Worthless qualifications at state schools

(426 Posts)
Judy1234 Sat 23-Jan-10 21:14:26

Wise words.
Pick solid GCSEs in proper subjects - take a language, take English lit and lang, take maths, geography, history and 2 or 3 proper sciences and get just 8 or 9 in traditional subjects with good grades.

"The headmaster of Harrow has accused many state schools of deceiving children by entering them for “worthless” qualifications. Barnaby Lenon said that grade inflation and a shift to vocational qualifications was masking a failure to teach enough pupils to a good standard.

“Let us not deceive our children, and especially children from poorer homes, with worthless qualifications so that they become like the citizens of Weimar Germany or Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, carrying their certificates around in a wheelbarrow,” he told a conference.

“[Let’s not] produce people like those girls in the first round of The X Factor who tell us they want to be the next Britney Spears but can’t sing a note.”

He cited media studies as an example of a soft subject, for which many schools were keen to enter students because it was easier for them to get a good grade. The real route to a good job in one of the professions, he said, was good grades in traditional academic subjects such as maths, sciences and languages."


Wastwinsetandpearls Sat 23-Jan-10 21:23:41

I agree generally, there is a place for some students for these softer subjects but we need to be directing bright students to academic subjects.

SherriHewsonsNipple Sat 23-Jan-10 21:24:41

i wonder how much he knows abotu Media studies?

janeite Sat 23-Jan-10 21:27:02

Good Gads - Janeite finds herself agreeing (mostly) with Xenia. Well, there's a first time for everything, I guess.

On the whole I agree. I think it is shameful that subjects like History and Geography are disappearing in some state schools and even worse that a subject like English Literature is at risk, in the quest for five Cs including Maths and English.

saggarmakersbottomknocker Sat 23-Jan-10 21:27:30

i do agree with him about CSEs, being old enough to remember them but there is a place for vocational qualifications. That is what some students are suited to and do well at. We'd be in a pretty poor place without plumbers and electricians.

smugmumofboys Sat 23-Jan-10 21:32:45

Welcome to my world.

MFL teacher. Languages are being sidelined at my school in favour of subjects like BTEC in Performing Arts and Entry Level Business.

butadream Sat 23-Jan-10 21:39:59

Hang on a minute though, you can do all those kinds of GCSEs at state schools, no-one is forcing kids to take media studies! And a GCSE from a state school is surely the same qualification as from a private school? I know some exam boards are not as good as others but universities don't drill down to that level do they?

LuckyJim Sat 23-Jan-10 21:48:05

butadream some schools encourage the dcs to take softer subjects so they will get a better grade and boost the schools 5 at A-C rating. If you are 13 and are told by your teacher that a B in media studies is more useful than a C in physics or french then you may be inclined to believe them.

It happens in private too ime, in my school some girls were told they weren't allowed to do some subjects. If you weren't pretty confident of getting at least a C then you weren't allowed to sit the exam.

smugmumofboys Sat 23-Jan-10 21:48:45

No-one forces them Butadream but some subjects are intrinsically harder than others and therefore less attractive to students.

Judy1234 Sat 23-Jan-10 21:48:52

I think that children and their parents are just not aware of the views of many employers about these subjects, that it does matter. They are conned into thinking it doesn't matter.

Same with some careers:

"When I was 10 I asked my Dad: “What’s the hardest thing to become?” “A surgeon or a barrister,” was his reply.

The challenge was on! I was too squeamish to be a surgeon. I also had two younger brothers to argue with, so by 18 I was a pro. But “barrister” was not a possible outcome on the career flowchart at my school, a Luton comprehensive. There were two charts — one for boys and one for girls — and hairdresser, secretary, nurse or teacher (if you were really smart) were the only possible outcomes for me.

My parents fully supported my choice of career, despite neither having gone to university and not knowing anything about the Bar. But it was a constant battle with those whose job it was to help to me to fulfil that dream — my teachers.

Saying that I wanted to be a barrister was like saying that I wanted to be an astronaut. I was indulged, but secretly ridiculed. I was told that it was the Bar that was the problem: you had to have gone to Eton then Oxford or Cambridge. Then, they said, you might have a hope of a pupillage — provided Daddy knows the head of chambers.

It did not take long to realise that the problem was no longer the Bar itself. Despite my working-class, state school background, I received nine invitations to pupillage interviews while in my final year of university.

My first landed me a place on the reserve list for a top civil set of chambers in London. I was made an offer the following year at the set where I’m now a tenant. Not once did I feel disadvantaged by my background. "


ahundredtimes Sat 23-Jan-10 21:50:29

I don't think that's the point he's making. I think he's saying that the kids who are taking media studies or btec in business studies - might actually think that it's going to get them a job at the BBC or at Shell. And it isn't. Both institutions are going to employ people with the the traditional gcses, a levels and degrees.

So, in part, children are let down by not being fully educated, and partly it raises a completely false set of expectations - hence the weimar republic wheelbarrow analogy / x factor no-hoper etc

ahundredtimes Sat 23-Jan-10 21:51:02

Sorry, that was to butadream

saggarmakersbottomknocker Sat 23-Jan-10 21:56:43

Decent guidance for students should be available in all schools, absolutely, but doing away with vocational qualifications is a separate issue. If a student isn't able enough to do GCSE physics fro example then there should be an alternative.

MrsFlittersnoop Sat 23-Jan-10 22:02:11

So what should non-academic children who are never going to enter a "profession" study during their compulsory years of education?

Mr Harrow Headmaster obviously has no experience whatsoever of dealing with a significant number of pupils who fall into this category, but who NEED encouragement (for all sorts of reasons) to stay in education for as long as possible.

English, Maths and Science are all compulsory subjects at GCSE. Passes in these subjects should guarantee access to just about any vocational post-16 qualification.

I really can't believe ANY parent or teacher who seriously expects their child or pupil to go to university would encourage them to take a raft of P.E/Photography/DT GCSEs instead of History/Geography/MFL etc.

A complete non-subject for discussion IMO hmm.

Ivykaty44 Sat 23-Jan-10 22:06:36

thanks flittersnoop, well said

saggarmakersbottomknocker Sat 23-Jan-10 22:07:16

Yes - It's all very well to be derisory about vocational qualifications when you're the head of selective school whose pupils have little need for them.

ahundredtimes Sat 23-Jan-10 22:07:51

Well I suppose, that's fine MrsF, so long as those children realize they are being educated in pointless subjects just so they can 'stay a bit longer' in school. Not ideal, really.

ahundredtimes Sat 23-Jan-10 22:08:38

I think saggar's point is right. There should be vocational subjects. From what I understand = his point is that a btec in performing arts, isn't vocational.

ahundredtimes Sat 23-Jan-10 22:09:32

media studies at gcse isn't a vocational qualification to get a job in the media, for instance.

Ivykaty44 Sat 23-Jan-10 22:10:41

to academics they may be pointless subjects but to those who are more vocational they show that they can learn vocational subjects when they apply for a job, it gives them soem hope - rather than being bored and leaving school - which is far from ideal

cory Sat 23-Jan-10 22:11:30

And what about the kids that can't get good grades in maths and sciences? Which is best a good grade in media studies of E's in more traditional subjects?

ahundredtimes Sat 23-Jan-10 22:15:20

I keep saying what I think he's saying, without actually having an opinion on this!

It is about what he thinks are the expectations raised by such subjects, which don't reflect the reality of what you might need to work in the media, for instance.

I don't think it's an anti vocational thing is it? I think it's an anti false vocation thing?

SpringHeeledJack Sat 23-Jan-10 22:15:49

This certainly isn't my ds' experience of an inner city state school

...this man obviously has a vested interest in knocking the public sector, of which I doubt he knows that much

I'd take this with a shovelful of salt, meself.

UnquietDad Sat 23-Jan-10 22:18:07

Media studies is not necessarily a "worthless" qualification in itself, either at school or university, but people are deluded if they think it is going to get them a job in the media.

I don't think parents of state school pupils need the snooty holier-than-thou intervention of a fee-paying school's head to tell us all that. But thanks, anyway.

ahundredtimes Sat 23-Jan-10 22:18:09


what does this even mean?

“The road to social mobility is not a downhill stretch on an empty motorway; it’s an agonisingly steep path up a mountain whose summit is never quite in view.”

ahundredtimes Sat 23-Jan-10 22:20:06

It would be pretty shocking if schools were sitting their brightest pupils in 'soft' subjects to get good grades for league tables, rather than pushing them towards MFL for example, wouldn't it? I'd think that was pretty shocking.

ahundredtimes Sat 23-Jan-10 22:23:51

Why did they drop MFL from being a required GCSE? I didn't even know they had.

southeastastra Sat 23-Jan-10 22:26:17

the head of harrow is only saying what mn says daily

though i don't think the head of harrow lives any where near the real world

smugmumofboys Sat 23-Jan-10 22:35:19

100x. Hmm. Good question. It all happened when I was sahming. It seems that it was because it wasn't being taught well and many students found it hard.

The cynic in me can't help but think that the govt didn't want it to affect the figures. Maths, apparently, isn't being taught well in many places but I don't see that being dropped as a core subject any time soon.

You know, people knock media studies but I actually think it should be compulsory in schools.

The media has a massive influence in our lives, yet too many people don't understand how advertising works, how mass media can be used as a political tool, how the news is biased and how statistics are manipulated for effect.

Look at the argument here about Haiti and Nestle as an example. That is a hugely important worldwide issue yet the majority of people I speak to just say "Aww, isn't it nice that they're sending formula to Haiti" without even engaging in the matters of advertising, PR and sales.

Most kids don't know where to get information that is reliable or accurate.

There is good reason that dictators and dictatorial governments invest in news media and television stations. Look at the harm that has been done in China through government censorship and twisting of the media.

If children did a couple of years of really analysing the media, they might not be so easily manipulated and exploited.

George Orwell would be a good place to start.

There is an argument that this could be covered in other subjects but only if those subjects make room to discuss media. Chemistry is all well and good if you want to be a doctor, but that career choice is only for a small fraction of the population.

I think politics, philosophy, media and psychology are all crucial subjects for today's world that everyone should know about and most school-leavers emerge without much of a clue.

Wastwinsetandpearls Sat 23-Jan-10 22:43:07

I took my dd to look around a local humanities college that is very very well regarded. It was boasting of having a handful of students taking GCSE Geography and could not promise that A Level Geog could be offered. I was shocked to the core.

I teach in a humanities department and had that school in the back of my mind as somewhere I would like to work. It has been stored now as somewhere I would never want to work.

I do think there is an issue in state schools in "harder subjects" being sidelined. I am very lucky that I teach in a good state with a thriving humanities department but I know that Geography in particular struggles in many schools.

I had my pupils moaning at me a while ago that we had not chosen the easiest units for them to study in our GCSE course. This was a deliberate decision on our behalf.

tatt Sat 23-Jan-10 22:50:37

most people once they start work use very little of the traditional subjects they studied. They need things like the ability to analyse a problem, to present a solution. to work as part of a team. They could get those things from so-called "soft" subjects. However the brightest children will not be doing soft subjects because most employers are still brain washed into wanting "hard" subjects.

Ctach 22 anyone?

southeastastra Sat 23-Jan-10 22:51:36

you are biased as you could afford to send your kids to one of the most expensive schools in the uk

though i can't work out that how such a great paid for education still can't even begin to start out major world problems, like the war in afghanistan

SpringHeeledJack Sat 23-Jan-10 22:52:23

oooh, that makes utter sense, Carmen

<<wishes had thought of it first>>


hanaflower Sat 23-Jan-10 23:24:15

Agree with Carmen A grounding in risk and how to analyse statistics (in an overall sense) would also be a real-life skill. But does media studies actually do this?

That's a very good point, tatt.

I think a big question here is 'What is school for'

'Worthless qualifications' buys into the concept that qualifications exist as currency to get you into employment or university which seems a rather narrowminded view of education.

In a side note, I worked briefly at the BBC in tv production. Most of the new entrants there were media studies graduates. It's a horribly hierarchical place and very hard to fast track up to management, no matter what your qualifications. Struck me that endurance is key there. If your child wanted to go into TV production, I would absolutely suggest doing a degree in media or similar - at least they'd get hands on experience in the various technologies and techniques.

Not as much as it ought to, Hanna

Merrylegs Sat 23-Jan-10 23:44:19

The world is changing though, isn't it?

As Carmen says. other subjects are becoming more important. Portfolio careers are going to be the norm and I think 'tradition' will fly out of the window.

Sure, there will always be a place for Maths, Science, Eng and most importantly languages I think BUT take a look at the current GCSE History syllabus. 18th century medicine, 1st and second WWs, USA to 1941. And stop.

And Geography. It's always climate change (flooding especially) and globilisation.

I think 'wider' subjects like Philosophy and Ethics, Media studies, open students up to critical thinking, problem solving, and encompass the wider world.

Plus, next time round I am marrying - or training to be - a plumber, electrician, car mechanic or hairdresser. Far more use than an Eng Lit graduate.

Wastwinsetandpearls Sun 24-Jan-10 00:10:24

I think Geography is very relevant, I think it is the most popular option subject at our school. I am also quite sure that our History GCSE syllabus does not stop at WW2

I teach Philosophy and Ethics so will agree with you there.

claig Sun 24-Jan-10 02:41:43

agree with CarmenSanDiego
"I think politics, philosophy, media and psychology are all crucial subjects for today's world that everyone should know about and most school-leavers emerge without much of a clue."
and Merrylegs
"I think 'wider' subjects like Philosophy and Ethics, Media studies, open students up to critical thinking, problem solving, and encompass the wider world."

but there is a theory that these subjects might encourage a few too many awkward questions, something which is not desirable

tatt Sun 24-Jan-10 08:31:37

politics is part of the current AS syllabus and bores students. A friend's child is now dropping history as an A level and doing further maths instead.

The GSCE history syllabus makes more sense then when I was at school. Hopefully in studying history of medicine they acquire some realisation that professionals can often be wrong and decisions need to be based on fact not opinion. They study the causes of wars and slavery. Geography has done more than global warming (although that's likely to be one of the main issues our children have to deal with). I was quite impressed by their study of GM crops.

I do agree that some children are being pushed into "media studies" or "film studies" when they would be better doing more maths and english or vocational courses. And some bright children (like mine) do "hard" subjects when their careers are unlikely to require them because there are no courses at the best universities that are relevant to what they want to do but they want the sfaety net of a "good" degree.

Education sucks.

ArcticFox Sun 24-Jan-10 08:43:30

The value of studying history at GCSE isn't so much in learning the facts of the period (which is largely irrlevant) but in learning how to analyse conflicting evidence, build an argument, understand probable and possible cause and effect and how primary and secondary evidence needs to be examined with a firm understanding of who the writer was and what their agenda was.

Arguably, if history was taught with this in mind, it would do the job of media studies as outlined by Carmen.

Re vocational subjects and non-academic students, why are we forcing non-academic students to remain in "pseudo-academic" education? The UK is obsessed with academic achievement but many kids would be better leaving school and fourteen and learning a practical trade. Let academic kids be academic and practical kids be practical.

skidoodle Sun 24-Jan-10 08:57:36

If pupils are not learning how to think critically and analytically at school then the school is useless, regardless of what subjects they are taking.

The idea that you need to take media studies to learn these things rather than history, geography or english is making little tears build up behind my eyes.

I also think we need to stop using the word "vocational" when we mean "easy". A good vocational curriculum would be a fine thing indeed, but it would be bloody hard and require just as much effort as studying academic subjects. Depending on the vocation, it would almost certainly involve maths, physics and language skills, just more practically focused. It would be possible to do badly if you didn't work hard.

I don't think there is much to be gained in designing courses for lazy and unmotivated pupils.

magentadreamer Sun 24-Jan-10 09:05:29

The only reason my DD is contemplating doing History is due to the fact she can do the medicine through time syllabus. 50% of the syllabus is looking at Medical advancement through the ages and transformation in surgery in the 19th Century. The other 50% is made up of a study of Germany 1919-45 and a local history unit. DD is fascinated by all things medical so 50% of the course is ticking all the right boxes for her. Assessment is by 3 exams and the local history unit is controlled coursework - bugger I'll not be able to write it for her wink

tatt Sun 24-Jan-10 09:08:25

Skidoodle the idea that only in so-called hard subjects can you learn how to think critically and analytically is what distresses me.

magentadreamer Sun 24-Jan-10 09:08:46

Posted to soon I was going to add that the transferable skills you can gain by studying History are invaluable as others have said.

pointydug Sun 24-Jan-10 09:13:53

Generally speaking, I agree with op

Peachy Sun 24-Jan-10 09:23:30


Nobody could take history and geography, and a girl from a council estate shouldn't take 3s ciences apparentlty so although I was 90th centile for physics I waspalced into typing class(and failed dismally), and indtead of asecondlangauge I was put into Child Development GCSE with allthe suture teenage mums.

Blimey we worry about the world today but comapared to that of the eighties, well.....

On a generallevelDS1 doesn't want to go to Uni (probably couldnt either) and is looking at maeupa rtistry asa career, stage type, so I guess we will have to start asking for advice on what he should take.

Peachy Sun 24-Jan-10 09:24:15

(Oh and yes I agree with OP,sorry Xenia LOL)

MrsMattie Sun 24-Jan-10 09:27:27

Is it employer's who care about GCSE subjects? Or universities?

If you've got Maths & English and have a degree, no sensible employer gives two hoots about whether you did Latin or Media Studies at GCSE.

sarah293 Sun 24-Jan-10 09:32:04

Message withdrawn

loungelizard Sun 24-Jan-10 09:34:04

It would be much more helpful if it were a state school head pointing it out rather than the head of Harrow.

He is right, of course.

However, there is a place for non academic subjects but not for those who wish to study an academic course at a top university. The problem is by the time some children have decided what they want to study, they have already inadervently ruled themselves out of even applying for some courses because they have been encouraged to take soft options for GCSEs. It's quite wicked really, the double standards that go on.

Those in the private sector have already been drilled as to which subjects are acceptable, thus they are all in a much better position to apply for the most academic courses at the best universities and thus take up many more places. Ho hum.

pointydug Sun 24-Jan-10 09:36:48

And I have great sympathy for mfl teachers. Not only was it dropped as a compulsory subject a few years back, but now there is a lot of talk about teaching pupils little tasters of a variety of languages for four years (starting in primary) before they then choose the easiest. I am not aware of any evidence to back up this theory.

Caoimhe Sun 24-Jan-10 09:41:29

My secondary school (girls' Catholic Comprehensive) didn't even have a Physics teacher - if you wanted to do Physics the school had to arrange for you to join classes in a local boys' school. Extraordinary!

Peachy Sun 24-Jan-10 10:02:41

Whilst I do agree with Xenia I would point out that unless you are seeking a clear Oxbridge type education (and most cannot through both ability and basic number of places ) then there are always plenty of chances in life to change things. RG Unis now take Access, degrees can be taken at any age and there are differing pathways.

Creativity is a skill that can get you most things in life, if you apply it well. Dodgy GCSE's + A-Levels + good Access + easy (comparatively) to get into degree where Professor is well regarded by colleagues = MA led by Prof who respects former Prof's judgement on ability. Result.

Convoluted yes, but decisions made at 16 do not need to determine a life.

littlerach Sun 24-Jan-10 10:12:42

But isn't much of this ot do with the emphasis on individual timetables and curriculums?

In my (V V limited) experience of this, schools want ot be seen as offering whatever studnets want (or their parents). And paremts don't awlways listen to staff wink

But, yes, I do agree with OP.

DecorHate Sun 24-Jan-10 10:23:06

That happened to me too Caoimhe - mainly because only a few girls would want to do physics so they couldn't justify hiring a teacher (but this was in the dark ages!)

chosenone Sun 24-Jan-10 10:24:04

This is an interesting debate, although the Times artcle does come across as snobby and elitist. In the school I teach in I have been co erced by management to offer a B tec option of my subject alongside a GCSE. I find the B tec particularly dumbed down, lots of producing mind maps and collages hmm I wasn't taken with the syllabus at all but still had to sell it on our 'option evening'. At least our students have a choice between a GCSE or a Btec in my subject and in others too. I certainly don't agree with schools dropping the GCSE in favour of the BTec because 'everyone passes, if not they do the portfolio' again!

I am in a higher than average school but still we have a number of lower ability students who are going to be more suitable for vocational and practical jobs, it makes sense that they do courses that suit their needs. However, the mix at the moment doesn't seem right, how many hairdressers and beauticians do we really need? Surely we need to spend more time ensuring these students are numerate and literate?? Equally these lower than average students shouldn't be forced to do MFL GCSE and study Shakespeare in English Lit, they need that time for key skills.

I am also watching the launch of new diplomas with interest as the govt have thrown a lot of money at these, they sound like a good idea, and are being heavily sold but only small numbers are taking up the Engineering and creative media ones in our area

Judy1234 Sun 24-Jan-10 10:57:56

My only point really is about deception to children in bad schools about what many employers want. In fact as we all know Harrow was for the thick and Eton the clever, although Harrow has academically got itself into the top 50 again I think if not higher. It's certainly relatively comprehensive compared with some private schools.

It was his analogy here which reminded me of things I hear of friends with children in some state schools:-

“Let us not deceive our children, and especially children from poorer homes, with worthless qualifications so that they become like the citizens of Weimar Germany or Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, carrying their certificates around in a wheelbarrow,” he told a conference.

