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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.”

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