schools differ, in all sectors. The indy school I was thinking of is a top boarding-prep school. But similar things are true of the top non-boarding schools in Oxford, including one of the top comps. I really don't think personal wealth is the only factor in educational aspiration and sense of entitlement anyway. Some v. rich students have had dismally impoverished lives, and the reverse has also been true; musicians' kids often have no money but bags of savoir-faire. Agree with xenia - it's down to sheer guts, as much as anything.

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