“[Let’s not] produce people like those girls in the first round of The X Factor who tell us they want to be the next Britney Spears but can’t sing a note.”

And the barrister girl from the poor area and bad school saying no discrimination once she was at university at all or beyond but her state schools saying girls - hairdressers, boys labourers and if you want something poncy it's not for the likes of you because you're not posh and no way could you go to a good university and read law, not for the likes of you or left wing teachers saying you wouldn't fit in at Oxbridge because you're very different and it's morally wrong and letting your class down to go kind of ideas. We want all those routed out.

So what about the lazy and not bright children of which there are many in all educational sectors? You want to force the lazy ones to work (and what's all this above about giving parents and pupils subjects they want -what a load of rubbish - most pupils and parents have no idea what is right for them - you want to tell them where to stick their XYZ subject and give them subjects that are sensible or the country needs - nothing to stop them studying other subjects themselves at home which I very often did from library books. I even taught myself GCSE music when I was 15 - none of that is very hard if you're reasonably self starting).

claig Sun 24-Jan-10 11:39:18

“If we want the brightest children from our poorest homes to fulfil their potential we must not deceive them with high grades in soft subjects or allow them to believe that going to any old uni to read any subject is going to be the path to prosperity, because it is not.”

For this reason independent schools had deliberately adopted harder qualifications such as the IGCSE, International Baccalaureate and Pre-U, he said."

He is concentrating on "soft" subjects, but I feel he is being a bit disingenuous, the problem is just as much "high grades in hard subjects", grade inflation is happening across the entire curriculum, with the number of children achieving 'A' grades in "hard" subjects rocketing to heights that were unheard of 20 or 30 years ago.

This is the reason many of the independent schools are adopting IGCSE, Pre-U etc., these will be for the "hard" subjects such as maths. I doubt many private schools will bother with IGCSE and Pre-U for what he describes as the "soft" subjects like media studies.

claig Sun 24-Jan-10 12:05:49

Riven mentioned in another thread that her son's physics teacher of 20 years experience was almost in tears at how they had dumbed down the physics syllabus. The downgrading of MFL in importance is also shocking. These are the real things that will harm the future of the country. The head should concentrate on the real problem of standards rather than taking easy potshots at the "soft" subjects.

sarah293 Sun 24-Jan-10 12:08:19

Message withdrawn

claig Sun 24-Jan-10 12:15:31

modern foreign languages, sorry smile

Wastwinsetandpearls Sun 24-Jan-10 13:25:22

Claig I do think that some of the new syallabuses have dumbed down. In my subject our new GCSE syllabus has IMO reduced the need for subject knowledge. Although I will clearly teach what is required to pass the exam I will carry on teaching a lot that goes above and beyond the syllabus so my top sets are challenged.

The changes reflect those made in the national curriculum, the exam seems to be beconming more skills based rather than knowledge based. I applaud the fact that they are pushing students to develop their evalutative skills. But the need for a detailed and comprehensive subject knowledge needs to be there as well. Otherwise I may as well spend two years considering the merits of Big Brother against X Factor.

t does make me worry about A Level as well, by simplifying the GCSE content it makes the leap from one to other even greater. Are there plans ahead to simplify that as well?

claig Sun 24-Jan-10 14:10:17

"Otherwise I may as well spend two years considering the merits of Big Brother against X Factor"

I fear the above may soon become degree level, so you may need to start considering setting your sights lower than that wink

MrsMattie Sun 24-Jan-10 14:11:33

Totally agree with Peachy. My sister was a 'school refuser' and dropped out of school with no GCSEs, despite being very bright.

She did an Access at the age of 25, got into King's for her undergraduate degree, did her Masters at UCL and has now got her 'dream job' and is going to do her PHD.

This idea that if you don't get 10 GCSE A grades in 'hard subjects' at the age of 16 means you're fucked for life is preposterous!

pointydug Sun 24-Jan-10 14:11:56

I am also concerned about the devaluing of knowledge in favour of skills. There should be an agreed body of knowledge which children and young people are taught in able to then allow them to apply the skills most effectively.

Wastwinsetandpearls Sun 24-Jan-10 14:34:47

grin claig.

I don't think your life is fucked if you don't get 10 "hard" GCSEs but surely schools should be doing all they can to help students.

I had a rant at my last subject meeting on this very topic.

Merrylegs Sun 24-Jan-10 14:47:30

I think also 'young people' these days have to be careful about thinking they will automatically get in to the 'good' unis just by dint of A*s in 'hard' subjects.

As has been pointed out here already, more kids are achieving marks that would have been unheard of 20 years ago.

It is about the bigger picture now.

You can't automatically assume you will get into Oxford, say to read medicine if you have fab A level results, unless you have also done relevant and extensive work experience.

(Eton don't just take the 'clever' kids. They want you to have another string to your bow - fluent in other languages for eg, or virtuoso musician.)

Wastwinsetandpearls Sun 24-Jan-10 15:18:45

I totally agree Merry and am always saying this to my students.

Even in my day(sigh) that was the case.

butadream Sun 24-Jan-10 15:55:41

merrylegs - or like being a member of a royal family, for instance!

Actually thinking about this I can see the problem about subject choice is greater than it had seemed to me before - although it seems obvious on mn that "media studies" might be seen as a soft choice, it is not going to be obvious to an uninformed 16 year old that if they want to be a solicitor that an A level in Law is not going to help them, or if they want to join a business graduate scheme at Unilever or similar that A Level Business Studies is bog all use.

Wastwinsetandpearls Sun 24-Jan-10 16:47:22

Again I agree, I have a year 11 tutor group and teach a lot of KS4 groups. I have had a number of conversations with A* students from very educated supportive backgrounds about the fact that an A Level in Law is not necessary or perhaps even wise. One student who wants to be an actor wanted to take AS Drama andf the BTech option.

noddyholder Sun 24-Jan-10 16:52:59

My ds has done media studies and it has been intense!Makes films put together an ad campaign and endless work tbh.

Judy1234 Sun 24-Jan-10 16:54:21

"This idea that if you don't get 10 GCSE A grades in 'hard subjects' at the age of 16 means you're fucked for life is preposterous!"

You aren't for life but in general most who do badly continue to do so. The rare few who do badly and later pull themselves up are rare. In other words it's easier in life to do well earlier and harder to be a cleaner for 20 years and in your 40s become a brain surgeon.

A level law is a rubbish one which no decent private schools recommend and is completely unsuitable for potential lawyers. I hope state schools make that very clear.

claig Sun 24-Jan-10 17:29:11

noddyholder, <great name by the way, love Noddy myself, one of the best voices in the game>
good for your son, sounds like he had a great time and picked up some useful skills. As long as he also did his core maths, English etc. it will not harm him one bit.
The head of Harrow is deceiving people to imply that having some "soft" subjects will be worthless and make them unemployable.
A more likely problem is the whole grade inflation issue where all of the pieces of paper are being devalued in a Weimar-like fashion, not just "soft" subjects.

Even the much vaunted Sir Ken Robinson states :

"Suddenly degrees aren't worth anything. Isn't that true? When I was a student, if you had a degree, you had a job. If you didn't have a job it's because you didn't want one. And I didn't want one, frankly.

But now kids with degrees are often heading home to carry on playing video games, because you need an MA where the previous job required a BA, and now you need a PhD for the other. It's a process of academic inflation."

That is the tragedy, where pupils can slog their guts out studying for years and years only to find that grade inflation has eroded the value of what they have achieved.

noddyholder Sun 24-Jan-10 17:33:25

He has done all the trad ones too but film is his passion and all he has been interested in since he was about 11.

Judy1234 Sun 24-Jan-10 17:40:20

Most pupils do not get all As though. My local comp gets sometyhing like 34% A - C including maths and English and my daughter's old school North London C gets something like 98% A and A*. There are loads of children out there with low grades whetyher in good or bad GCSEs as yiou would expect in any competitive society where everyone is not a clone. In the early 80s I made over 100 applications when I was graduating before I found something - a recession was on. it's the same for some of my graduating children now. Plus ca change. Life and finding work is often hard. My grandfather's letters after the 1920s crash paint a similar but worse picture.

All you have always had to do and continue to do is fight your way tooth and claw over the last man in the usual survival of the fittest and the currency of that survival tends not to be brute force these days but the intelligence to know your GCSE French might be a better arrow in your quiver than GCSE something studies and that middlesex poly believe it or not may not be quite as well regarded as places where it's harder to get into.

noddyholder Sun 24-Jan-10 17:42:44

Life is not all about this though!

claig Sun 24-Jan-10 17:45:29

noddyholder, it is great that that is his passion, with the skills that he has picked up and a real passion for the subject he may even be able to set up in business independently and enjoy every minute oh his career

noddyholder Sun 24-Jan-10 17:47:51

Fingers crossed!Have friends working in that business and he has done a fair bit of work experience but he is young and i think too young to make life decisions.

butadream Sun 24-Jan-10 17:48:37

tis in Xenia world I think!

claig Sun 24-Jan-10 17:53:39

noddyholder, fingers crossed too.
Young, impulsive and daring, not prepared to take no for an answer, that's what it takes to make it

noddyholder Sun 24-Jan-10 17:55:02

Well he;s all of those grin

claig Sun 24-Jan-10 18:00:57

well in that case I predict he'll soon be driving a Bentley past the gates of Harrow School, having done well to ignore the head's advice wink

TheFallenMadonna Sun 24-Jan-10 18:06:16

IMO the problem comes when vocational and academic subjects are not viewed on their own merits, but have to be compared and made 'equivalent'. Which is of course a by-product of league tables and the like. And people not really understanding vocational qualifications too perhaps. Vocational subjects are not and have never been worthless. Of course academic children should 'pick solid GCSEs in proper subjects', but not all children are academic. And not all children would be en route to a good job in one of the professions if they took that path. Many would end up with a clutch of bad GCSEs and a disaffection with learning. How is that a good thing?

I teach across the ability range, and teach different courses to suit different abilities and interests, from A level in 'hard Science' to a 'softer' A level (Psychology) and vocational courses in Applied Science. We need to make sure that our children receive the right guidance to enable them to make informed choices regarding the courses they follow rather than ignorantly rubbishing some courses because we don't want our children to not be on that professional path.

claig Sun 24-Jan-10 18:17:52

TheFallenMadonna, agree with you. None of the vocational subjects are worthless. It's a big wide world out there and there is room for all sorts of disciplines. If people have a real passion for something then they should follow it.

30 years ago there was hardly any computer industry at all, there were no video games companies. 30 years on millions of pounds have been made in these industries, with Bill Gates being one of the richest men in the world. Pipils need to be flexible and be able to adapt to new concepts and grasp new opportunities as they become available. Following a tried and tested route to the "professions" will not make the country rich.

cocolepew Sun 24-Jan-10 18:20:10

Not everybody is focused on getting a university degree, and pushing themselves to finding to best possible job (which I'm taking from the op to mean very well paid). Teaching yourself GCSE subects as a sideline to 'worthy' qualifications hmm.

I would like my DDs to be happy at school and their adult life. It doesn't all revolve around looking the best/brighest.

noddyholder Sun 24-Jan-10 18:36:19

Amen coco

Peachy Sun 24-Jan-10 18:47:42

Xenia in your world it takes being a brain surgeon to do well

In my world holding down ajob as acleaner is pretty impressive tbh: almost all the kids in my Primary had some level of additional needs,maybe 70%?I remember being really pleased when I heard that aclassmate of mine who had seemeddestined for prison had been diagnosed with adhd in his twenties,put on aspeicaldiet and been given help, then become a window cleaner.

It's all relative.

'Course, my boy's school is doing Shakespeare (MND and Romeo) in yr 4 along with Philosophy and a course on classic mythology. With maybe 2 statemented kids per year. They will on balance do better in life by the Xenia Definition. My kids however won't, but I would be happy with a job and independence.

ahundredtimes Sun 24-Jan-10 18:51:06

No, but I think his point is about social mobility, isn't it. Not that everyone should do physics or MFL, but that those bright kids who could but are from disadvantaged backgrounds are given the opportunity to do so.

What I don't know is whether it's true that they can't. FM - I found your post really interesting and informative

Peachy Sun 24-Jan-10 18:51:25

'All you have always had to do and continue to do is fight your way tooth and claw over the last man in the usual survival of the fittest and the currency of that survival tends not to be brute force these days but the intelligence to know your GCSE French might be a better arrow in your quiver than GCSE something studies and that middlesex poly believe it or not may not be quite as well regarded as places where it's harder to get into. '

Actually that isn't all it takes.

I can beat most people (in RL,not uber qualified MN wink) academically but have never willingly clamberd over anyone in my life. Best description of me is Quaker I think, and that'sOK.Plenty to give and achieve,mega bucks sadly won't be part of it though. Anyway, once i'd got the house I wouldn't know what to do with it anyway.

pippibluestocking Sun 24-Jan-10 18:52:06

What is Xenia's world? I know she has privately educated children and is a great advocate of working mothers and private education and that she has an ex-husband, but what is your world, Xenia - what is your social background and what do you work as?

Peachy Sun 24-Jan-10 18:53:28

I know her detai9ls but won't out her: suffice it to say she is indeed very well qualified to talk about the higher earning more competitive end of academia and workinglife.

Actually I read this in the sunday times back in September -
"Mickey Mouse degrees www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/article6829650.ece"

Traditional academic qualifications have done well to create well rounded bankers and politicians have they hmm

noddyholder Sun 24-Jan-10 19:10:59

No education is worthless just as no person and what they do to put a roof over their head/food on the table is worthless.Xenia is a snob pure and simple and sees no worth in anything apart from ber model for work and life

claig Sun 24-Jan-10 19:43:31

oldenglishspangles, very interesting article, thanks for posting it
"Traditional academic qualifications have done well to create well rounded bankers and politicians have they "
I agree with your point above. The professions such as law and accountancy are vital but they are not essentially wealth creating. The real wealth of the country is created by business, scientists, engineers, media people etc. As a country we need the wealth generated by these people in order to have the services that we need in order to live in a civilised society.

Many of the future wealth creators will be mavericks, iconoclasts, independent creative individuals rather than the individuals in the professions. Many of them will have studied vocational subjects rather than traditional academic subjects.

In countries like America and Germany, the first choice of students is not to go into safe professions like law, but rather into science, engineering, business and creative industries.

No educational course is worthless, but in order not to do a disservice to the students who take these courses, they should all be rigorous and of a high standard. As a student says in the Sunday Times article

"A lot of the courses seemed to be kind of fake — they were, in a way, Mickey Mouse,” he says.

“I knew that in order to succeed you had to focus on either games programming or games art. You can get a qualification from universities in ‘games design’, but you’re not really a programmer, you’re not really an artist, you’re not really anything.

“Where Derby was great was that they said, ‘This is programming. It’s going to be hard.’

And it was. There were a lot of people who had worked in the industry who taught there. I learnt the most difficult programming languages, and I produced a lot of project work, which impressed people when it came to applying for jobs.”

TheFallenMadonna Sun 24-Jan-10 19:54:04

If I see Xenia misapply the concept of 'survival of the fittest' again I may spontaneously combust...


I teach by the way in what would be consisdered a low achieving state school, the A*-C percentages of which would send many MNetters running for either the estate agents or an independent. But we take tremendous care to advise our students as to the potential consequences of their various KS4 options. Our brightest students, from whatever background, do GCSEs. And in 'proper' subjects. And they get top grades. And do A levels. And go to universities. Good ones.

And other students do a mix, and might do A levels, and might go to university. Less good ones perhaps, but not worthless.

And other do mainly vocational courses, and go to college, and train to do something useful and interesting, although not 'professional'.

But I wonder whether the Head of Harrow, or Xenia, looks at the individual students in schools like mine, and sees how they fulfil their individual potential. Or whether like everyone else they look at the numbers and think somthing must be wrong when everyone isn;t doing the same as their own little bit of the world.

loungelizard Sun 24-Jan-10 19:55:50

The point is though that some children are being denied the opportunity to even apply for some courses because they don't have the right GCSEs to start with.

Those in the private sector (and at state grammar schools) are encouraged not to take certain subjects, knowing that they will be discounted by universities. If you read the small print in the admission criteria at most of the top universities you can see what they find acceptable.

The dreadful thing is that some bright children are not even in with a chance on some courses through absolutely no fault of their own because of their GCSEs. The private school children can get on those courses, not because they are more intelligent but because they haven't already ruled themselves out.

It's about time the government/education department or whatevercame clean about what is and what is not acceptable instead of pretending that everyone is in with the same chance, regardless of background or schooling. It is outrageous that some children should be denied an opportunity of going to a good university just by dint of their parents' ability to pay.

Obviously not all children are academically inclined and there should be courses/GCSEs to suit them, but we are talking about bright children who do want to achieve having the wool pulled over their eyes as to the actual 'worth' of the GCSEs they are taking.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 24-Jan-10 20:00:15

Are they though? Like I said, I teach in a school with the giving away of vocational courses, but we're not going to put our brightest students on the BTEC Applied Science course. They do Triple Science. Is there evidence that these bright children are doing the vocational courses rather than the academic one, or just that the take up of vocational courses is increasing, generally among students who would, as I said earlier, otherwise have ended up with a bunch of mediocre GCSEs?

claig Sun 24-Jan-10 20:01:48

"It's about time the government/education department or whatevercame clean about what is and what is not acceptable instead of pretending that everyone is in with the same chance, regardless of background or schooling"

very good point. I agree they should lay all the cards on the table and everybody should be given access to the same information and opportunities.

janeite Sun 24-Jan-10 20:03:14

FallenMadonna - I agree with nearly everything you are saying but it is indeed true, that in some schools, BTECs are replacing traditional GCSEs, even for the brighter pupils. This is what things like National Challenge are doing to state education. Bright pupils are being side-lined in the push to get as many other pupils as possible up to the 5 GCSEs benchmark.

Judy1234 Sun 24-Jan-10 20:08:03

And of course if these state schoolers being badly advised are bright they can do what I did about the internet when I was 14 and 15 and look up the criteria for what they want to do and if they don't more fool them you could say.

That's the interesting thing about the internet- you come across people where if someone achieves a job as a cleaner or window cleaner that's success. The average IQ is 100.

The only point of this thread is my concern that some state schools don't tell children what they ought to know. My friend whose daughter is at a state school who went off to some ex poly because her friends are going not realising that for the career she's chosen that will make things harder, it being an institution no private school would send its brightest children as indeed she was in her state school.

I haven't sent my children to state grammars or exam factories because education is about the wider person, developing your hobbies, having a full phalanx of skills, people skills, the right accent, ability to get on with others, lots of hobbies to ensure personal happiness and life long interests, opportunities to travel, make good friends for life from useful backgrounds and where we are to mix with different cultures which you don't get in the segregated state schools really but do in the private schools. The good exam results are good too but I as much buy the chance to lie in the sun listening to Handel or indeed singing it looking over lakes with similar parents who might have an IQ of more than 100 at school events than to have the chidlren in a school where of course 100% go to russel Group universities. Children tend mostly to be weak and follow the herd whether on to the dole or the local supermarket or something better. Put them in the right herd and they follow that as teenagers.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 24-Jan-10 20:08:44

We are a National Challenge school. Where students aren't going to get a C at GCSE, there's a push to alternative qualifications certainly. But those aren't the students we're talking about here. I agree that schools should offer a range of courses. IME, most do.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 24-Jan-10 20:14:13

But yes - the pressures of being in the National Challenge are ridiculous, and I can see how some Heads might make bad decisions as a result. And it's also a pretty good way of driving good staff out of the schools that need them most. I am relatively lowly and I am almost at breaking point with the demands placed on me.

claig Sun 24-Jan-10 20:19:10

Xenia, I agree with your point
"The only point of this thread is my concern that some state schools don't tell children what they ought to know"
similar to what loungelizard is saying. The schools ought to make these things more explicit, maybe it is this league table business that makes the schools reluctant to come clean

stressheaderic Sun 24-Jan-10 20:20:21

I teach in a National Challenge school.
Currently seeing my subject, MFL, being sidelined, shunted, squeezed until I do actually fear it will disappear from the curriculum altogether.

We've gone from 150 minutes a week of Languages, to 100 minutes a week on a rotation with History and Geography.

MFL put in same option block as Hist and Geog, so pupils are unable to choose a fully academic route.

The thing is, it's popular, and kids enjoy it...but since when did that count for anything.

kalo12 Sun 24-Jan-10 20:25:22

i think the problem is in britain we rate academic and university and thats it.

in france, for example, butchery , carpentry, and other craft trades are highly regarded, but we don't rate those in britain. even a waiter is a proper career in france, not something students do for a bit of extra cash.

chefs are extremely badly paid in britain and they work harder and longer than anybody.

it shouldn't be all about qualifications, there should be more kudos put on skills and apprenticships to take pride in a practical artistry

claig Sun 24-Jan-10 20:27:22

stressheaderic, I can't understand why they are doing this to languages. Do you know what their logic is?
When doing business with foreign companies it is a real handicap not to be able to speak their language. They all speak English, but that is not the point. If you speak their language and have a love for their culture, they treat you like an insider. British business will be harmed if we can't speak foreign languages.Madness.

claig Sun 24-Jan-10 20:30:18

kalo12, exactly right. Germany is like that as well, well respected apprenticeships that are rigorous and can take years to complete.

