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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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet look at what he achieved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

yes i agree totally awful for her poor children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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 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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

I liked bun rout.

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

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