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Private schools 'handicapped by university targets'

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

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

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

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

What do others think?

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

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

This surely balances the argument a bit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Really sorry. shock

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

grovel, I agree with you last post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes Tim nice but dim springs to mind

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

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

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

I liked bun rout.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Jump, I assume I'm Shagmund? grin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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