Judy1234 Sun 24-Jan-10 20:40:00

You just wouldn't get that in many private schools. The parents would insist just about every child could do history, geography and French and probably German, Spanish or Latin too. I did French, German, History, Geography etc GCSEs or O levels as they were and when my mother did hers in the 1940s you had to do 8 ior 10 core subjects to get your school certificate and that was 10 proper subjects or 8, can't remember english lit, lang, maths, a science or two, etc etc. If you didn't pass one you did the whole year again. If you didn't pass then you didn't have the school cert. Schools like Bedales are doing fewer GCSEs though now and are probably good with less academic children who may be good at crafts.

butadream Sun 24-Jan-10 20:52:03

The danger of schools like Bedales reducing GCSEs is that they will become more like finishing schools, surely, crafts make me think of cooking and flower-arranging...

The question is when is a vocational qualification worth anything at all? Is it only post-degree vocational courses that count? And doesn't that waste a lot of money and time for fee-paying students who know exactly what they want to do when they are 16?

Judy1234 Sun 24-Jan-10 21:00:38

I think they don't tend to get the brighter children at Bedales but probably do quite well for them if you look at the destination of leavers on their site www.bedales.org.uk/static/documents/Bedales_annualinfo%20lores.pdf#page=7

My best friend left our school at 16 to go to a comp to do typing, accounts, sewing and then set up her business at 18. I got a book from the library when I was 15 and used my life savings to buy a typewriter on which I typed a 50,000 word autobiography which no one would publish. I did write 30 books since then. However that Easter holiday distracting myself from my O level revision was a very useful practical skill but I don't think I really needed a course ni it. It was a free library book and today I type faster than anyone I've ever met, secretary or otherwise and it's been one of the best uses of my time I made. Some of these practical things you can learn easily when you're quite young. My 11 year olds cook pretty well because they've got full time working parents for example. They don't ened courses in it.

loungelizard Sun 24-Jan-10 21:37:10

The state grammar school my DCs attend/attended isn't an 'exam factory', they send many pupils to Oxbridge and every one to a Russell group university every year, but that is beside the point..

I think there is a need for many children to take non academic GCSEs. I think a university education should be elitist to a certain extent, ie only the top percentage of intelligence should be attending, BUT everyone should be given the same opportunity to apply.

Media studies is hard work, I am sure, and shouldn't be ridiculed but it is not in the same league as Physics for instance as an academically rigorous subject. If universities aren't going to accept it,and others such as Law, Business Studies, Dance, Tourism or whatever, then it should be common knowledge not just for those in the know. Once it is known, then fair enough if you choose to take those subjects, there is nothing to lose.

I note there has not been a great stampede of state school heads coming to the defence.

loungelizard Sun 24-Jan-10 21:46:59

See the other thread on this site about BTec or something being worth 4 GCSEs. There is someone on there whose son now wants to study medicine. Would be interesting to see if any university would accept a Btec as an 'equivalent' to 4 GCSES.I would think he has already ruled himself out, through no fault of his own!!! I am ready to stand corrected, but imagine no medical course will accept it over someone with 3 A*s in separate sciences.

There won't be anyone from a private or grammar school taking that qualification and then applying for medicine. It is so unfair.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 24-Jan-10 21:54:11

Just because somebody wants to study medicine, just because they want to do A levels in Science, doesn't mean that is going to happen. As I said, in my school, nobody who is a potential A level science candidate would be doing BTEC instead of GCSEs. Of course, I don;t know the situation in the other poster's school, but I gotr the impression that GCSEs were offered there.

Do they really send every student to a Russell group university. That seems rather odd. And limiting.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 24-Jan-10 21:56:41

I do agree with you on the nonsense of equivalence though, as I said in my first post. All that does is encourage bad practice in Heads who are under pressure to imporive their numbers, and add to confusion and misunderstanding about vocational courses. However, just because it is not equivlalent to 4 good GCSEs, doesn't mean it isn't a worthwhile course in its own right.

loungelizard Sun 24-Jan-10 22:04:31

Yes they do (send every student to a Russell group university)!!! Actually, having said that, a few go to do foundation courses at Art college.....but other than that, they do all go on to RG universities. It is a very academically selective school to start with, so not particularly surprising, but I am not concerned with the children at my DCs school.

I totally agree that just because someone wants to study medicine they can't necessarily do it, but, for example, my DS1 was spectacularly lazy and got C/D in mock exams etc, and if at a comprehensive I am sure would have been put in the BTec or whatever group. However, he pulled himself together and managed to get As in Biology and Chemistry GCSEs. Obviously he didn't apply to do Medicine because he wasn't good enough (and didnt want to and couldnt possibly have done them for A level, again another illustration of the dumbing down....) but it does just illustrate a point.

loungelizard Sun 24-Jan-10 22:07:49

I also agree that the Btec in itself isn't wrong as such, it's just that it should be made plain it is really equivalent to 3 A*s in separate sciences.....because it isn't!!!!!

TheFallenMadonna Sun 24-Jan-10 22:11:10

I think even in comprehensives hmm we can tell the difference between bright and lazy and hard working but not bright enough for A level.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 24-Jan-10 22:13:08

Is the Russell Group thing a policy? Because there are good courses at universities which aren't RG, which AFAIK has nothing to do with undergraduate teaching.

My old university Aston ranks above 16 of the 20 russell group universities when it comes to graduate employment. Going to a russell group university may get you an interview but it will not get you the job.

loungelizard Sun 24-Jan-10 22:31:12

Where the students go to university from my DCs' school isn't of concern. I only brought that up to illustrate that their school isn't an 'exam factory' or whatever. It isn't a policy, no, it is just where they choose to apply. No one is stopping them from applying anywhere else, should they want to. They can apply to anywhere they like, it isn't a problem.

What is being discussed is 'worthless' GCSEs in the context of applying for an academic course at many universities.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 24-Jan-10 22:37:20

No idea how that shows it isn't an exam factory.

But you brought it up and I was interested. That's all.

Merrylegs Sun 24-Jan-10 22:46:40

"I think even in comprehensives we can tell the difference between bright and lazy and hard working but not bright enough for A level."

<nods head in vigorous agreement with basically everything FallenM has said>

loungelizard Sun 24-Jan-10 22:47:31

(The 'exam factory' remark was in reply to Xenia's posting that she didn't choose to send her DCsto an exam factory grammar school.

I was merely pointing out that state grammar schools equal private schools in their successful applications to certain unviersities. But, as I have said, that is beside the point completely......).

Judy1234 Sun 24-Jan-10 23:16:57

I think my children's schools *(private) just about exclusively send children to RG or very similar universities too. That's what the schools for academic chilren in both sectors private and state do. And that then feeds through - it's easier to make your career in medicine, to become an equity partner in Ernst & Young or whatever your aim is or even acting or politics - you get to Oxford make your contacts, do the hobbies, make the right friends etc

It's so much more than just the exams. If I look at my 3 chilren who are university or almost post that stage and how they and their friends get or got from point A to point B it's fascinating. Some of those who are chidlren of housewives are after a rich husband because by 28 they want ot be married at home being subservient despite the AAA at a level etc. Others were born lazy and will never do much. Others again are following a parent into a non lucrative or very lucrative career. Obviously the school is just one influence but a big one. My daughter did show jumping, lots of it because I worked hard and picked a good career so I could buy her a horse etc. She got her first job for various reasons, one was very good exam results, right university but there are masses of people with that and part of the assessment day was chatting and she was with someone who kept horses so was my investment on the horses as worthwhile therefore as what I spent on school fees? Or was it simply that she's the oldest child and never been shy? Fascinating mixture of factors in how people get to where they do but none of the older ones would have a chance in many suitable careers if they didn't have good GCSEs in traditional subjects.

Nothing to stop them of course setting up their own businesses having left school at 16.

I don't know the list of RG universities by heart. In fact I'm not even sure my 3 were at them but perhaps I ought to check.

moondog Sun 24-Jan-10 23:19:07

It contiunes way past school age.
Interview with over indulged middle class women in Telegraph yesterday on what to do 'now the children are off thier hands'.One was doing a PhD in interior design magazines.
I shit you not.

loungelizard Sun 24-Jan-10 23:27:02


Judy1234 Sun 24-Jan-10 23:29:02

Yes, but I hope most people realise which qualifications are pointless.

Okay I just checked my local school - the comprehensive

"GCSE results at.... a pleasing improvement with 5 A*-C grades including English and Maths improving by 12% to 34%. "

So that means was 22% A - C. I wonder how much were A and A*? How bad can you be in a comprehensive school in an area without state grammars? Then my daugher's old school 96$% A and A* never mind A - C but of course that's selective but surely the comp with no local grammars should have lots of clever as well as not clever children.

Xenia Here we go again - all housewives are subservient - protitutes that what you called us last time wasnt it? You are symbolic of the 'broken britain' cliche. 'Oxford contacts, right friends' Any society that values a person by the weight of his/her address book is doomed to fail. What you and yours do is equally as bad the dumbing down of the gcse. Lets raise a glass to the old boys network and all the work it does for holding back the unworthy.

NotAnOtter Sun 24-Jan-10 23:40:52

others who are the children of housewives are after a rich husbands

wth xenia

5 gay boys for me then

Judy1234 Sun 24-Jan-10 23:43:22

I was just speculating on what matters. It might even be simpler - one daughter is quite pretty and blonde. I use my image on marketing which doesn't hinder me. You can hire no the basis of looks all things being equal as long as it's not sexism or racism etc. of course it's an overall package and I think you enhance your child's package if you breed with a good looking clever man but also get the child a good education and rounded hobbies and some jobs, not mine but certainly journalism is one, connections and getting in when you graduate can be the most important factor.

grin notanotter. see your 5 rent boys and raise you a rent boy and two prostitutes wink

Why not your job?

loungelizard Mon 25-Jan-10 00:09:02

The trouble is, Xenia, most of those opportunities are not open to most children. You move in a priveliged circle (as I am sure you well know...). Most people aren't privately educated and thus have all the connections.

However, that doesn't equate to most people are stupid or less intelligent than those privately educated.

What they could do without, however, is being forced to take pointless exams in pointless subjects, whilst those in the know are getting into top universities, not throught their better intelligence, but through their ability to work the system.

Obviously that isn't the be all and end all of everything. That would be a totally simplistic view but at the moment those most disadvantaged are being completely misled as to the reality and consequences of their educational 'choice' (ha ha).

NotAnOtter Mon 25-Jan-10 01:10:14

oldenglish got one little wench here myself

poor offspring of the bedder!

tatt Mon 25-Jan-10 06:10:00

I have put up with the trojans on this site today to reply to "survival of the fittest". Actually we're talking about an education system designed to allow the survival of the greediest, most selfish and most unpleasant. It also rewards the most physically advanced.

None of this is about intelligence and certainly not emotional intelligence. So fittest for what?

Judy1234 Mon 25-Jan-10 07:32:20

Sadly that is what is mankind is - greedy, selfish etc and those ones tend to come out trumps, in all cultures and societies but also I would add intelligence and looks into that too. Also the emotionally intelligent who can work their way into the psyche of the person they are being interviewed by or persuading to take them on for work experience do well too.

The issue seems to be that once the grammar school route was abolished in most areas fewer poor clever children get through. There is an argument that once you've given equal opportunities then after a time those at the bottom are those rightly there and that social mobility will therefore ease off correctly but I doubt we are at that point.

If I age 14 could do research on what to take and where to go anyone these days can if they're clever. The point is that parents who send children to good schools (state or private) can assume most of the right decisions will be taken for them and that's not the case if the child is in a school which isn't sensible like that or where the teachers won't send children to places which are too posh for them because the teachers are left wing or have low expectations of children like the lady barrister mentions from her state school in my second link above.

noddyholder Mon 25-Jan-10 08:35:17

I was privately educated got all the exams went to uni etc but it is not a guarantee of success in life.It really depends what you consider success.I was artistioc but steered to academic success.Then I got seriously ill and my whole life changed.This view is too simplistic.I know many in great careers lots of £ but totally unhappy.In the end I made a career of my passion and my studies are irrelevant to what I do now.My oldest friend left school with no exams and a certificate in childcare.She produced madonnas last tour.No guarantees as life sometimes intervenes.

noddyholder Mon 25-Jan-10 08:37:03

Greedy and selfish do not come out trumps those are not the traits of a decent individual.Maybe they are wealthy and have all the trappings but that is only success if you measure it that way.

violetqueen Mon 25-Jan-10 10:01:57

^The issue seems to be that once the grammar school route was abolished in most areas fewer poor clever children get through^

Do you mean get through to University ?
Any actual figures to quote ?

Judy1234 Mon 25-Jan-10 10:11:13

www.suttontrust.com/newsarchive.asp#a016 Sutton trust figure but there are probably others on their site too.

If fewer poor children get to better universities than the 60s but more poor children in general do better than it may not matter but if you recruit from too narrow a group you lose some good candidates and as a company do ultimately suffer. If your customers are a very mixed group and none of your staff are from that group in terms of culture, sex, religion, class, race etc then ultimately the business might suffer.

qumquat Mon 25-Jan-10 10:15:37

Where are all these schools that are abandoning GCSes in favour of BTECs? I've never come across any. I work at an 11-16 inner city comp in London and we don't offer a single BTEC, the argument being that the BTEC courses require much more independent motivation than GCSE, which we wouldn't get from our students. I went to Cambridge (from a comp, SHOCK!) and believe me I am passionate about making sure my kids know the best way to get wherever they want to be in life.

Bonsoir Mon 25-Jan-10 10:16:21

I don't know why, now that there is a NC, that there cannot be a NC that dictates which subjects must be taken at GCSE so that schools cannot do this dreadful disservice to their pupils.

Why, for example, could there not be an obligatory core of GCSEs to include eg English, Mathematics, a Science, a Language, History and Geography that all children had to take?

<much nodding in the corner towards noddyholder>

Peachy Mon 25-Jan-10 10:29:51

dammit,kind and ugly,double stuffed then.

And I wish I was sunservient as a housewie,I might be happier then.

noddyholder Mon 25-Jan-10 10:34:48

Bonsoir that is what happens at my ds school.He goes to a local state school and his education has been far more comprhensive than mine ever was!He is a lot happier more confident and so are most of his friends.Xenia@s use of the word poor is hmm.I would love to hear what her children really think and would bet money that she screams new money.It is mostly those who have crawled their way up who live in fear of going back!

Madsometimes Mon 25-Jan-10 10:35:16

I broadly agree with Xenia. Bright children from comprehensives should be pointed in the direction of traditional academic subjects. However, as children tend to do more GCSE's today than were done previously, I do not think that having one weak subject is a problem, if the other 9 GCSE's are in academic subjects. This could be media studies, or art or technology.

I think that there is a greater problem in doing media studies, psychololgy, law etc at A' Level. This is because most students are only taking 3 or 4 A' Levels, and therefore the subjects do matter. I did raise an eyebrow that dh's very bright niece did psychology A' Level, after getting a string of A's at GCSE. Luckily for her, she did get a place at UCL so it did not hinder her, but it was a risk IMO.

Madsometimes Mon 25-Jan-10 10:55:08

At the comprehensive school my dd's will go to they have to take English lit and lang, Maths, French, RE, double science (can take triple if they want), and citizenship (?). So there is at least one weak subject in the compulsory list, but the others are secure academic subjects. They require the children to take French even though the NC does not require a language, so not all comprehensives are pushing their children into the easy options.

In fact, the children only get to choose two subjects for themselves. Of course the dc could pick media studies and PE, and for some children this may be good choices. As other posters have said, not all children at comprehensive schools are academically minded. I suspect that the brighter children are encouraged to select traditional subjects.

noddyholder - you are just jealous of Xenia wink
shock 'only taking 3 or 4 A levels'
shock 'psycology' being a 'problem' subject

If the children (especially those who parents take no interest) and their parents are better advised then the will be a lower take up of those subjects. It should not be done on the basis of the BTEC being a dumb quailfication - it will suit some people (not always the less intelligent either) better than doing A Levels.

noddyholder Mon 25-Jan-10 11:25:58

smile Actually I was brought up where the trad route was seen as the only way and having my own child in a state comprhensive with so much choice has really educated me on a whole different system and I have been very impressed.esp with the wide range of subjects on offer and without the assumption that its uni or the scrapheap which was very much the message at my old school!

loungelizard Mon 25-Jan-10 11:43:30

Okay then, if the BTec is a perfectly acceptable qualification and really on a par with four GCSEs (eg Chemistry, Biology, Physics not Tourism, Healthcare etc etc), then the universities should be accepting it and not preferring students who have, for example, three separate science GCSEs.

What is so wrong is that there is a possibility that universities aren't accepting it, and some students are being encouraged to take it not realising that it won't, in reality, be accepted should they want to apply to a highly academic/scientfic course when they are older.

While state schools continue to peddle this nonsense that they are equal to four GCSEs or whatever, the huge gap between the private and state sector is going to get bigger and those already highly advantaged children are going to be even more advantaged when applying to university. If anyone wants to really close the gap, they should make examinations/courses harder and then only the truly intelligent(in both the state and private sector) would get top marks, not just the ones whose parents can afford to pay. The vast majority wouldn't achieve the top grades and then the standard of education for that group would have to be the top priority.

Peachy Mon 25-Jan-10 11:47:35

Psychology A Level has served me well,esp. the stats component as it meant I was able to helptutor other students ion research stats when they were struggling in Uni lab. Pretty impressivefor someone with dyscalculia in fact- had I gone striaght in for it at 18 I wouldn't have ahd a chnce, stepped was good.

Anda lot of it was science: physiology etc. There is lightweight Psych out there no doubt but it doens't have to be that.

DS1 wants to be a theatrical makeup artist. I get the value of absequalifications andbeing able toconvert them into choices, but there is no point in him taking subjects he willfail badly at (judging by amount of TA help he gets) when he could positively excel at otherswith all the resultant boost in self esteem. Of course there has to be provision for the most academically able and that should be done in an informedway,but by definiotn of the most able, most won't fall into that group and areas entitled to arange of options other than crap grades in subjects they have no ability at or intention of using ever again.

DS1 wants out of school already, at ten. If him passing on to vocationals ubjects enables him tomaintain an interest in education and getting a qual,then big up that.

noddyholder Mon 25-Jan-10 11:50:46

My youngest brother did a btec went to uni didn't seem to limit his choices will have to ask him.

Peachy Mon 25-Jan-10 11:52:05

But LL,many students doing a BTEC passdirectly intowork,and at that satge can show some direct workrelevant knowledge. Not all kids will go to Uni.

And not all will go to Uni at 18 either: DH's BTEC + life skills allowed him to jump over the heads of a few A-levelled up 8 year olds.not on a law degree of course, he'd hate that- a practical technology one.And funnily enough he is doing very well.

People are not flow charts:there is no takethis arrow then follow that route. Life is cobbled together from bits of skills,qualifications and chance. There are some people who will do a MPhil at Oxbridge forwhom there probably is only one shot, but also there is the rest of us who do it differently. I am certain doing my degree later suited me much better, and my kids will be raised knowing that there are (almost)always options.

Peachy Mon 25-Jan-10 11:52:51

18 I know they say degrees are being dumbed down but amnot aware its all fart jokes and toilet humour yet!

MissWooWoo Mon 25-Jan-10 12:13:48


is it 1984 again? When I was choosing my O'Levels the "advice" given to me by school (an all girls with quotas to fill no doubt) and indeed by my parents (working class with middle class aspirations) was to take "solid" subjects particularly science. Hated science, crap at science and hence did very badly in science come exam time (I blame you Thatch)

I still managed to get to universtiy eventually as I did ok in my core subjects (english lang and lit, maths and a language was compulsory - and quite right too) and went back to college to do a couple more A Levels in subjects that I wanted to do (and went on to do one of them at uni) and consequently excelled at.

My point is not everyone's cut out to follow the same "solid" path in life.

Madsometimes Mon 25-Jan-10 12:17:55

When I said only taking 3 or 4 subjects at A' Level I was comparing this to the 9 or 10 subjects that students take at GCSE, not implying that students should take more.

I took GCSEs in 1989, when they had only been introduced for one year. We were only allowed to take 8 subjects, which was appropriate for O' Level study, but was actually very easy at GCSE. Now most students seem to take 9 or 10.

I would be interested to know how indie schools structure their GCSE's. Surely when students get 10 or 12 GCSE's, they cannot all be in Mandarin, Physics and Latin. I am quite sure that they allow their students to take at least one fun subject, even if it is art or IT rather than media studies or sociology.

NotAnOtter Mon 25-Jan-10 12:18:27

peachy ds1 sounds like he ROCKS! wink

Peachy Mon 25-Jan-10 12:25:14

NAO he wants to be Gok LOL, I strongly suspect he will be grin. H ecertainly has the looks- skinny,blonde mop of curls, blue eyes..... I atkehim out as my style advisor already, far more useful to me than sixty seven aA grades in gard science wink

loungelizard Mon 25-Jan-10 12:26:01

I completely agree that different qualifications are right for different people!!

What I am objecting to is some students being wrongly advised that their qualifications are equal to others when they are not. I am sure the Btech does get some students on to some courses and I am sure it is a very worthwhile course for some students. I am perfectly aware that many students don't want to go to university and indeed many shouldn't be going. They should be going straight into employment where they would be far happier, but there aren't enough jobs, are there?

However, if anyone wants to stop the stranglehold the private sector has on the top places at top universities then students need to be told the truth about what is really acceptable and what isn't. At the moment some students are ruling themselves out of a place through no fault of their own.

Peachy Mon 25-Jan-10 12:35:22

Actually I dont think they should go straight into employment either- training yes, 'be skilled at whatever you do, whether fixing the Queen or fixing the loo' (as my Dad never said)

I did agree much further down that I think Xenia is right for the most able.

Loungelizard I dont disagree that some students are given the wrong advice about qualifications. the private sector (often) has better resources and often (not always) attracts the best teachers. You can only address the strangehold of the private sector by starting at the bottom. Improve the standard of education from the bottom up and there will be more competition and it will be harder to find 'excuses' such as btec to discriminate against those not fortunate enough to go to the right school. The state system is ofen 1 teacher divided by 30 children - you can really call that the state providing the bare minimum. ( depending on your school it probably isnt even that)

EvilHRLady Mon 25-Jan-10 12:58:48

I'm afraid it's also a bit naive to believe that employers don't look at qualifications, and make judgements about their value. This is as much to do with grade inflation as it is with choice of subject.

Hiring managers want to be given a short list of candidates who will be right for the job - there are actually very few jobs where qualifications translate directly into ability to perform a specific role (I am not talking about any job where you need specific training & knowledge to carry out that job), so people will make assumptions about what a CV says about a candidate & their ability to perform.

So, managers set about applying criteria for what they believe is needed, and something that is quite common is looking for ''good academics''.

IME, these managers will of course be placing their own filter on what constitutes ''good academics'' but it is surely not wholly surprising that people will infer that A grades in 'traditional' subjects and/or a course at a university that is well-known means they have a candidate who can apply themselves to something difficult/can learn & retain information/can be successful.

Managers may well be looking at a large number of CVs/job applications - in the same way that universitities are bombarded by applications - and mentally rank what they are looking at.

Qualifications/place of study/subjects studied, ie ''academics'', becomes shorthand for a set of qualities and skills that managers believe to be present - probably based on their own academic experience.

I am not saying it's right - but as Loungelizard has said several times - if you don't know how these things ^could be^ interpreted by someone else, you are on the back foot. You need to make informed choices, and be prepared to make your case for why you made those choices.

gramercy Mon 25-Jan-10 13:06:50

But the problem is the politicising of the education system. My sil, a secondary school teacher in a comprehensive school, was told that they must not give advice on options whereby they promoted one subject's worth over another. She said she ignored this and steamed in to stop a bright girl who had an expressed an interest in being a doctor taking Health and Social Care A Level.

Likewise ds's friend's sister told me she was taking A Level Law. I stuck my oar in and phoned her father and said (tactfully!) this was a mistake. He was most grateful that I had interfered - the parents come from India and are not familiar themselves with the ins and outs of the British education system but are super keen to see their bright offspring do well.

evilHRlady The cv 'selection' process is a whole other can of worms. If you have 400 applicant with Identical a level subjects and grades how do you differentiate which 50 would would like to offer a place to?

Tortington Mon 25-Jan-10 13:21:18

a lot of the conversation has been structured around getting the top jobs after coming out of a top uni.

well - thats just not how the world works for most people.

dh went to a RG uni - he didn' even know it was a RG uni or that there was a UNI hierarchy ( beyond ex-poly's are shit grin)

he has a distinctly average job.

i went to an ex poly - i have always had a better work history than dh.

i agree with the sentiment that education doesn't stop if you blow it at age 15/16. i did my degree aged 21 with three kids under 5 years old.

i do think GCSE's are important though, and that with good GCSE grades - one can get a good career history and easily be at the same level or higher - than somone who has done a degree.

EvilHRLady Mon 25-Jan-10 13:21:50

OES - that's kind of my point - there are lots of subjective judgements being made all the time. I was really responding to an earlier post that said employers don't care about qualifications/subjects. IME/O - they do.

Judy1234 Mon 25-Jan-10 13:23:11

Gramercy is right and that's my fear. ALthough even a father in india can go on google and search - "is A level law a good a level to take if you want to study law at university" but the schools should be making that clear too.

"I would be interested to know how indie schools structure their GCSE's. Surely when students get 10 or 12 GCSE's, they cannot all be in Mandarin, Physics and Latin."
I think they do fewer than state grammars - there isn't this rush to have a large number. That leaves time for all your hobbies, DoE awards, time just to rest, sleep (teenagers need lots of sleep), go with your school choir to the choir of the year competition, play lacrosse in the US or whatever.

My 3 older children who have been through that system did about 9 or 10 may be? They all did
1. English lit
2. English lang
3. A language - 2 French, one German - all not good at languages though so dropped latin and dropped either French or German.
4/5. Two or three sciences
6. or 7 Geography or history or both - the one who dropped history regrets it.
8 two did classical civilisation which you do if you give up latin and isn't a particularly hard GCSE so that's an easier option.
9. They all did music I think because one had a music scholarships and all got 2 or 3 Associated grade 8s on various instruments and sing very well, but that again is an easier option hobby one really.

May one did RE, can't remember.
I never once looked at a single piece of GCSE course work though so I might be forgetting their subjects or less involved than some parents are.

One might have done an IT subject too as an extra.

In 1977 I did English lit, lang, maths, French, German, Geography, History, double science and then later music.

I think it's ludicrous to be told not to promote the worth of one subject over another. It's like a communist state saying dustbin men are as clever as brain surgeons. It's like Animal Farm all over again. the reality is every employer in the land discriminates against mickey mouse subjects so why lull children into a false sense of assurance that their 10 GCSEs in rubbish subjects have some worth?

Peachy Mon 25-Jan-10 13:25:57

3 under 5? pah you lightweight Custy,I had 3 under 8 and a newborn (5weeks at finals iirc) on my breast whilst typing dissertation wink

Seriously though I agreewith you,its not how lifeworks in the real world for most people.

A goodsolid education is important whatever you do and good GCSE'sareas usefulto apainter as a GP albeit in different ways. And situations such as grammercy gave are just silly,nothing is to be gained by that nonsense. It'sjust a shame if that develops into removing options for the less academically viable kids. Keep the btec and the x factor studies,but be honest what it is and whom it suits.

claig Mon 25-Jan-10 13:27:26

I agree with you that good schools are vital, and high standards are very important.
But I think that "soft" subjects can also be taught to a high standard, in which case universities would no longer find them unacceptable. I wish I had had the chance to study philosophy at school. This is probably classed as a "soft" subject, but there is nothing soft about it if taught to a high standard. It is one of the highest forms of thought that mankind is capable of. The extra choice of subjects that schools now offer is great, but they must be of a high standard.

I agree with you that many private schools are very good, otherwise parents would not fork out the cash to pay for them. But there are many great state schools too, and many state school pupils will be far brighter than the pupils in private schools, who were lucky enough to have parents who could afford the fees.

Where I think I disagree with you is on the "survival of the fittest" type viewpoint. You have been very successful, but I doubt it is due to you being the "fittest". Your hard work and skills have been the major factor, but Lady Luck also helped you and fortune smiled on you.
There will be many people "fitter" than you, who have not been as successful.

"There is an argument that once you've given equal opportunities then after a time those at the bottom are those rightly there and that social mobility will therefore ease off correctly but I doubt we are at that point."
I think in general you see it as those at the top deserve to be where they are through their intrinsic qualities of fitness, and those at the bottom end up where they are due to their lack of fitness.

The problem with this view is that it fails to take into account that those at the bottom are not on a level playing field, they do not get the same equality of opportunity, they do not receive the same level of input. They are not lucky enough to go to the best schools and therefore their innate ability may possibly never be developed to the same extent as the more fortunate children at the top.

We know that many members of the royal family are not the sharpest pencils in the drawer. Even with all the best tutoring available, their grades were not too good. Many poor children on sink estates would have far surpassed them, if they had had access to the same quality of tuition that the royals had. There is huge ability and potential in the children at the bottom, but it may never be tapped if the quality of education that they receive is not good. Hardly any of the child prodigies that we read about in the papers, the majority of them home-schooled by their parents, come from the top of society.

When I was doing my degree, I used to offer personal maths tuition. One little fellow I used to teach was up for an 'E' grade. He proudly told me how he started to raise his hand in class and answer questions. The teacher used to say to him "what's happened to you, are you feeling well?". He never let on that he was having lessons, but was chuffed to show how good he was. He phoned me to tell me that he got a 'C' grade in the exam. I was slightly disappointed because I knew without a doubt that he could have got an 'A' if he had had a longer time with me. There was also an ex-pat family that had returned to the UK and the son wanted to get an apprenticeship at an engineering company. Unfortunately he had failed the maths test, but the company did allow him to try the exam again. I went to their house and gave him 7 or 8 lessons, based on the concepts covered in the exam. He phoned me up to tell me that he had got 100% on the exam. Without lessons, he would never have passed the exam and never have got the job. All of these children are very capable, they just need good tuition.

As Edison said "genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration", and often the poor children at the bottom work harder than the children at the top, who may rest on their laurels.

Peachy Mon 25-Jan-10 13:29:13

<<would like to point out that I did DoE in my bog standard comp alomng with gaining Grand Prior award in St John Cadets,and being a Young Leader in guiding: that is not the domain of the indies exclusively>>

<<feels duty bound to acknowledge that DoE came to a halt after we got so lost that rangers had totrack us down in sudden hurricanes and our leader had p'd off with another group forgeting we were out,taking our itinerary with him; still proud of the GrandPrior though>>

Peachy Mon 25-Jan-10 13:31:25

'There is an argument that once you've given equal opportunities then after a time those at the bottom are those rightly there and that social mobility will therefore ease off correctly but I doubt we are at that point."

In fairness,Xenia has always be very understanding of the limitations palced upon me by my carer duties and never impoied that I deserve my low income 'bottom' fate through any intrinsic inability.

Obviosuly you don't know that but I though fair to point out.

Builde Mon 25-Jan-10 13:34:38

I think that this is a bit of a non-debate because most schools (Comprehensive schools and others) insist that children do:

science (Single science for the strugglers, double science for the midde lot and separate sciences for the brightest)
a modern language
a humanity (geography, history or RE)
CDT (what used to be cookery and wookworking a long time ago)

This only leaves space for one other options and I can't see whether it matters what you take at this point; let personal interest dominate.

Infact, I'm not sure that the National Curriculum allows you not to do the core subjects.

And, as for steering children down soft subjects; a comprehensive would never let the bright children drop the key subjects in favour of anything else.

I can say that - as a sciency type - I had to put far more work into my Music GCSE than any of the science/maths stuff. We had to compose tons of music and it was utterly time consuming. I can't see how music was a soft option.

loungelizard Mon 25-Jan-10 13:37:07

That is true Custardo about the world not revolving around top jobs from top unis.

BUT with so many more people being encouraged to go to university, it has a knock on effect for our children.

When I was at school (I am 50) the vast majority didn't go to top universities. Only the top few percent did. At my grammar school, many left after the 5th form and went into employment. Only a handful gained 3 As at A level.

Now, with everyone being encouraged to go, it does matter that parents and students are properly informed. They are led to believe that all degrees are equal, all universities are equal. They are not. The private and grammar schools are aware of this and advise accordingly. Why can't other schools do that as well?

It works both ways, it is as unfair to encourage students who aren't academic enough to aim for top courses as well as not advising children to reach their potential.

I absolutely agree that all students these days should be given the opportunity to apply and there should not be the mentality of 'its not for the likes of us' etc, but there is a two tier system going on these days and it is absolutely not to the benefit of bright children from poor backgrounds who are not party to the ins and outs of what is and what is not acceptable.

Why can't the education sector just be honest and give proper informed advice about the ins and outs of taking various GCSEs and courses. Many may still choose to take the so called soft subjects which is absolutely fine. Many may need to take those subjects for the career they want but at least they will be making an informed choice.

completely agree with claig

Builde Mon 25-Jan-10 13:42:57

As one who did 13 GCSEs, I think this is how I manage to do mostly 'solid subjects'.

Maths (a year early)


English Lit
English Lang
Russian (in spare time)

Additional Maths O'level (AO Maths) or something like that because O-levels had been dropped in the uk - I think we took an international paper



I wouldn't recommend it. It would have been ok in the days of O'level but with the coursework involved in GCSE it was too much work. It made my four A-levels feel like a doddle. And, as I said in my earlier post, the so called 'soft ones' involved the most work.

claig Mon 25-Jan-10 13:43:34

thanks Peachy, I apologise Xenia, I didn't mean it as an insult. I haven't had time to read all of the Xenia threads, but they are always stimulating.

But in general it is an argument that is often heard, and which I think is wrong.

asdx2 Mon 25-Jan-10 13:43:49

I think in sixth form there is an awareness and a snobbery in fact as to what are "worthy" choices at AS/A2 level.
Certainly dd is aware of a divide between the students who study serious subjects and the media/drama/technology ones.
In dd's school worthy would be Maths, Further Maths,Eng Lang, Eng Lit, History Economics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology,Politics, Modern Foreign Languages.
Those not considered serious would be Geography (too much sticking and colouring in apparently) Geology (too many trips) Media, Business, Drama, Music, Psychology, Sociology. Health and Social Care, Law, any Technology subject Food. Resistant materials , product design etc.
These are the opinions of dd and her friends not sure if they are echoed by the staff in school or what decides which list.

NigelTheWonderBoy Mon 25-Jan-10 14:01:33

I am confused as to how Xenia's father was/is a pyschiatrist without ever having gone on to higher education and gaining a medical degree.

gramercy Mon 25-Jan-10 14:07:38

In my day (early 80s) all the thickos did A Level Geography and Biology. A lot of learning off by heart.

However a friend of mine who did those A Levels now has one of the top jobs in the whole country.

Me... you couldn't fault my exam choices but now.. well, I do a lot of MNetting...

mumoverseas Mon 25-Jan-10 14:09:31

Very interesting thread, thank you Xenia.

DD is in year 9 and we've just had the information through about her options choices and interesting to note there are quite a few BTEC subjects on there and diplomas. I am not willing for her to be a guinea pig so she will be doing traditional GCSEs. I will concede to her request for dance GCSE as the only soft option.

DS is in L6 doing his AS levels. For a number of years now he has had his heart set on reading law (previously he wanted to go to Cambridge but in the last week or so he seems to be favouring Oxford) and becoming a barrister.
Slightly worrying to read here that some think that psychology is a soft/not serious option as that is one of his subjects. His school (private if that makes a difference) are well aware of his career/university ambitions and there has been no comment with regards to psychology not being appropriate.

Judy1234 Mon 25-Jan-10 14:25:22

Nigel, I think you must be muddling up posts or me with someone else. My father, who died 18 months ago, did a physics degree as his father couldn't afford for a second son to read medicine, then they change the rules after the War so there were grants or something and then he did medicine once he'd graduated. My mother supported him. She said she was the first woman in her town to claim the married man's tax allowance in consequence.

Mumoveas - I think it's worth lookingo n the best in terms of A level results academic private school web sites in the UK and looking at what A levels they offer and what people take. Most of them set out how many pupils took which subject and then trying to limit the child's choice to those traditional subjects because those schools know what the universities prefer.

Of course it's all fashion... if you go back far enough English boarding schools for boys taught latin and greek and science was very non U, not taught, rubbished..... in the 1800s. Then science did start getting a look in. So the intrinsic or moral issue of what subjects we ought to study is very different from the pragmatic ones. I get CVs ever week and some are absolutely appalling, don't even give the GCSE grades some of them and others are classic looking good things (not that I hire anyone). So it might be good that they study happiness at Wellington or learn meditation at X or even do Critical Thinking exams in the sixth form at Westminster school but most employers will be 25 yars out of date and looking for what was good in their hey day even if the modern subject is just as rigorous.

Also go on the Oxbridge web sites because they set out what A levels "count". Even if one counts but it looks at bit modern and dodgy can be best to avoid it as the HR person in 5 years time assessing the CV may not have such liberal views as the all inclusive left wing university entrance person. My sister read psychology at Oxford and she certainly didn't do psychology A level. No decent lawyers really do A level law either. I've marked the papers. It's done by people with an IQ of 80 usually who can hardly right - laughing as I type but it really was absolutely dreadful.

Judy1234 Mon 25-Jan-10 14:29:17

Oh and of course when you're 48 like I am it's completely irrelevant, all this stuff. It's how good were you last week which counts. Last week I was in Iran and I "only" have a first degree. They had promoted me to a doctorate (apparently they'd assessed by books and reputations at a local university and decided it was the equivalent !) and issued certificates with that (my fake doctorate - oh dear) which of course is dreadful but for them the issue of whether you have a PhD was crucial. Hard to explain that in London it's you eat what you kill and if you've killed well that matters much more than the route you took in. I suppose the point is and I have 3 20 something children going through all this, if you have the right qualifications it just makes things a lot easier. There are back door ways to get into things later with different or worse qualifications but they are harder ways even if you have the other skills - hard work, look good, clever or whatever you need for that job.

mumoverseas Mon 25-Jan-10 14:32:00

Thank you Xenia. He didn't choose A level law as we'd heard it was not a good choice. He did however study GCSE law independently when he was 14 as he was interested in it and as a result of his studies this reinforced his interest in becoming a lawyer.
He is currently studying French, Economics, Psychology and Maths

loungelizard Mon 25-Jan-10 14:33:36

Mumoverseas: Cambridge definately, and poss Oxford, do at least say on their websites which subjects they regard as 'soft' (although they don't use that terminology, can't remember was the euphamism for it is...).

I am sure Psychology is ok as long as the other A levels are academic subjects. Plenty from my DCs' school take Psychology and many go on to Oxbridge. I would imagine your son's school would definately know if it was acceptable or not. I am sure Geography is deemed acceptable these days too.

mumoverseas Mon 25-Jan-10 14:40:40

lounglizard thats what I thought. DC checked with Cambridge last year and Psychology was ok and also we checked with Oxford a few weeks ago and again ok.
Thats why I'm suprised to read on here it is considered by some to be a soft/unacceptable subject.

I'm sure geography is more than acceptable. A very good friend of mine who is now a barrister did his degree in Geography. This came out when he was a pupil and was coming to Court with me and was naviating whilst I drove and he got us horrendeously lost somewhere in Kent grin

Judy1234 Mon 25-Jan-10 15:24:01

French, Economics, Psychology and Maths

Good list. Psychology is not though a very traditional subject so just that and 3 other similar not good ones wouldn't look good.

Builde Mon 25-Jan-10 15:49:33

I would imagine that if you wanted to do a Geography degree, then Geography A-level is essential and not considered 'soft'.

A sister of mine did Durham's equivalent of Sociology and her A-levels were in 'hard' subjects; maths, further maths, physics and chemistry. She had to work quite hard to get a place because her A-levels weren't in subjects like history or psychology.

Plus, if you really don't like a 'hard' subject' you are not going to do well in it.

I think that Cambridge (and Oxford) are probably more interested in the ability of the candidate than whether an A-level choice is 'soft'. However, they obviously insist on maths and physics if you wish to study engineering, or English if you wish to study English. But they make it clear on their websites what subjects you should take.

What reality does this reflect though? Unless you want to be a doctor or a barrister or perhaps work for the home office, it just doesn't matter that much. And there are plenty of ways to be successful without making these choices. Oxbridge is not the be all and end all. Fine, so go to Oxbridge or similar if you want one of those jobs, but don't tell your children that psychology or law are pointless if they want to do anything else.

Many management consultants command enormous salaries. As do some IT consultants, most of whom have got their 'education' through experience. Those I've met who have focussed on computer science fared worse in the real world than those who can develop great business applications - a skill which really comes from experience, curiosity and empathy.

I'm completing my MBA this year, but faffed around horrendously at school - I got A Levels but two in 'soft' subjects. A friend of mine is now qualifying as a lawyer and did likewise. Many more people seem to get their second wind later in life.

Certainly, I see names like the BBC bandied around here and I don't believe having an Oxbridge degree helps you one iota over someone who has a hands-on degree. The old boys' network isn't so valid these days.

Getting out there, doing your own networking and being enthusiastic are INVALUABLE though, whatever you're doing.

kitcat1977 Mon 25-Jan-10 16:08:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Lilymaid Mon 25-Jan-10 16:13:45

Geography a soft subject? A very long time ago, Oxford University rather looked down on it but still offered a geography degree. I would doubt that any university would look down on it now.
DS2 has taken it for A2 and has done no "colouring in" or rote learning. I'm sure a Geography teacher would be pleased to explain what is studied nowadays.
His college warned against studying Business Studies or Sociology to A2 level as they weren't always considered as "hard" subjects, though they would be useful for some more vocational degrees.

itsmeolord Mon 25-Jan-10 16:19:15

I didn't do a levels and only got 5 gcses at c or above.

I did an apprenticeship as a motor mechanic, I had to have a maths gcse above c to get the apprenticeship.

I am now in the middle of my second degree, the first was in Engineering Production Management on the OU, the current one is in Business.

Agree absolutely with the point about many getting their second wind later in life.

I had no parental support, I was homeless aged 15 so I would never have had the chance to get a-levels let alone go to uni as a teen. I barely went to school in my 5th year.
This still angers me even now, I feel my parents let me down massively by being to caught up in their own lives to be able to give much input to mine.

The point about enthusiasm rings true to me, I had to do everything i have done under my own steam. No one was proud of me, everyone wrote me off as a failure before I'd begun my career. Even today, my parents are not aware that I already have a degree in engineering.
I feel that no matter what you study, you can achieve with determination and hard work.
The quote in the op, that made me chuckle a little really. In a priveleged world, of course the soft subjects are not ideal.
In the real world, just getting some children to school and into a vocational role/training programme at the end of it is more than enough to set someone up for life.

noddyholder Mon 25-Jan-10 16:27:03

The second wind is so rewarding that it is almost worth the initial 'fuck up' as it were!

princessparty Mon 25-Jan-10 16:38:08

I think everybody should do English and maths to gcse.Its hard to think of any career where these won't be needed.But kids should do proper industry recognised vocational qualifications rather than non-academic GCSEs
Much better to do something like AAT rather than business studies !

Princessparty - depends where you want to train to become an accountant when you look at AAT exams. Especially if you want to be chartered accountant.Great deal of snob value to Chartered Accountancy exams in terms or size of firm and and even how you passed your exams.

butadream Mon 25-Jan-10 17:49:23

Oh goodness yes that's true, qualification snobbery can persist into professional life as CA is more valued than AAT and ACCA and even ICAEW isn't followed by all the big accountancy firms any more!

loungelizard Mon 25-Jan-10 17:58:54

The whole point is that students should be told whether soft subjects are acceptable in the career they want to pursue. If you want to become a doctor or a lawyer (by the conventional route, first time round etc etc) they need to know if their GCSEs are going to be accepted by the universities.

If you don't want to go into one of those professions, then fine, it's not a problem. There is room for all kinds of qualifications but what is so wrong is that some students (mainly in the state sector, it has to be said) are ruling themselves out before they have even started to apply for some courses by taking the wrong kind of GCSEs. They should not be being told that all GCSEs are equal and all university courses are equal. It simply isn't true in the real world.

cocolepew Mon 25-Jan-10 18:11:18

I find it sad that the op is so obsessed by peoples IQ. Try seeing someone as a person not by how clever/good looking/connected they are.

tatt Mon 25-Jan-10 18:15:54

Xenia I am so sorry for you. Much of mankind is not greedy and selfish. Once basic needs are met many people do not choose to fight each other for fripperies. It is right to give children the choice of being part of that world if they wish to be, I rather hope mine will opt out.

urbanewarrior Mon 25-Jan-10 18:38:09

I did Theatre Studies A level (plus history, politics and general studies) and went to Cambridge. They didn't care very much. In fact the admissions tutor for the university said 'two subjects and one for fun - that's nice' grin It's possible to get too hung up on these sort of things. IME oxbridge care about the whole person. Not that oxbridge is be all and end all though. Far from it.

Although biscuit that you have to only work hard for maths and not history. Depends what comes naturally to you.

NigelTheWonderBoy Mon 25-Jan-10 18:47:25

Sorry Xenia, then I am afraid your earlier post talking about Luton and being the first person to go to uni must have been a quote from elsewhere...top tip, put quote marks around quotes then people won't think you are talking about yourself.

NotAnOtter Mon 25-Jan-10 19:54:36

did Xenia go to the university of luton?

AliGrylls Mon 25-Jan-10 19:55:31

I think OP has a point. The saddest thing is that in some universities whole chemistry and physics departments have closed down because not enough people take the subjects at A-level.

Wastwinsetandpearls Mon 25-Jan-10 20:43:12

Urbane I was just thinking about my a level choices which Oxford were very happy about. I did English Language, RS, Sociology and General Studies. That combined with a good interview enabled me to get the two E offer.

NotAnOtter Mon 25-Jan-10 20:43:15

mutter,mutter,mutter .....Xenia......mutter......Luton..................university....luton....Xenia......mutter......

perhaps this explains my confusion...

By Xenia Sat 23-Jan-10 21:48:52
I think that children and their parents are just not aware of the views of many employers about these subjects, that it does matter. They are conned into thinking it doesn't matter.

Same with some careers:

"When I was 10 I asked my Dad: “What’s the hardest thing to become?” “A surgeon or a barrister,” was his reply.

The challenge was on! I was too squeamish to be a surgeon. I also had two younger brothers to argue with, so by 18 I was a pro. But “barrister” was not a possible outcome on the career flowchart at my school, a Luton comprehensive. There were two charts — one for boys and one for girls — and hairdresser, secretary, nurse or teacher (if you were really smart) were the only possible outcomes for me.

My parents fully supported my choice of career, despite neither having gone to university and not knowing anything about the Bar. But it was a constant battle with those whose job it was to help to me to fulfil that dream — my teachers.

Saying that I wanted to be a barrister was like saying that I wanted to be an astronaut. I was indulged, but secretly ridiculed. I was told that it was the Bar that was the problem: you had to have gone to Eton then Oxford or Cambridge. Then, they said, you might have a hope of a pupillage — provided Daddy knows the head of chambers.

It did not take long to realise that the problem was no longer the Bar itself. Despite my working-class, state school background, I received nine invitations to pupillage interviews while in my final year of university.

My first landed me a place on the reserve list for a top civil set of chambers in London. I was made an offer the following year at the set where I’m now a tenant. Not once did I feel disadvantaged by my background. "


NotAnOtter Mon 25-Jan-10 20:53:48

she makes coffee too.... impressed wink

noddyholder Mon 25-Jan-10 20:54:21


but I think she was probably referring to the link she posted at the bottom.

Amazingly, at my ordinary state school and despised ex-poly I learnt how to write properly, and ended up working in the most prestigious publishing houses in the world.

But then, I didn't get paid much, so I suppose that counts as a failure.

NotAnOtter Mon 25-Jan-10 20:55:28

madamedefarge - hmmm dont need Poirot to tell me that some of the statements on here are fiction grin

noddyholder Mon 25-Jan-10 20:57:12

As I have long suspected Anyone truly with that level of education and breeding wold never be so gauche as to discuss the 'poor and ttheir shortcomings

noddyholder Mon 25-Jan-10 20:57:56

Sorry about spellings its the keyboard atm

Judy1234 Mon 25-Jan-10 21:44:30

It's a quote from the Times by a black lawyer from a poor home. It's there in quotes. Why would anyone think it was about me when it's in quotes and gives the link at the bottom?

The lady has the same issue -that her school was saying you cannot achieve X. I'm just sitting here reading a magazine interview with another successful black woman my age who was told at school you cannot be X when you grow up as little black girls from XYZ cannot be that.

messalina Mon 25-Jan-10 22:25:24

Since when was education solely about getting you a job? What about teaching students civilised values and giving them some sense of cultural heritage? You can do that through lots of different subjects, though I would have thought things like English Lit, History and RS would be critical here. And, I suppose, something like media studies would have its place too in that it would teach students about the world around them. As does Geography. It's not just about getting a job.

Music isn;t a soft subject.

Thats my two pence worth.

Get very sick of being told I teach a soft subject.

LeQueen Mon 25-Jan-10 22:57:38

Agree. Keep universities for the academic elite. Just like you have Music Schools for the musical elite, and Sport Academies for the sporting elite and Art Schools for the artistic elite. Would you waste your time enrolling at a Music School if you were tone deaf and couldn't play an instrument? Or would you accept that you didn't have that particular talent and look for an area that you could succeed in? Common sense really...

Have HE Colleges for those wanting to study vocational courses.

Stop trying to pretend that 50% of 18 year olds are all suddenly of under graduate calibre. Well, they are, but only of the calibre to study a pointless subject at a second rate university...oh, and accrue £25K of debt in the process. Yep, that's helpful.

Yeah! We're elite.....


T think the point is that they have the opportunity to receive a uni education rather than 50% are good enough to go...

LeQueen Mon 25-Jan-10 23:24:32

But it's not a real university education though, is it hmm

It's University-Lite, peddling soft subjects at second rate universities, fooling people into thinking they're simply going to sashay into a professional £60K a year graduate job.

Er...no...because all those jobs will have been cherry picked by the graduates from the RS universities.

And, yes, I know there are anecdotes that someone always knows someone who got a Third in Media and Philosophy from The University of Sotuh East Luton, and they now own a Blue Chip company...

But the majority of people who flocked to the University-Lite courses end up £25K in debt, doing very average, non-professional jobs.

What was the point of that? They could have done that anyway. And without landing thmselves in debt.

Peachy Tue 26-Jan-10 10:16:00

How do you define betwen vocational and academic without putting a social value on the quals?

Dh is studying lighting design and technology at Uni; I studied RS and Philosophy- one clearly academic, the other vocational.

DH's course is not easier than mine however,and I suspect very few could complete it. I couldn't, anymore than he could have done mine. There is a significant amount of physics and maths included, as well as a lot of practical lab work and CAD training.

If the quals were valued as equal but different and separated I couldn't see the issue, but they wouldn't be, DH's would be downgraded. HE colleges don't necessarily attract the same funding, so they would struggle with the equipment which is by nature far more costly than the set of books and a projector my course required (and my MA atm needs no more). The future earnings of DH and his classmates is likely to be higher than of my contemporaries, particularly as there is a shortage of people in aspects of the field and each year accrues a licence to practice (rigging, pyrotechnics, IEE).

If they could be separated down, funding reviewed and people seriosuly rejig their assumptions on the value of institutions, that might be positive but people won't do that, universities (and departments can be more prestigious than the actual uni) need fields of excellence to attract funding so won't want to let that go (it is teaching, art and documentary production at my university that attracts cash,advanced technology at DH's) and tbh,we as a society need indivuiduals with well regarded vocational training as much as academics. Sidelining vocational training into 'lesser' institutions won't help anyone bar Oxbridge students, and they have the status anyway.

If an institution wants to distinguish itself it should be doing soby promoting excellence, rather than sneering at alternatives.

Peachy Tue 26-Jan-10 10:22:19

And of course LeQueen university education is about more than the degree... it's about learning, life, developing self esteem and rounding yourself off as a person.

Trust me, as a person from a poor background who got the chance to study later on,there were massive personal gains from my degree above the value of the 'ticket to employment'. If I wish to accrue adebt doing that, which after all has to be paid back by anyone earning over £15k a year so not a high salary,surely that is my choice? If the argument is that employers know which institutions they value anyway, why should those grads worry? The means to select is already there.

When you get peopleon a thread stating that (these werechosenas I was accepted by both,but attended neitehr) Bristolis areal Uni and any employer will select someone from there overGloucester.... why should the Bristol grads be so worried that they wish for a complete change inprovision?

Now, WRT to giving students accuarate expectations I would agree with you, but that should also include the experience and personal development aspects of HE.

LeQueen Tue 26-Jan-10 14:54:32

Yes, university education is about more than just getting a degree. The whole life-enriching experience, yadda yadda. Only problem is all the 18 year olds flocking to study Meeja Studies at a second rate university are just going to be rubbing shoulders with exactly the same calibre/type of people they'd meet working in Sainsburys. Where's the glittering life experience there? At my university I met people who not only excelled at their subject (instead of just being average at it) who had lived all round the world...travelled...mature students who returned to study after holding down top-level careers,...people on my creative course who were already published.

You just don't get that in second/third rate universities. What you get is average and mediocre and mundane. If someone wants to land themselves in £25K of debt for the privilege of studying a mediocre subject at a second rate university, alongside people of only very average ability, with very average life experiences then fair enough. But I really don't see the point.

princessparty Tue 26-Jan-10 16:32:47

But they are still furthering their education and their ways of thinking.I fail to see the importance of why that is worthless because it isn't at a RUssel group Uni or rubbing shoulders with the elite.

LeQueen Tue 26-Jan-10 17:03:33

Because they're paying upwards of £25K for it. Which is a rip off. And, it's not going to further their life in any valid way because there's thousands of graduates who are going to be much better qualified and better equipped who will get all the better choices.

If you want to further your thinking/life experience then travel or go and do some volunteer work abroad. Don't waste £25K and 3 years of your life only to achieve something very, very average that isn't valued or respected by anyone who knows the difference between a good/poor university.

butadream Tue 26-Jan-10 17:21:59

Totally agree with LeQueen, if you are going to spend £25k or more then you really want to feel it has been worthwhile.

claig Tue 26-Jan-10 17:44:25

agree with LeQueen to a large extent that many people are being fooled and fleeced. I go further and believe the head of Harrow is fooling people as well in implying that good grades in 'hard' subjects will get people jobs. With the grade inflation and large numbers going to University, many who followed the head's advice will come out jobless and saddled with debt.

I differ with LeQueen as to the importance of Russell Group universities. I would put my money on a PhD at Keele university in stochastic calculus getting a far higher paid job than a PhD at Oxford in English. You can go to universities that are not Russell Group ones, but you have to make more careful subject choices, if you don't want to come out and be the highest qualified burger flipper in McDonalds.

LeQueen Tue 26-Jan-10 17:52:41

I am just angry that hundreds of thousands of 18 year olds are being fleeced, and left in massive debt for a degree certificate that isn't worth the paper it's written on.

Agree that your subject choice needs to be very considered. More useful to have a Law degree from an excellent Law School i.e. Nottingham Trent's - than a Classics degree from Edinburgh etc. Otherwise in 10 years time we're going to have ASDA check-out girls with degrees in Business Administration and McDonald's counter staff with degrees in Media & Communications. All of which are worthless.

When everybody is somebody, nobody is anybody...

claig Tue 26-Jan-10 18:10:45

"When everybody is somebody, nobody is anybody... "
very good quote. What is needed is higher standards all round, no fooling people with worthless paper that was easy to obtain. Let's have quality not quantity. Artificially making sure that everybody gets at least a 'C' grade is devaluing the coinage. There would be no shame in getting a 'D' or an 'E' if the exams were tough. Employers would not look down on it, because large percentages of the population would get low grades and employers would know the exams were tough. At the moment employers don't trust any of the grades, because so many who walk through the door have an 'A'.

Instead of talking about the real problem, the head of Harrow takes easy potshots at 'soft' subjects.

Peachy Tue 26-Jan-10 18:19:18

Calibre of people? I assume you mean level of academic ability becuase if you think more intelligent means better person then I simply cannot engage with that notion.

The idea that a degree at a lower repestablishment isn't any use is bogus. Most of my classmates are now working as teachers after aquiring a PGCE, I hope to do my SSD conversion if I can find a means with the boy's needs.... it may not buy me a place at a glittering law firm and maybe the Bristol degree would have (or the equivalent anyway- socialpolicy asked me to apply so maybe something related?Was a different dept I applied to) ...but I don't want a place in a glittering law firm, and I prefered balancing family with the other things surrounding high performing universities- such as high accom. prices and city life.

That trade off is worthwhile for a great many, a one size fits all system is completely wrong for a great many people. I ahev no problem admitting that some universities have better reps and facillities etc, but others cope better withmore diverese students. Childcare and Bristol for example,and I as warned against studying there as a mature student by an academic. But the degree I got bought my place on my MA,and really isn't that what a degree is? currency? It might not be the currency of uberachiever-land, but that is OK as I never fancied the view there anyway.

loungelizard Tue 26-Jan-10 18:41:47

I completely agree with Claig.

If everything was made harder only a few would achieve the highest grades (including bright but poor children and excluding not so bright but rich children) and thus the vast majority would be 'average', (as presumably they should be??). It would benefit everybody.

I note some of the private schools have rather gone off the IGCSE now as their students are not getting all As anymore, which is interesting, presumably because it is harder.

butadream Tue 26-Jan-10 18:58:10

I don't know though, I think I would expect an average person to be able to pass an exam, so a C grade rather than a D or E so maybe not make them quite that hard.

It is a complete minefield though, as opinions differ quite a lot depending on the field you're looking at.

The law, it seems, is particularly snobby (unsurprisingly) as I am pretty sure that most Magic Circle solicitors firms would prefer a trainee with a degree in Classics from Edinburgh + GDL + LPC to Law from Nottingham Trent. But to be honest an accountancy firm might think more of the law degree so that leaves you wondering if students need to have their job plans sorted before they even go to university.

And Peachy, I agree that degrees can be seen as currency but looking at it that way wouldn't you want your £25k to buy you potential income of £60k +?

loungelizard Tue 26-Jan-10 19:46:58

Also along with the children being pedalled with 'soft' subjects in state schools, there are privately educated students at Harrow or wherever who actually think they are brain of Britain because they have got 10 As, when they are most certainly not.

If you are in a boarding school, being reasonably bright to start with, being taught properly, having homework supervised, having coursework going backwards and forwards, re-marked til its up to the right grade etc etc, it would be fairly hard not to get a grade A.

NotAnOtter Tue 26-Jan-10 19:49:47

i agree with lequeen on this one - which is rare - but that's good in itself! wink

loungelizard Tue 26-Jan-10 19:52:32

Also agree with Peachy in as much as education isn't only about getting top jobs and earning lots of money. My family is not interested in earning lots of money, some people have different values.

But, if a student does want to go into Law or Medicine they do need to know which qualifications are going to be acceptable.

Peachy Tue 26-Jan-10 19:55:43

I dod agreewith that LL. I really do.

We should tailor the advice to the child, not have blanket rules dictating witholding information that could affect life chances.

Judy1234 Tue 26-Jan-10 20:47:55

Well said LeQueen.

The point is the poor can't go on line and work these things out and the rich can. Is that because of low IQ or laziness or are the rich lazy but their schools do this stuff for them so they don't need to go on line and work out for themselves the value of their degree "in lighting design and technology at Uni"... (was that a joke by the way?)

The better schools educate not just to do well in exams but the whole person which is why the private sector leads on that too - best musicians, sportsmen, more likely to have stuff like happiness lessons, better religious teaching if you're into that, best chapel choral music etc etc. In other words we dum down and give children even dreadful music in state primaries where as perfectly equivalent children in private primaries are expected to sing in latin in parts in tune. That's too tough for the poor so let's pretend they are all brilliant because they can sing wheels on a bus.

noddyholder Tue 26-Jan-10 20:50:39

FFs here we go again with the poor unable to work a computer but the rich can?

NotAnOtter Tue 26-Jan-10 21:01:05

hmm its a bit laughable?
otherwise I may weep

claig Tue 26-Jan-10 21:30:49

"He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward him for what he has done." -Proverbs 19:17

Judy1234 Tue 26-Jan-10 21:50:19

Okay so why do some (not all) of the children of the poor not know what counts as a good A level or university and others do? I see it all the time - friends which children in state schools making ridiculous choices. You think well can't you use google?

Your contempt for professions other than legal is disgusting, Xenia.

who do you think does the lighting for the stadium concerts and events and for TV? People who are trained to do it, of course. And they make a good living too.

TIme to join the real world.

I notice you ignored my post about my achievements...presumably because it didn't fit into your narrow matrix of "success".

Merrylegs Tue 26-Jan-10 21:53:02

Arf. No offence, Xenia - but are you quite the ticket?

NotAnOtter Tue 26-Jan-10 21:59:29

xenia - if you read some of the education threads on here some non read brick universities are being hailed as great learning institutions

change happens- movement in education as well as the class system

your view of russell group or sutton 13 may not be everybody's ideal ...i am trying to go with the flow and learn

No she isn't. Xenia starts these threads to support her own choices in life, not to admit the possibility there are other avenues to success. Its pathological behaviour.

Its a hiding to nothing really, but I wonder what a good therapist would make of her insistence that the only choice is either her way or degraded poverty would be.

Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

NotAnOtter Tue 26-Jan-10 22:00:11

deliberate typo ! red

snorkie Tue 26-Jan-10 22:04:26

I'm a bit hmm at the 'standard' set of GCSE options offered at our local school.

They do the standard 5 plus RE and then choose 4 options from all the usual suspects (including lots of quite soft ones).

The brightest children are invited and encouraged to do AS Critical Thinking and Separate sciences as two of their options (and also AS Photography as a third option, but this isn't encouraged as strongly). So the brightest children only get 2 (or even just 1 choice). A friends dd has chosen PE and Sociology - this is a bright child who wants to be a vet - but no mfl and no humanity except RE or does sociology count? Her list will then be: English x2, Maths, Science x3, RE, PE, Sociology and AS Critical Thinking which just doesn't seem meaty enough for a very competative course to me.

I can't help thinking the brightest children should be steered towards history and a mfl rather than Critical Thinking and Photography, even if those are AS levels (but I don't have a problem with the separate sciences). The real travesty is that many of the children opting for the critical thinking end up with rather low grades (Ds, Es and even fails) - very few of them get C or above.

NotAnOtter Tue 26-Jan-10 22:08:06

snorkie i agree does not look meaty enough

dd has chosen
english x2 ( SUPPOSED to do media but i put foot down so not doing)

sciences x3

already done something worthless short course last year

loungelizard Tue 26-Jan-10 22:11:09

yes, Snorkie, that is the point.

Unfortunately Xenia's mad postings make a mockery of the real problem and wind every one up so there can't be a proper discussion.

Those children at private schools, with all their advantages, might like to dwell on the fact that they aren't brilliant scholars, they are just better versed in how to pass not very hard exams.

noddyholder Tue 26-Jan-10 22:14:59

What is not well in xenia's life that she feels she has to belittle so many others? She is obsessed with her own choices as the model for success!Sad really not to embrace all.My ds is well versed on all aspects of education and exam choices but that is what they are CHOICES! he has known for years what he wants to do and even if he changes path on the way it doesn't matter as long as he is healthy and happy I will be pleased and anything more esp financial/career will be a bonus.

Peachy Tue 26-Jan-10 22:32:20

Xrenia fuck off insulting my Dh,he designs electronic circuitry and studies degree levelphysics aswell as stage management and CAD.... you might not like it but it is well regarded.

Funny, I defended you early on never agin.

oh ignore her, Peachy, X is like an Edwardian lady who enjoys the exotic foods upon her table but gives no thought or respect to those who produce it.

Peachy Tue 26-Jan-10 22:36:21

(funny but that is one thing I hate peoplebeing rude about my DH who I think is amazing)

what would you prefer? he sat at home post redundany rather than getting a new competitkivecareer?

Seriously,an architecturallighting company donated thousands to his Unil last week for the chance tolecture them; bet University didn't say 'hey, sorry but no that course isn't a real one, have your cash back'.

The workrequired by Dh is far more thanmy academic course ever asked of me. Iadmire him for the sheer grunt involved,esp.as he could ahve resigned years ago and spent thelast decade on what used to be called Incapacity Support and he has started his own business.

Joke?nah Damned inspiring yes.

Your dh is amazing. You are rightly proud. X should be ashamed of her narrow minded views.

But I daresay she doesn't have to grace or guts, or even the basic insight to acknowledge she is wrong.

loungelizard Tue 26-Jan-10 22:42:06

Exactly NH.

What is wrong is students being led to believe certain qualifications will lead to certain results.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a variety of choices. What is wrong is for students who want to pursue a certain career being misinformed as to what is, and what is not, acceptable to the universities they may need to go to in order to fulfill their ambitions.

But Xenia does have a point. The only reason the private sector does do so well is because they encourage their pupils to achieve a high standard. It would be a disgrace if those children didn't achieve the top grades really, with all their advantages, small classes, coursework being given in and out until achieving the top marks,no disruptive pupils, the relativey low standard of the examinations being taken, after all that is what the parents re paying for (plus, obviously the glossy hair and the lacrosse etc etc, yawn) Those children, in turn, are being given a false sense of how intelligent they actually are.

Peachy Tue 26-Jan-10 22:49:34

She doesread sometimes,I now her views on carers changed once.

As a family,I think we are achieving:I don't think DH cares l;esswhether his degree was a degree, license orany other name,norwhere it was taught. Aslong as accessis funded and he gets to study what he hasalways wanted. Which is as it should be.I'm doing an MA now (in Autism) as wellasmy carer role.

All in all, I think we're OK.... we may be unabletofit some narrow definitions of success but really,it is relative. Starting points differ. Life throws hurdlesandyou can fall at them or make them into challenges which is what we try to do. SOmetimes wefail, c'est la vie.

DH's degree is awarded degree status,and is taught at a Uni.If Xenia has issue with that I can let her have the address of the Dean. He might get a bit narked though as the course is very over subscribed and wellregarded, chances are they quite like having it.Dh just studies it where it is offered, as you would.

Also- an option Dh also considere
d is medical technology, and he may yet go on to study that one day. With all the willin the world,your Oxbridge RG educated Medics are going to struggle if the technology specialists of today are persuaded it is a lesser subject or not given access to a funded university to teach it. No point doing a triple heart bypass if the life support machine is lying unserviced somewhere is it? Dh'sdegree covers the samemodules as the med specialists, and is interchangeable at this stage.

Judy1234 Tue 26-Jan-10 22:55:13

You can do a lot through environment. I think we're 50/50 genes and environment. So I think you could take some primary school children in the state sector and get them to sing the Allegri Misereri for example although would you have teachers in state schools who could sing the lower parts? I suppose you could ship them in . It's an expectation thing. Have high expectations and children meet them often as not, both at home and school.

(I genuinely thought that supposed degree course was a joke , sorry)

On the GCSE example above whcih I don't now have on the same page from memory much of it was okay but it seemed to lack history and geography. I suspect if you just went back to the core subjects in school certificate in 1944 which my mother took those are the ones you want children to do today and they would do in good private schools and state grammars - Engl lang and lit, maths, 2 or 3 sciences, a language or ideally two, history and geography.

NotAnOtter Tue 26-Jan-10 22:57:29

i think a lot of geneticists and psychology would debate that 50/50 thing

Peachy Tue 26-Jan-10 23:04:25

I agree genes and environment is amix.certainly so.

the xampleof the choir was interesting....DS3 is we aretold a talentedchoralsinger,sand with Male VoiceChoir via school and theChoir Master approached us to tell us.School droppedChoir this term,coststoomuch apparently.

We're trying to find an alternativeforhim.

It does show though how even small differences can affect someone's life chances.
DS3 is bright (I read with the class socan compare well) but dyslexic, probably ahs other SEN of the dyspraxic variety. hislife chances therforeareautomatically reduced- who wants a dyspraxic surgeon? Paring down 'fripperies' such as choir and out of school clubs reduces that even further.

Xenia apology accepted but still a bit annoyed so will avoid that aspect of topic now I have said my piece.

Ultimately people will study where courses are offered. If people have issues with that being in Unioversities it is not thestudents who should be frowned upon, contact the Vice Chancellors and complain! When it comes to industry standard exams,location makes no difference to the student anyway,a tech lab isatech lab.

Done me good anyway- have been really narky with dh about being so busy with Uni / work:I need to remember he is fab LOL

TheFallenMadonna Tue 26-Jan-10 23:06:05

Xenia. Why are you using 'poor' when you mean 'state school-educated'? I don't understand.

Peachy Tue 26-Jan-10 23:07:00


DS3 can barely talk!

because only poor people would send their children to state school, obviously!

Though poor generally means crack smoking posties in X world.

Wastwinsetandpearls Wed 27-Jan-10 00:53:01

Yes I only teach children in rags who have to sell crack cocaine so they can buy a sausage roll for lunch. grin

Peachy Wed 27-Jan-10 08:08:38

Oi Twinset are you dissing my kidz?

mond,as we grew up in somewrset,its not somuch greggs rolls but apples they scrumpedwink

(Actually they have Innocent Smoothiesfor their snack and school dinners, not free ones either)

Merrylegs Wed 27-Jan-10 08:28:51

Plus, in private schools, if a pupil isn't up to the exam they are simply not entered. Whereas the GCSE results you anayse from state schools include everyone. (Since we seem to have degenerated into sweeping generalisations thanks to X).

(As someone who has a child bang in the midst of GCSEs, I was enjoying this debate, however I cannot quite believe Xenia is serious when she talks of 'the poor'. Although it does go to show, money may buy you privilege but it can't buy you class. All fur coat and no knickers as my dear Grandmother would say).

And the most useless degree in terms of future employment is also the most popular. Criminology. I blame CSi.

Peachy Wed 27-Jan-10 08:43:00

LOL at Criminology- I have seen admission lecturers almost weep over that. And yes,they blame CSi as well!

My experience ofPrivate ed purely through those I grew up with,my XF /BIL /Sister's XP and their friends,was that soem very bright indeed children grew up lazy becuase things were too easy for them, and consequently did very littlelater on and at Uni (XP gotexcellent grades,a pale at york to do maths and then didnt attendlectures all Yr 2 as it was too ahrd to get out of bed)

Other talented people with no reala cademic ability wrere talked into Uni- sister's XP went to study aeronautics, failed dismally and now has his own thriving business related to mechanics but far more specialist. A waste of timefor him.

Of course that is a snapshot and they were all friom oneschool( a wellregarded one) but it did awaken me to reality a bit. In fact XP'sassertion that Iwas too thick and common to go to university was a primary motivator!

Judy1234 Wed 27-Jan-10 09:20:32

And the black barrister in the Times article was motivated because she was told she couldn't be that but I suspect more children are demotivated by being told they cannot do something than are.

93% of children go to state schools so obviously they aren't poor. I was just using it as a distinction.

I haven't had chidlren at private schools which don't enter children for exams they will fail but that's because they are very very academdically selective so no one is there who wouldn't pass. There are plenty of private schools for the not clever rich.

As for special needs the issue of whetehr they are better dealt with in state or private is often debated. My oldest child is mildly dyslexic and has done fine but it's not very bad. There are lots of ways to be successful and if someone will never pass many exams ensuring they are self confident, interesting, have a good accent, useful friends and plenty of opoortunities to feel they are good so internally they feel good about themselves and all their talents can be exploited even if one is not passing exams, is the ideal. I suspect if you have money and pick the right school you can do pretty well for chidlren like that in the private sector and if you think smart about it can pick the right state schools too.

On the choir thing most big towns have wonderful Cathedral choirs. It demands a commitment from the parents to get them there etc but they are not particularly socially exclusive.

noddyholder Wed 27-Jan-10 09:25:35

The good accent is vital hmm

Peachy Wed 27-Jan-10 09:34:56

Thre is a catrhedralchoir here Xenia yes but aswe live outside of toen and the Church Choir is over subscribed it isn't something we have ahd to look into before,he willneed to be 11 first though so we are looking at a youth choir first. The old school choir was excellent,attended a performance in the cathedral at Christmas and they stood out. It is definitely something we won't let go.

SN.....private VS state isn't a debate as there are many private SN schools,espeicall within diagnoses such as ASD. However, the issue of inclusion in priavte certainly is a debate worth having I would guess. The ASD boys needs wouldn't be catered for by the localprivate anyway, but I know many children with lesser SEN that domuch better in private education,and it has been a wonderful thing for them. Indeed,if we didn't have the ASD as well we would move dyslexic ds2 to a school back home which is a private dyslexia school- and do so happily. Of course, without the ASD I would then be working.

Access to specialist help within a positive environment is IMO the key factor in choposing any school- and that can be found or absent in state just as much as private.

Yes children can be demotibvated by negative comments, V true. And indeed it was that sort of crap that consigned that engagement ring to the dustbin (OK so I gave it to my teenage sister LOL). But that can perhaps indicate that some level of adversity can be a positive for children with certain character traits. not negativity perhaps, but a challenge and experiences that show them what is ut there. If i had notmet XP and his friends I am not sure University would ever have been thought of after I gavce up on it at 18; exposure to children with different backgrounds is important in changing things for the disadvantaged children.

Peachy Wed 27-Jan-10 09:45:36

AS gfor the accent- I do have that, bizarrely, it is an off shoot of the gentics that led to the boy'sASD (IMO) that I have pedantic speech when in many environments.

And dialect Somerset when not LOL.

Yes,itrdoes help, I ahve been hired for my posher accent before.Sadly perhaps,but true,

Litchick Wed 27-Jan-10 11:28:23

I don't think it's accents per se that are the problem. I have quite a strong one, but have worked in a magic circle law firm, appeared in front of hundreds of judges etc.

I think the problem lies in coloquial expressions and incorrect sentence structure. Children need to know when to drop that stuff but many can't.

Judy1234 Wed 27-Jan-10 13:00:56

They tend to speak how their parents speak at home.

LeQueen Wed 27-Jan-10 17:06:21

I simply don't understand why they had to introduce the A* for GCSEs??? Why not just keep an A for excellence, and award more grade Ds???

But, nope...pretty soon you won't be able to get a grade D. Instead, there'll be A, A*, AA*, AA**, AAA**, AAA*(With Glittery Silvery Spangles), AAA*(With Glittery Silver Spangles & A Gold Cluster) etc, etc...it's made a mockery of the whole process hmm.

No one will be allowed to fail, ever, at anything. Until they get into the work place of course...then they'll get a very, very nasty shock. MrQueen runs his own company, and generally only employs graduates from RS universities, with top GCSE/A Level grades...but even they often fail to meet his exacting standards. 30 years ago he attended one of the top grammar schools in the country. His teachers wore their academic gowns, and thought nothing of hurling a black board rubber at an inattentive pupil. But, end result was that he received a fantastic academic education, the likes of which is almost impossible to obtain nowadays. It means that his written French/German is better than any language graduate he employs, and that his written English is better than most English graduates he employs.

LeQueen Wed 27-Jan-10 17:08:28

Plus, I firmly believe that schools should primarily be there to educate children. Most of the social/life experiences should be the responsibility of the parent.

claig Wed 27-Jan-10 17:50:05

"pretty soon you won't be able to get a grade D. Instead, there'll be A, A*, AA*, AA**, AAA**, AAA*(With Glittery Silvery Spangles), AAA*(With Glittery Silver Spangles & A Gold Cluster) etc, etc...it's made a mockery of the whole process "
agree with that, soon there won't be enough room om the page to print all of the stars

Merrylegs Wed 27-Jan-10 18:05:24

Yesterday DS got marks back for the part of his science GSCEs they did early.

He got As in Chemistry, Biology and Physics. And yet why do I feel kind of deflated with that? In 'my day' that was the top.

But now there are A*s it kind of feels like he is the B grade student. Does that make sense?

Agree LeQueen - I think an A should mean an A.

NotAnOtter Wed 27-Jan-10 18:17:41

agree merrylegs
dd has got a couple of A's and nowadays sadly that means B's

it just does

A* is the new A

loungelizard Wed 27-Jan-10 18:45:06

at LeQueen and NotAnOtter.

LeQueen Wed 27-Jan-10 19:17:26

I have seen GCSE English papers that have been awarded an A*...t'would appear that current English GCSE A* pupils don't need to spell or punctuate properly hmm

Children haven't got more stupid in the last 20 years. But they aren't being taught to such an exacting level anymore. They'd be perfectly capable of acheiving more exacting levels (my generation was perfectly capable) if they were taught correctly.

But, no...instead we've dumbed down the education process so that every last soul gets some sort of qualification, and no one is allowed to fail anything, and children who genuinely excel are lumped in with those who are just good, and those who are average are lumped in with the truly dumb.

loungelizard Wed 27-Jan-10 19:42:51

Yes, absolutely agree with you LeQueen.

Some children are perfectly capable of meeting the standards of the old 'O' levels etc. Many children would relish the chance of being stretched and if the exams were harder it would be so much better for everyone (sick of repeating myself emoticon).

The difference between the intellect of the students achieving 3 As at A level is unbelievable, as I can testfy my with older 'children'(who are children no more obvs). Personally, joking aside, I am glad for the A* at A level.

claig Wed 27-Jan-10 19:43:20

LeQueen, agree with you. This is the elephant in the room that nobody dare speak about. It's like the Hans Christian Andersen tale "The Emperor's New Clothes".

Merrylegs Wed 27-Jan-10 20:15:55

"I have seen GCSE English papers that have been awarded an A*...t'would appear that current English GCSE A* pupils don't need to spell or punctuate properly"

Le Queen that has strangely cheered me.
DS has had a piece of coursework that will count to his final English GCSE grade marked as an A* (by his teacher).

It was a good essay - a confident start, and certainly the spelling and punctuation were fine- but there was no way I thought it merited an A*. To me that means perfection and it wasn't that.

Plus, as an Eng Lit graduate I thought I had a good idea of what constituted an excellent essay.

Perhaps the teacher was right after all and it does deserve that mark. I really hope so.

After all, she should know more than me, shouldn't she?

NotAnOtter Wed 27-Jan-10 20:26:56

i agree with lequeen and merrylegs

so so true

as a mother of teens and young children the change in standards goes right back to tiny

i remember newsnight the night ds got his gcse results. An expert was on who said ' no one who has been in education for 20 years could deny that if we are being honest with ourselves we have moved the grade boudaries 2 grades in that time'

ie A is C

looking at the dc's work I agree and I am no academic genius.

loungelizard Wed 27-Jan-10 21:10:27

As a mother of undergraduate, graduate and teen, I completely agree with you notanotter.

LeQueen Wed 27-Jan-10 22:21:04

merrylegs - no doubt it does deserve that mark. But it's sad that it does. If your child had handed that essay in 25 years ago, do you think it would also have got a grade A? I doubt it...No reflection on your child's ability, they clearly are very bright...just think how much more they could achieve if they had been taught to the more exacting levels of 25 years ago hmm

wigglybeezer Wed 27-Jan-10 22:22:41

I have just looked at the course choice section of the school handbook for the school that DS1 wants to go to next year. The range of subjects has NOT changed since I was at a similar comp nearly thirty years ago;

You MUST take English, Maths, History or Geography, French or German, one of Biology, Chemistry or Physics ...then three from (Art & Design, Drama. Home Ec, PE, RE, Spanish, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Business, Accounting, Computing, Craft and Design, Graphic Communication, Music.

NB. no media studies etc.

NB. you must still do one MFL, even if you are doing three sciences (you could even do two)

NB. This is fairly typical of Scottish comprehensives.

NB. there is no such thing as an A* grade here.

LeQueen Wed 27-Jan-10 23:11:23

The fact is that 30 years there was a very large swathe of the population who just were not remotely academic (regardless of background). It didn't bother them, they accepted it and had no aspirations to even attempt to be academic.

Nowadays, educational standards have been lowered so much that large swathes of the population are under the mistaken impression that they are academic. They're not. It's just that exams and standards have been dumbed down to such an extent that just about anyone, regardless of ability, can pass them.

So weary of hearing kids proudly declaring that they have 11 GCSEs...but all grade Ds and Es. I dread to think what a GCSE grade E equates to in old money??? Was it just that they were physically present when the exam took place? God knows...

NotAnOtter Wed 27-Jan-10 23:18:07

so right lequeen

depressing but true

TheFallenMadonna Wed 27-Jan-10 23:21:06

IS that really your experience LeQueen? Because my experience of children who get E and Fs are that they don;t think they're academic at all. They feel like failures. Which about matches with your attitude. So I rather like the new vocational qualifications where they can learn something useful and appropriate, rather than fail to learn more academic subjects. But no - these courses also get slammed. What would you like to see happen for these children? Who did exist when we were at school. I got all As in my O levels, but there were people in my year who got a clutch of grade 3 CSEs. Which is exactly the sort of spread of achievement we see now.

Wastwinsetandpearls Wed 27-Jan-10 23:53:35

I teach a top set in both years 10 and 11, I teach far and above what is needed for an A* and think I expect much more from my students than was every expected of me. I was however the first batch of GCSE students. I said the other day, it may have been on this thread, that the new exam syllabus is dumbed down. I will continue to teach at the level I have always done though.

I agree with TFM children that get Es and Fs do not see themselves as academic.

Peachy Thu 28-Jan-10 10:09:49

'I simply don't understand why they had to introduce the A* for GCSEs??? Why not just keep an A for excellence, and award more grade Ds???'

I actually agree with that; my sister used to laugh at me for having A*,which no doubt was due to the fact we didn't have them back then LOL! I do think we need to accurately grade and be honest about what qualifications are in themselves. This is extra true when refering to vocational quals: if you wish to be the worlds expert on something non academic but stillfairly specialist-we'll take ds1's aim of theatricalmake up here and say maybe you wanted to the prosthetics for Dr Who- an academic qual is not worth mroe than the training even if from Cambridge. The value of different qualifications values in context. If we could develop a tertiary levelvocationalqual that wasnn't dimissed as being lessworthy but just seen as it was and crucially given access to uni style funding I'd be fine with it. We don't have that; we have HND then nothing for those who progress above (and people do,sister did her HND then went further again). It should ahve the same number of points attached soit can be used to progress at PhD levelif the same academic capability is shown,if that is in palce there is no issue.

Snobbery prevents that though- we'restill intellectually in an age where it is caperntry tradeor academic,no in between: technology ahs destroyed that.

There's still that assumption that vocational training only attracts the peoplewho couldn't get Uni training in the past.Asit happens,Dh (he oflaughed at course below) wasacceptedforUniversity in the 80's, aswas I:funding rpevented me attendng,ill health him. He's still the same person though.

As for social life being responsibility of parent- depends. Most universities have far more options in terms of societies, sports facillities than your average UK small market town. IME you can learn as much from attending a decent debate as a lecture.

Will readrest now

LeQueen Fri 29-Jan-10 11:51:51

FallenMadonna I completely agree with you. I think it's cruel and pointless forcing very non-academic teenagers to take exams which will just make them feel like failures? I can only compare it to me being forced to spend 2 years at some kind of Sport's Academy, struggling and failing and feeling worthless every single day because I'm not remotely athletic - it would be Purgatory for me! But show me an exam paper and I'm all smiles!

I'm very much in favour of re-creating the old fashioned apprenticeship system for teenagers with vocational ability.

Peachy Fri 29-Jan-10 14:31:08

I sort of am in favour of the oldfashioned apprenticeships but it would need modifying; where FILand his peers went in at 15 these days a great many jobs need a certain amount of technical knowledge 9thinking say IT skills,CAD systems etc) that would mean at the least integrated vocational study.

Which I would support wholeheartedly.

Judy1234 Fri 29-Jan-10 18:02:34

I don't think there's too much problem in the very good shining. My daughter at North London Collegiate when she was there which is a pretty good school often best in the UK for A levels, even there there is a clear difference between children like mine who are just reasonably bright and the very very clever ones and universities can see that fairly easily.

Plenty of children don't get all As by any means. My local comp is extolling increasing A - C at GCSE by over 10% to 34% so about 54% are getting Ds and lower.

The clever children as long as they go to a decent school in state or private and have some encouragement can be distinguished. I think my AAB at A level 1979 is better than my daughter's AAB 20+ years later but there's no point in debating that. I suspect my O levels which were As and Bs are similar to my daughters' which were A*s and As on the whole.

I was in Switzerland yesterday which doesn't suit my nature - it's too conformist and boring and non libertarian but they have I think like Germany more trained vocational people. On the other hand you can learn a trade on the job at 16 I suspect so why waste years doing endless qualifications. I think I learned a huge lot more starting work at 21 than if I'd studied to age 30 as people do in a number of the countries I go to professionally. I don't think they gain much more with the endless MAs and PhDs. They just earn less money later on, live with their parents longer and delay having babies until later. Was talking to my son who is a student about this just yesterday. Lots of people do MAs just to fill in the time but I'm sure it's really worth it for most careers.

Of course it suits the unemployment figures to push loads of 16 year olds into 5 more years of education.
Anway my main point was that people should not be deluded into knowing what qualifications matter.

claig Fri 29-Jan-10 18:50:58

Xenia universities do seem to have trouble differentiating, they're even starting to create their own extra tests. I think it will eventually go like the United States, where all pupils have to take a standardised college entrance exam called the SAT, similar to the GMAT which is needed for MBA students

Peachy Fri 29-Jan-10 18:56:01

Depends why you do an MA.

Know someone who has severaland will admit readily it was an excuse to delay adulthood; OTOH mine is to convert a generic degree into a specirfic speciality (was planning to train as RE teacher but the only place now offering it in Wales is 2 hours drive away- er no, 4 hours a day on the road not practical).

I spoke to an Academic here who runs the teacher training and he thinks in a few years all recruits will need an MA as it is getting harder todetermine who is really a good candidate or not- specialisms help them narrow it down they think.

I think with the amount of IT involved in many trades these dyas (and by IT I just mean specialsied technology) there is a case for post-A levels apprenticeships over post-GCSE in some areas.

wigglybeezer Fri 29-Jan-10 19:25:40

I have a Master of Fine Art degree in Sculpture (took 2 years), that was definitely a delaying tactic!

Incidentally although I got quite good Higher results it made no difference as entrance to art school is by portfolio, at the time it was only about 1 in 5 or 6 applicants that got in to the college I chose, I had a big sense of achievement from being accepted, much more than my exam results (which should have been straight A's if I had put a little more work in).

I have no objection to universities selecting by entrance test, it might help the dropout rate.

My sister studied music and had to audition for her place too.

Peachy Fri 29-Jan-10 19:30:28

I would also approve of tests.

Dh is sick already of students who cannot get their act together:alot of their work isa ssessedon teamperformancce and he emailed to ask why a certain assessment was a lower garde than the others. 'Oh you did well, but the others didn't know what they were doing' (apparently one bloke stood there muttering 'havenb't got a clue what I amding here')

Maybe if they took students who had passed an aptitude test that might reduce? they can't screen individually for some things as they take sheer manpower (was rigging IIRC but don't tell dh - I have no clue what that is except you need ropes, a podger and gloves LOL)

They currently have an intake of 30 and expect it to drop to 9 - 10 by yr 3.

claig Fri 29-Jan-10 19:37:01

looks like the Sutton Trust carried out a pilot of the United States SAT test in the UK. Not sure if they have followed it up at all

Quattrocento Fri 29-Jan-10 19:40:34

Useful bits of paper I got at school = 15 (11 o levels and 4 a levels)

Useful things I learned at school = 0

On that basis, I've decided it doesn't much matter

claig Fri 29-Jan-10 20:02:09

"apparently one bloke stood there muttering 'haven't got a clue what I am doing here'"
I hope that wasn't the lecturer. Sorry I have had a few glasses already.

NotAnOtter Fri 29-Jan-10 22:03:16

claig that report makes very interesting reading

claig Fri 29-Jan-10 22:20:52

NotAnOtter, do you mean the Sutton Trust report or the Telegraph article?

NotAnOtter Fri 29-Jan-10 22:22:04

sutton trust- did not see the telegraph one

Judy1234 Fri 29-Jan-10 22:25:25

I learned loads of useful things at school and out of it. Even yesterday in Switzerland I found 25+ years after my A level German I could get by.

I nkow the universities are now doing their own tests for some entrants which how it was in the days when they interviewed and when Oxbridge had their own exams. We're only going back to that really.

claig Fri 29-Jan-10 22:26:06

yes the Sutton Trust one is very interesting. I have got a sneaking suspicion that one day they might bring something like this in. It would be interesting to know what teachers think about it or if they have heard anything about it?

NotAnOtter Fri 29-Jan-10 22:27:57

i do tend to agree with the conclusion

ds had to submit work and do a tsa test for his interview in december

claig Fri 29-Jan-10 22:40:01

NotAnOtter, skimmimg it quickly, it looks like independent sector children did perform better that state school children, which is interesting. These tests have been running for years in the States and they do their utmost in trying to avoid any possible bias. The only problem with tests like these is that they require another huge workload for children, on top of all the coursework they already have to do.

jaquelinehyde Fri 29-Jan-10 22:46:13

Sorry haven't read the whole thread, so I apologise if this has already been said, but...

What a load of bloody tosh!

Education is meant to be striving to be more inclusive. Offering different forms of qualifications allows more children to leave school having attained something. This makes education effective for them, the rest of the co-hort take formal examinations and attain down that route, which makes education effective for them.

The issue in this situation is not the fact that these subjects are on offer. It is the fact that the Government continues to measure an effective education based on formal exam results only, and pits schools against each other dependant on these results. This for want of another term is bollocks!

The whole system needs to change, and some people need to realise that 5 GCSE's at grade A-C are not the be all and end all of education. People without these qualifications make the world go round, they should be celebrated too not told they're not good enough.

Sorry for my rant, it probably makes little sense but I know what I mean by it grin

Judy1234 Sat 30-Jan-10 11:19:53

Ithas got more inclusive but what we don't want is naive children and their parents thinking employers regard the degree from Middlesex ex polytechnic or the 8 GCSEs in basketwork as on a par with the 11 A*s and an upper second from Bristol or who think nottingham trent or as good as Nottingham university or that Oxford Brookes is the same as oxford. As long as they do know that's fine.

jaquelinehyde Sat 30-Jan-10 11:52:44

Of course people are going to know the difference between Oxford Uni etc but to be quite honest some people just don't care which Uni or school you went to.

You see in the real world we need, bin men, and road sweepers, cleaners, and carers, all of which are just as important in society as lawyers and doctors, teachers and politicians. What school they went to generally doesn't matter.

What pupils need is to know that their schooling isn't a waste of time.

By continuing this method of measuring effectiveness in schools by formal qualification we are breeding elitism. Perpetuating this 'my qualification is better than yours because I got it at such and such school/uni'.

Education should be tailored to meet the individuals needs and ability, if that means a GCSE in basket weaving then so be it. It does not make them a failure, and they still have the ability to play just as an important role in society as the student with 12 A* GCSEs in core subjects.

notAnOtter Sat 30-Jan-10 12:17:48

oxford etc yes jaqueline

i seriuosly doubt that much of the population knows the difference - how would you?

i went to a university and graduated in 1990 - so i know what was a poly etc plus i am interested in education

someone who went post 1992 and has children applying now need not have any idea of the 'stratas' of institutions.

one of our employee's son is applying to university this time and she does not appear to hold the university of sheffield in any higher esteem than de montford or the university of northumbria - i dont want to sound 'snobby' by pointing this out but wonder if she knows

jaquelinehyde Sat 30-Jan-10 12:25:22

Why does she need to know though, what purpose will it serve? If she is happy with her choice, and is going to get the result she wants from where she goes then her education is effective. That is what matters surely.

notAnOtter Sat 30-Jan-10 13:11:38

i would want a child to be stretched to the best of their ability

if the cohort is less academic then the lecturer will have to adapt his/her teaching accrordingly - resulting in a lower standard of teaching/learning

mitbap Sat 30-Jan-10 13:47:35

She does need to know and it does matter (unless you are independently wealthy and just exploring your subject as a hobby!) - so many people have a degree these days - employers know which are the 'real' universities and use it to distingush candidates. I can't understand how parents could get to their kids GCSE stage and not be aware and able to guide towards advisable subjects and institutions. An English degree say from a red brick/Russell Group Uni may well get you a lot further than one from an ex poly or college. If your child is not interested in a traditional higher education or degree level career then naturally there are a host of other courses and institutions offering valuable qualifications of all varieties and this is all irrelevant- but if you are going for an academic course at a university don't be conned.

jaquelinehyde Sat 30-Jan-10 13:54:23

There is no proof to suggest this though is there NAO, this is just your personal opinion.

I would always guide my child towards a University that has a proven track record for good results in the subject area my child had chosen to study.

I could care less if this was the worst Uni over all in the UK, if they constantly delivered 100% minimum 2:1 degrees in the chosen subject, then that Uni is a good choice.

Some Uni's offer bragging rights that is for sure, and they will probably allow a student to make some good connections but to instantly assume they are better than other Uni's is just ignorant.

jaquelinehyde Sat 30-Jan-10 13:57:26

I no I wondered how long it would be before the poncey term red brick or Russell Group would turn up wink

jaquelinehyde Sat 30-Jan-10 13:58:14

*Oh no, not I no grin

mitbap Sat 30-Jan-10 14:01:09

Well of course it's imho - although a well informed one I feel. I think you should do a little research into the educational establishments that feature in the CVs of those who have succeeded in their professions - public and private!

mitbap Sat 30-Jan-10 14:08:41


jaquelinehyde Sat 30-Jan-10 14:20:28

Yes poncey.

I don't have time to wade through oodles of CVs, and quite frankly I have no desire to. However, I am sure that if I was the type of person who enjoyed doing such a task, I would be able to find as many CVs to disprove your opinion as prove it.

This thread is about worthless qualifications, surely you can't be suggesting that a qualification that comes from somewhere other than one of the establishments you refer to is worthless? hmm

claig Sat 30-Jan-10 14:23:58

I agree with mitbap, it does matter where you go. Some things really are better than others. Laura Robson is a good tennis player, but Serena Williams is better. De Montfort is a good university, but Cambridge is better. If you were offered the choice to read Economics at Cambridge, or Economics at De Montfort, then unless there were major extenuating circumstances, you should choose Cambridge. One reason is that the professors are renowned world-wide, and you will be in one of the world's top establishments and you will be privileged to be stretched and to study along with some of the world's top minds. The other important reason is, as mitbap said, very few of us are so wealthy that it doesn't matter what choices we make. We all have to consider the benefits and advantages of any choices we make, and it matters how employers rate universities. There is no point studying hard for 3 years and obtaining a 1st class honours at one university, if employers consider it to only be worth a third class honours from a university that you could have gone to.

I agree with jaquelinehyde that studying at any university is good, but if you are lucky enough to have the choice of studying at a better one, you should take it. You don't live in a world of your own, it does matter how the rest of society and employers perceive the choices that you have made.

snorkie Sat 30-Jan-10 14:26:31

I'd have thought the employment prospects were more important than the results really. Fair enough going somewhere where 100% get 2:1s (do such places really exist? I'd be very suspicious of such good figures in real life aside from anything else), but if only 10% of those are finding employment after then it's probably not such a good choice (either of subject or place to study or both).

mitbap Sat 30-Jan-10 14:42:36

I didn't personally mention anything being worthless but was responding and agreeing with NOA and Xenia that the difference between Sheffield and de Montford etc does matter and you should be aware. Claig put it well.

jaquelinehyde Sat 30-Jan-10 14:43:42

I think employment prospects are very important but also pretty dodgy.

My brother obtained a very good degree from Durham Uni and was employed as soon as he left Uni. However, his employment has nothing to do with his degree, is no way linked and he is the first to admit that he just took the first job he could get given the current climate.

So employment prospects in subject field yes valuable, just emplyment prospects no help at all.

I doubt that my example of 100% attainment rate does exist Snorkie, but as it was offered as an example and not as a fact I don't suppose it really matters.

NotAnOtter Sat 30-Jan-10 14:48:50

poncey red brick/russell group - no Jaqueline - old style universities for the academic top 5%

i doubt you would want your child to go the worst university....what would employers think - they would probably discount application without reading it

jaquelinehyde Sat 30-Jan-10 14:52:25

This is just for example, there is no fact in what I am about to say. I am truely interested as to what the response would be....

Lets say your DD was going to be studying Geography at degree level and had been accepted by 2 Unis, Oxford and Newcastle. Oxford is a world famous Uni with many advantages to studying there, however, their Geography degree results are appaling. Newcastle is a aUni like many others but their Geography results are outstanding.

Which would you advice your DD was the best to go for?

I understand this is an extreme and highly improbable scenario but please humour me.

webwiz Sat 30-Jan-10 14:53:14

I think the choice of university exactly parallels the choice of "worthless" to qualifications at the GCSE stage. Its fine take a BTEC in science if you go into it knowing that it fits with your future plans. But not if you want to be a doctor and you are blissfully unaware that you are shutting a door or at the very least making life difficult for yourself.

The same goes for universities -its fine to go to the university that lingers at the bottom of the league tables if the course right for you and it provides a stepping stone onwards to whatever you want. But if you are going there unaware that it is any different from the universities at the top of the league table just because it seems to have a nice low points offer to get in then perhaps you are going to get a shock later on.

Where DH works they have an approved university list for graduate recruitment - if yours isn't on it then its hard lines.

mitbap Sat 30-Jan-10 14:55:26

There are no guarantees or sure things in this life (ask last years graduate body!) but how can it not be wise to grab all the advantages you can?
Sometimes the worst thing can be to specialise in a subject that seems to offer prospects in a specific employment sector e.g. fuel science in the early 80's!!

jaquelinehyde Sat 30-Jan-10 14:56:29

So NAO I can presume from that post that you feel degrees (no matter how good, result wise of subject wise) from a poor university are worthless qualifications.

What a nasty elitist pov this is.

claig Sat 30-Jan-10 14:58:47

Oxford without a doubt, it's like the difference between a brand new Skoda and a second-hand Rolls Royce. There is a reason why Newcastle's results would be outstanding, the standard would be far lower than the standard at Oxford. All employers would be aware of this.

jaquelinehyde Sat 30-Jan-10 15:01:37

OK I'm going to leave this thread now as the opinions on it not only infuriate me but also make me very sad.

NotAnOtter Sat 30-Jan-10 15:01:50

no you cant
just that you are idealising the situation to suit your argument
i am being a realist

as an employer i would care very much where someones degree was from unless vocational

jaquelinehyde Sat 30-Jan-10 15:03:44

So a fail at Oxford is better tan a first at Newcastle. hmm

Jesus Christ have you heard yourselves.

Really leaving now.

mitbap Sat 30-Jan-10 15:04:23

Jaquelinehyde - you are fixating on the word worthless in the OP. Everything has it's value just as everything has it's price. I don't see how it's elitist or nasty to analyse the information available to you and strive to make an informed choice regarding the best path for your children to take. Ignore the realitity of the way the world works at your peril.

claig Sat 30-Jan-10 15:09:39

jaquelinehyde, mitbap is right, you've got to look at reality, you can't afford to be deluded by pied pipers telling you about equality and fairness etc., that's not how the world works.

As Ivana Trump said on Big Brother, "it is wot it is"

webwiz Sat 30-Jan-10 15:16:44

I'm a bit confused at the turn that this thread has taken because I thought the fact that all degree are not created equal was something that was fact in the real world and not something that is just a POV (elitist or otherwise).

gerontius Sat 30-Jan-10 15:47:43

In what way are Oxford's Geography results appalling?

claig Sat 30-Jan-10 16:02:23

gerontius, it was a hypothetical example

snorkie Sat 30-Jan-10 16:54:15

I don't think anywhere has devastatingly awful results. You are probably looking at say a difference of 80% getting 2:1 and above and 70% getting 2:1 and above between the best and worst in terms of pass statistics (this is an illustrative guess, but probably not too badly wrong). The point is, if a child has offers from 2 establishments then both places believe that child can succeed on their course if they work hard & have no unfortunate life circumstances intervening. So you might as well choose the one with the best employment prospects (in terms of likelyhood and type of employment and salary commanded).

Judy1234 Sat 30-Jan-10 17:06:51

The better the institution the lower the drop out rates so look at those for a start. Also a 2/2 from Oxford is much better than a 2/1 at some rubbish place although some employers won't look at anyone with a 2/2. You need to apply tactically. Plenty of people including my siblings did that with Oxbridge.

In general rol on 20 years and those at Oxbridge probably earn more than those with good degrees from not so good places. A job isn't the aim. It's a proper career which pays £100k or whatever.

But as someone said above it's simply the ignorance which is the issue on the thread. I'm not against loads of young people going to universities to get degrees which aren't really any harder than A levels and where they may as well get jobs at 16 or 18 if they are quite happy to have a load of debt and a job which 20 years ago you didn't need a degree for. But they need to know which institutions are better than others.

"I think you should do a little research into the educational establishments that feature in the CVs of those who have succeeded in their professions - public and private!"

My friend whose daughter didn't seem to know going to Oxford B rather than Oxford would have career impact in the field she is going into is a case in point. Hoever you could just say that's the silly fault of the child and her father. Anyone can search on line and look these things up. If they don't find out then more fool them, may be.

NotAnOtter Sat 30-Jan-10 19:48:49

it is taboo to point out that polys and universities used to be different and the difference was 'thus'

education has become all inclusive but at what cost? americanisation imo - everyone is an academic

high five

Peachy Sat 30-Jan-10 20:08:14

Dropout rates reflect screened out rates soa renot reliable- Dh'scourse actively looks todrop 50% of the candidates as there is no test at present that allows them toreallya scertain who can do the work,its all about giving people the chance and setting ahrd exams. OTOH on my degree there was no drop outs almost as the tutors kept giving failures another chance (most annoying forthose of us putting in the work ofcourse)

Of course Oxford is better than Oxford B, not knowing that shows a complete lack of nouse IMO. But I knew Bristol was better than my Uni- still turned it down though, wasn't what I wanted and my Uni offered guaranteed entrance to PGCE I wanted anyway.I'd have adored Bristol of course, I like a decent challenge and bore easily, the boys would not have adored the schools and poor housing we could afford there however. I would rate an 18 yr old who made that choice as a bit thick, a mother as just coming with a more complex set of needs.

Peachy Sat 30-Jan-10 20:15:31

'as an employer i would care very much where someones degree was from unless vocational '

maybe that is it

almost everyone on my course went on to vocational training anyway-PGCE mainly, dueto nature of subject. Access toPGCE is only by degree, the degree acted as the ticket, ergo degree not worthless at all.

I would happily admit anyone looking to succeed in a competitive field later on was in the wrong Uni & taking the wrong subject and despatch them on to another Uni with a better rep for a post grad, but then that option is there so it only takes a year and enough creative thinking to rejig it (and certainly I was told I could do that when I asked the RG Uni I considered, just realised am not built for the research career it was heading towards).

NotAnOtter Sat 30-Jan-10 20:16:17

peachy - i respect your choices and reasoning behind them

again to use the example of our employee - she is not dim I like her a lot and she really helps her son with his choices BUT her son will be first generation ( at least for a while) to go to university ( higher education) and i just do not believe it is in the average parents' understanding of the system to know that there is a difference between de montford and leicester

Peachy Sat 30-Jan-10 20:33:52

I was first generation as well.

I knew about Oxford B etc, but I am the sort who spends weeks on the net before any dcision. In actuality I applied at the very last minute as I passed my Access a year early (first ever to do that apparently <<preen>> wink) and didn't get to do as much research as I would normally, but it doesn't take that much time dos it?

DH's selection was simpler, only one here,Sheffield and Liverpool offered it- now if you think we live in S E Wales LOL..... so very easy! I was a bit uncomfortable about the Uni as I hadn't heard great things but the actual course is good- in its field. lecturers wellqualified and respected from the big institutions (BBC etc),chap who does lighting design for X Factor comesin to guest.... when I did the research it made moresense but then as you say, it is vocational so different.

I do often suggst people consider how far away they will be as a key point- Ex did maths at York and loved his parents being far away, studying at Ipswich (HND top up) really fellapart for my sister though as she hated leaving her boyfriend and everyone behind, and she ended up dropping out. Trying to think what else we used to advise the students- if you know who you want to work for ring them and ask which University best matches their recruitment needs (mainly for vocational again), or see if you can pullup a few ex students CV's on the net and find out where their career headed and if it was where you wanted to go.

Academically I could probably have handled Oxbridge at 18 but personally not at all- I didgo into vocational training and didnt cope with being away very well. I have always tried to see any student I mentor as a package of both potential and personality and work with that, better a degree at UWIC that they finish than six months at LSE.

Oxbridge isn't just grades anyway,m y cousin went with A*s, scholarships, DofE, grade 8 in 3 instruments.... no place. Good call IMO as I think he would have collapsed in that et up.he has a great place elsewhere (RG to do Chem), but his brother has the same grades and a place for medicine- he'll thrive.

Judy1234 Sat 30-Jan-10 20:51:01

The jackq posts are very interesting. Of course an Oxbridge degree will be better. Someone who gest a third at Oxbridge probably will do better than a first at Middlesex University, surely? It is so hard to get into Oxford they must be interesting and clever; fact they messed up their degree probably means they did other interesting things and just about any idiot can get into Mx.

We live on a planet where people are constantly compared. Some are prettier or thinner or nicer or more clever than others. it's how life is. Now you can con yourself that a woman of 20 stone or one with an IQ of 80 or who looks like the back end of a bus is the same as another but that's just pulling the wool over your eyes to the reality and there seems to be a lot of that about particluarly with these new mickey mouse qualifications.

That doesn't mean for many children (remember the average IQ is 100 and plenty are under it) their having some kind of qualification isn't a good thing though. One of my sons tonight thought his horn scales were good. I said they weren't. Children need to know what is wrong, what is bad work and to see red crosses not be told they are brilliant all the time. Of course you need a balance and I'm one of the last pushy mothers around and have some very laid back children but I hope they always know the consequences of the choices they make

claig Sat 30-Jan-10 20:56:21

Thinking about it more, I think Xenia does have a point. It's not that these qualifications are worthless, but it is true that some of them are worth less to employers.

I think we are being fooled and it is to do with this culture of relativism, where there are no absolutes, where everything is equal, where there is no better or worse and there are no standards. There are no winners and losers, everybody deserves a prize, everyone must be rewarded with a smiley face or a star. Tourism studies is as important as physics, dance is as important as mathematics and the University of East London is as important as Cambridge.

It all sounds great, but the problem is that the people in the independent schools like Eton and Harrow don't believe a word of it. They are keeping on track making sure that they get the best seats at the table. Even the Labour politicians, educated at Fettes and Oxbridge, don't believe a word of it. They are busy making sure their children end up in the top schools, while we send our children to the local comp down the road.

When we graduate, those of us who believed that everything had equal value are surprised to find that the employers didn't agree. We kick ourselves, curse and realise that we've been conned yet again.

NotAnOtter Sat 30-Jan-10 21:04:47

eloquently put claig

TheFallenMadonna Sat 30-Jan-10 21:18:46

I agree absolutely that bright children should be doing academic qualifications and going for their own seat at the top table, no matter what school they are in. But that is being used as a stick with which to beat vocational qualifications. And that I do not agree with. As I've said, I teach in a National Challenge school. I teach BTEC Science, but I don't teach it to anyone who had any chance at all of studying medicine, or indeed studying Sciences at A level. Those students do triple award Science. Even at our school hmm. There may be school that put children in for inappropriate qualifications, and they deserve a kicking, but most don't. And a BTEC diploma is no more worthless than the two Es in GCSE Science that the child would have achieved had they been forced along the 'academic' route. In fact it has more worth IMO. But you would have to know something about the qualification to know that.

claig Sat 30-Jan-10 21:32:10

TheFallenMadonna, I'm not against vocational qualifications. I want the standards of these vocational exams raised so that nobody can mock them, and so that they gain equal value to the academic subjects. I don't think discussing Chaucer is tougher than building a performance car engine, I think it's a lot easier. Let's make sure that everybody knows how tough these vocational courses are so that nobody can sneer at them.
Let's increase standards all round, the academic subject standards are too low as well.

All I'm against is conning young people and telling them that it doesn't matter what course they do currently, if they pass the exam they'll get a job. We know that is a lie, we shouldn't lead anyone up the garden path.

TheFallenMadonna Sat 30-Jan-10 21:45:13

Raise the standards of vocational subjects in what way? In what way are the standards too low?

TheFallenMadonna Sat 30-Jan-10 21:52:31

And you are never going to make them 'equal'. The one thing that makes me really cross is this constant comparison and searching for equivalance (and particularly when that is an official thing - that's what causes the bloody misunderstanding int he first place). Discussing Chaucer isn't easier than assembling a performance car engine, and I don't think you really believe that. It's apples and oranges. They are completely different things. Comparing them is pointless, and when you try to do so you sound either snobby or patronising, depending on which way you go. My dad left school at 15 with no qualifications and was apprenticed as a gas fitter. Nobody tried to suggest that was in any way equivalent, or even 'equal' to staying on at school and going to university. He would laugh at the idea himself. However, it was also recognised that it was a useful, and appropriate, job for him.

claig Sat 30-Jan-10 21:54:09

they are not seen as being equally as good as a GCSE in English. They are more useful than writing a dissertation about Chaucer and yet employers don't treat them with the same respect. Their content needs to be improved so that there is no doubt to employers that they are just as valid if not more so than GCSE English. The QCA or whoever should ask employers what they are looking for and what they expect from these BTechs. Employers need to be at the heart of drawing up these qualifications so that they are accorded the respect that they deserve.

claig Sat 30-Jan-10 21:59:46

in a country like Germany where engineering is highly regarded, a vocational apprenticeship is very highly regarded and a qualified person has attained a high standard of learning. We should be able to do the same here.

TheFallenMadonna Sat 30-Jan-10 22:00:03

They are only more useful that a dissertation on Chaucer if the skill set required is that of building an engine.

Judy1234 Sat 30-Jan-10 22:04:50

It makes you good to be a gas fitter but it doesn't make you sutiable for jobs like being a surgeon, lawyer, accountant. That's all. There would be no point in making GCSE photography or needlework as hard to pass as GCSE French with an A* in each or no one would pass the easier subjects and the candidates would be left without qualifications or decent grades.

An employer needing a gas fitter is going to recruit the 16 ior 17 year old with experience in that rather than say my son who graduates this year without any experience in gas fitting.

claig Sat 30-Jan-10 22:08:52

yes, I think for society as a whole, having less English scholars would not impact us greatly, whereas having more engineers would benefit us all enormously. We know that the number of physicists that we are producing is plummeting and this will damage the country. People don't do physics because it is difficult, but people choose English in huge numbers because they like it and feel they will be able to pass it.

TheFallenMadonna Sat 30-Jan-10 22:09:03

DH is an engineer. He is very protective of the status of engineering as a profession grin There is a difference between an academically and professionally qualified engineer and a highly trained and vocationally qualified technician. Especially in Germany apparently, but also in the UK.

An it also has to be understood that there are different levels of vocational qualifications. There is no one size fits all. And yet here we are again, trying to make everything and everyone 'equivalent'

claig Sat 30-Jan-10 22:13:06

I would scrap GCSEs in gas fitting, that should be something an employer trains you up for, I don't think schools should train you for that.

TheFallenMadonna Sat 30-Jan-10 22:13:27

Academically dad would not have been able to train as a surgeon or a lawyer Xenia. Has he tried he'd have been very disappointed very quickly. Like many school leavers. I'm not sure what point you're trying to make there TBH.

TheFallenMadonna Sat 30-Jan-10 22:14:04

GCSEs in gas fitting? What are you talking about?

claig Sat 30-Jan-10 22:22:10

I was trying to raise the respect for vocational qualifications, because I am not against them. If it is not possible to do it, that's OK, it will just mean that they are not regarded as highly. Then as Xenia says children will have to pick their subjects carefully in order to stand a good chance of getting a job.

TheFallenMadonna Sat 30-Jan-10 22:29:21

Regarded as highly for which jobs though? You want someone to do engineering analysis, you go for the graduate. You want someone to machine the components, you go for a technician. Most graduate engineers can't work machine tools. Different skill set. Apples and oranges. Employers would know that, I should imagine, and value either and both as required.

And yes, schools should certainly give good guidance to their students as to which qualifications are most appropriate for them. As I've said.

claig Sat 30-Jan-10 22:37:49

I agree with you, its horses for courses. I don't think BTechs are "soft" courses, I think engine building etc. is tough and I hope people respect it. I think the original point was about "soft" subjects such as media studies (according to the head of Harrow), which students were being encouraged to take, and what impact these courses would have on people's employment prospects.

TheFallenMadonna Sat 30-Jan-10 22:44:32

Ah, media studies. Well, that's kind of a cross over between vocational and academic I suppose. And yes, students need to be carefully advised when they choose their A levels...

Judy1234 Sat 30-Jan-10 22:49:19

And of course there are huge numbers of jobs that any idiot can do and attract only the minimum wage because they are dead easy. It's not always the case that Mrs A can be a surgeon and Mrs B has a different skill set and can clean the hospital toilets and both are good skills. Mrs A is probably pretty good at loo cleaning too as am I having had so many years of practice at it at home.

25% of Britain's wealth is from the City of London so I'm not so sure in a service economy we do need a lot of skills relating to goods. We need to be encouraging foreign bankers to settle here because of a benign tax regime otherwise the tax take will be low many many public sector workers will be out of work.

I think we are very lucky in the UK that most professions you start working reasonably young rather than having to have years and years of pointless extra study until age 30 when you live like a kidult at home without a wage and cannot marry or have children. We don't want to go the German/Italian route really. People learn a lot through doing. I've been doing what I do since I was 21 and that's much better than if I were still studying to 30.

claig Sat 30-Jan-10 22:49:59

Yes they need to be advised, because more people are beginning to believe that they are all much of a muchness, and so will not make discriminating choices. The interesting thing is that the independent schools etc. are not following the trend and therefore are gaining an advantage over the rest of us.

claig Sat 30-Jan-10 22:56:29

The problem with a service economy is that it can't guarantee decent wages for a huge portion of the population. The city, I think, employs less than 1 million people. Yes I agree, I think we have got the balance right with respect to starting work. Most of us don't need to be over qualified with PhDs etc.

TheFallenMadonna Sat 30-Jan-10 23:01:32

I suspect though Xenia, that you would be unable to safely service your own boiler, or re-wire your house, which even in a service-driven economy are necessary jobs. You could learn I'm sure, as an intelligent woman, but why would you want to? So you should be quite glad that someone else does, no? And indeed value that?

claig Sat 30-Jan-10 23:08:19

"25% of Britain's wealth is from the City of London "
the dire straits we are in is due to them as well

LeQueen Sat 30-Jan-10 23:18:31

They are different skill sets. Only thing is if you happen to be gifted with the academic/high IQ skill-set, chances are with appropriate training you could become a gas-fitter/car mechanic etc. But, with the best will in the world, the person with the non-academic/average IQ skill set could never qualify as a surgeon/barrister, no matter how much training they received? It's probably unfair, but life is often highly unfair.

claig Sat 30-Jan-10 23:31:20

yes I agree with that example LeQueen due to the large difference in IQ.

claig Sat 30-Jan-10 23:33:19

but I think that if you took people of equal high IQ, more of them would be good at English than at physics

TheFallenMadonna Sat 30-Jan-10 23:41:06

Yes LeQueen. I said that about both my dad and Xenia in fact. And I don't see it as unfair.

But I'm not sure what it has to do with anything. Just because some jobs could be done by a larger proportion of the population, doesn't make them less useful, and of less value, than jobs that can be done by a smaller section.

claig Sat 30-Jan-10 23:46:30

TheFallenMadonna, it's important because it determines the wages. If lots of people can do something then the wages are usually lower than jobs which only a few do can do

TheFallenMadonna Sat 30-Jan-10 23:50:20

I thought this thread was about 'worth' in the non-material sense though.

Actually, I have no idea where it's going now grin

claig Sat 30-Jan-10 23:54:03

grin no it's going all over the place, difficult to keep track of it.
But the study in order to get jobs is sadly about material worth.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 31-Jan-10 00:00:08

Not completely. I earn less than my cousin who left school after A levels, and I have several degrees and am in an all graduate profession. And my friend, a physicist who can do things that really very few people can, almost certainly a smaller proportion of the population than could become lawyers for example, earns about the same as me. Studying isn't all about the dosh.

But anyway, we're agreed that not everyone can do the academic study thing, even in these wider access to HE times, so it goes back to making sure people are well-trained for the jobs they can do, and which need doing.

claig Sun 31-Jan-10 00:07:54

yes agree with you not everybody should be forced down an academic route. With pay it really comes down to how much you can contribute to the bottom line, which is why nurses, who do one of the most valuable jobs, are not highly paid.

Wastwinsetandpearls Sun 31-Jan-10 00:14:45

It would make sense to pay people the least amount you can while still making the job attractive to those you wish to recruit. The moving finger of Adam Smith and all that.

I would imagine that careers like teaching and nursing attract people who are not motivated by money and they are such enjoyable jobs you do not need a big wage to attract people.

But then maybe I am biased, perhaps if I was the sort of person who would want to be a lawyer I also would not need a huge wage to attract me either.

Many of the "poorer" paid professions are associated with women historically. Having said that as a teacher I think I am paid well, others are just paid to much.

Judy1234 Sun 31-Jan-10 08:17:06

That's how capitalism works in the private sector. You pay as less as you can get away with to get that person in that job. So in some rural areas where cleaners are hard to find they get paid more than in areas like mine where there are loads of people looking for jobs like that. What I cannot see the point in is extending studuying for jobs which don't really need qualifications. By all means at 14 do 2 years of shorthand typing etc and indeed get a certificate in it so that at 16 you can get a job but there's no point really in doing A levels and then a degree so that at 21 you can become a secretary unless you want in effect 5 years "off" accruing debt. I always wanted to be in work as soon as possible rather than doing yet more exams.

mumzy Sun 31-Jan-10 09:42:30

I think the real tragedy of dumbing down exams and having what use to be "mickey mouse" courses is that eventually the people coming out of university will be less knowledgable than they were a generation ago. Other countries who have not dumb down will then over take the UK as they will have better scientists, mathematicians, engineers, linguists and skilled labour. Maybe the lack of an strong manufacteuring base in the UK and our reliance on the financial industry is because we don't produce the kind of scientists, engineers in this country to provide the development & innovation needed and we lack the apprenticeships to give people the manual skills needed in manufacteuring industries.
We need to wake up to the fact that we need to have academic courses, vocational courses, high quality apprenticeships and each make a valuable contribution to our ecomony. We also need to stop pushing all children down the academic route as the only way forward

claig Sun 31-Jan-10 09:53:24

mumzy, very well said

LeQueen Sun 31-Jan-10 10:34:41

Mumzy very good point.

I was one of the last under-graduates to take a non modular degree. I studied pure English Literature. The next year I knew people who were technically studying for the same degree as me, but were taking random modules like History of Art, or French Politics, or even something vaguely IT based.

Same with MrQueen. He did pure Computer Science, but had friends on the year below who were dliuting their Computer Science degree with modules in German Conversation, Economics...Technical Drawing etc.

Very strange.

claig Sun 31-Jan-10 14:05:55

LeQueen, there is an interesting comment that backs up what you are saying about modular degrees ,how they are leading to dumbing down and how this affects our competitiveness

gerontius Sun 31-Jan-10 14:51:42

But America has some of the best universities and the world and their degrees are all modular aren't they? Don't you do about four subjects at the same time?

claig Sun 31-Jan-10 15:08:02

gerontius, I agree that America's top universities are fantastic. I like their standards in education, I am impressed with their system and you are right they do use a modular system. I don't know how good their lower level universities are. But what is interesting is that MIT, which is a fantastic place, got 8th place and was the only American university in the top ten in this computer programming competition.

If modular courses can be assured to be of a very high standard, then it may not be such a problem. But what was very interesting in the comment was that the poster had inside knowledge from lecturers that the courses had been dumbed down in order to enable paying students to be able to pass.

qumquat Sun 31-Jan-10 15:09:55

I'm not sure why doing a pure susbject is neccessarily better than doing some modules from other subject. I'd have loved the opportunity to study a broader university course, US style. I would say that someone who was skilled in computer science and could speak German is better educated than one who had only studied computer science.

claig Sun 31-Jan-10 15:21:34

qumquat, I guess it's the old specialisation versus generalisation argument, jack of all trades master of none etc.
To compete with other countries at the top level, it would probably be better to specialise. But I agree with you, the more rounded candidate would be the one who had the wider perspective.

Judy1234 Sun 31-Jan-10 18:19:04

I was delighted at 15 to give up all the O level subjects and just do 3 A levels. I would not have liked doing the IB and I think you can learn subjects younger rather than carry on far too much into adulthood when you should join real life instead. I could learn my latin and French by the time I was 15. I wouldn't need to carry on with all subjects to 18 or even into university years.

LeQueen Sun 31-Jan-10 18:54:12

qumquat well it depends. If the job I'm recruiting for is purely IT based, with zero need for the ability to speak a smattering of German, I'd go for the purist IT graduate. Simply because he would have more IT modules under his belt, and it would be his IT skills I needed (not his smattering of conversational German, or his shallow knowledge of Renaissance painters).

lazymumofteenagesons Sun 31-Jan-10 18:57:33

The american system is very good for the undergraduate who has not yet decided which route they want to take. But it does lead to a system whereby to be properly qualified you need some sort of postgraduate qualification which is exactly what is now happening in the UK.

NotAnOtter Sun 31-Jan-10 20:05:25

the whole 'sytem' of a levels and gcses is so so different
i am currently going through the process of both with two of my dcs who are at great state schools and both considered very bright

ds had his a2 modules last week and chemistry was three months worth of work in a one our 45 minute exam...

not the same - i feel it does not tax your brain in the same way our A levels did. for those that say it was just cramming in our day - at least you crammed two years worth in and had to then 'select' from that what was appropriate for the paper that you turned over that day

now the dcs barely digest the stuff - pops in the head for a couple of weeks then pops out again- less 'cramming' more 'snacking'

claig Sun 31-Jan-10 20:13:02

NotAnOtter, agree 100%. I think it was changed for poltical reasons but I won't go there, too likely to start a heated debate smile

Peachy Mon 01-Feb-10 09:22:30

My degree was only modular in the sense you chose which faiths to study- nobody could master them all after all. I may have chosen Buddhism over Jainism, but it was no less specialised in my field. We did have to do an induction choice of a second subject thinking about it- in year one- but I managed to do Psychology, and stick to the Psychology of religion and also autism,which actually was what got me an immediate yes fo rmy MA now (which is in autism). So actually worked in my favour IYSWIM. Sometimes it is about how well you play the game I think.

DH has no options on his degree, it is as it is. They can attend extra talks in specific fields such as architectural lighting but no options on main course.

Xenia that thing about being a Secretary only worked when every other person applying didn't also have a degree. You have to make yourself competitive for the market you face now,many undergrds, not the Xenia-ideal or one that existed twenty years ago.

claig Mon 01-Feb-10 10:17:20

the point in doing 'A' levels and a degree is that it keeps your options open and gives you more choice of careers. You won't be restricted to becoming a secretary.

Peachy Mon 01-Feb-10 11:46:28

But if you want to be one and everyone else has a degree then you still have to do it don't you? No point in being idealistic, tool yourself up and go for it with 100% effort I say. And then if, ten years down the line, you think 'shit this is crap' it's a damned sight easier to shift about- evening MA and you have a neat specialism/ new career, far easier for most than giving everything up to study for 3 years.

A great many people I know are now,as their kids are a bit older and not so dependent, thinking about what they want from their lives from hereon in. The ones with degrees are finding it far easier to switch about (friend going from Environmental Health to Forensics, BIL from trouble shooring (sick of the travelling aspect-a continent a week seems fun when you don't have a family to miss out- on to logistics management) than those who don't. Even my friend who has good A-Levels (maths, pure maths, biology, physics at A /B again inmid eighties) is struggling (her degree was aborted when her parents both became ill) and stuck in a job because she hates but she can't just pack it in and go off to University. Being a TA for the last 5 years suited her life needs, but had she had a degree in her armoury she'd have found it far easier to do the extra bit needed to use her real abillities now.

many years ago I was given a test by a Psych friend which supposedly analysed your position for education. At the time I was getting a rep as a serialPT student-an OU course here,maybe something completely random thre- allalongside my terrible job that paid the bills. The test was pop psych at its worst, but suggested I saw it all as as what they called 'they key'- something you could put away in adrawer and pull out when needed. Ten years later,when applying for Uni I realised that was exactly right- not only did I have awealth of info to draw upon but up to datestudy skills to boot. And OK so the make upartist bit was not a great help LOL,but that tomeexactly is the value of education- it buys you options and if you're a secretary now you may as well be a step ahead if you want a change somewhere down the line.

claig Mon 01-Feb-10 11:51:11

peachy, agree entirely

Judy1234 Tue 02-Feb-10 12:28:32

Same with children, get them skilled at loads of things and may be some will be useful some time. I don't think I've used my A level German since I took it in 1979 but last week in Switzerland I could understand most of what I heard even though I haven't used it for decades. My daughter may be got her job because she show jumped and rode a lot as that was a common interest with whoever hired her. She worked in Antigua one summer because we'd got her taught how to sail. In other words expose children to a wide range of things (and they will often pick what you don't want them to - I'd rather they wanted to sing with me for example but they can cast off their grade 8 singing exams be very into a different hobby - their choice) but if they have had a broad education, not just crammed for exams then that gives them more choice too and makes them more interesting people.

I agree that a degree gives you more choices later. I don't think most people except for people like my siblings and me choose a career specific degree and stick with it for life (although both my parents also did that which is interesting), necessarily stay with one career for life so if you have lots of skills you will have more choices. Even just getting them to pass their driving test at 17 really helps older chidlren. I got them to take the driving theory test on their 17th birthday. I taught myself to touch type age 15 from a book from the library and that was one of the most useful skills I picked up. I didn't need a 2 year GCSE typing course of course as any idiot can type and library books are free but I'm the fastest typist I know and I then wrote 30 books and I'm not sure I would have done if I'd had to dictate them.

Hellster Sat 13-Feb-10 15:40:05

My son is being forced to take media studies at GCSE, with English Lit being relegated to an optional choice. I am FURIOUS. He can choose to take English Lit, but at the expense of another subject he wants to do. I am arguing the point with his school (local comp) but fear I will lose the battle. They insist it's not a soft option and isn't anything to do with improving their standing in the league tables.(yeah right!)

Lilymaid Sat 13-Feb-10 17:14:20

My non-academic DS did Media Studies GCSE as an after-school club in Y9 over 3 terms. Nuff said!

violetqueen Sun 14-Feb-10 09:10:22

Did anyone read through this link
posted by Xenia ?
It was in answer to my question ( page 6 of this thread ) about figures backing up her claim that since grammar schools were abolished fewer poorer children get through to university .
I may well be missing something but I can't see any evidence in this link to support the claim.
Grammar schools don't seem to be mentioned , university entrance figures for poor backgrounds are
^Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: "Last week we showed that state school admissions to our leading universities had grown by 35% between Autumn 1997 and 2002, compared with a 22% overall increase in numbers. Some commentators argued that this did not necessarily represent a major step towards widening access but our latest analysis shows that a number of these entrants are from poorer backgrounds. Since 1997, there has been a 49% growth in the admission of students from low participation neighbourhoods, well over the 20% increase experienced by more affluent areas"^
But maybe I've missed something ?