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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2007 8:55 am 
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Location: Birmingham
As I have already mentioned in an earlier thread, my son managed to get an Assisted Place Scholarship/Bursary last week at the highly prestigious and sought-after King Edward's Independent School (KES), Edgbaston, Birmingham. Both my wife and I have more or less decided to send him there - we have aspirations for him to eventually attend Oxbridge, and with KES having 21% of its pupils obtaining places at either Oxford or Cambridge each year, it seems that KES is the obvious choice for us. However, I am somewhat concerned about the following article that appeared in the Guardian in July 2006. Can we have some feedback, discussion and thoughts on this issue please.

Thanks

Dr Jalal

Oxford gives helping hand to students from poorer backgrounds


· Independent schools say move is travesty of justice
· NUT says scheme will help to redress balance

Matthew Taylor, education correspondent
Thursday July 27, 2006
The Guardian


Oxford University yesterday drew fierce criticism from independent schools after announcing changes to its admission system designed to attract more pupils from poorer backgrounds.
Oxford colleges will consider the academic record of a candidate's school when deciding whom to shortlist for interview. Pupils from schools near the bottom of the government's league tables could be offered an interview while some with better grades from top schools may miss out.

The initiative has been welcomed by those campaigning for a fairer deal for state school pupils at leading universities. But heads from the independent sector said the reforms risked discriminating against hardworking pupils from their schools.

Martin Stephen, high master of St Paul's school in London, which has topped the independent school GCSE league tables for the past two years, said Oxford's policy was dangerous. "Nobody can deny the validity of the aim, which is that the brightest should go to the best universities," he said.

"As usual, the means is at the very least primitive, at worst it is immoral ... The absolute tragedy would be if Oxford turned down candidates who had done well. That makes a complete travesty of social and moral justice.

"If a candidate who scored top grades doesn't make it on to what is the first rung - the interview - something has gone deeply wrong. It is just as bad to discriminate against a young person because they have done well as it is to discriminate because they are disadvantaged."

However, Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, welcomed the move, saying it would help redress the balance and give thousands of bright children from disadvantaged backgrounds the chance to get into one of the country's leading universities.

"There is nothing discriminatory about this for independent pupils. This policy is just evening up the balance and will help many bright young people who will benefit enormously from such a chance."

The system, which is in operation in some courses and subjects, will be introduced across the university next year for applicants starting degree courses in October 2008. A spokesman for Oxford said: "Schooling in this country is obviously very different depending on which school you go to and we have to bear that in mind and try and be as fair as possible."

Helen Carasso, the university's acting director of undergraduate admissions, said she expected the changes to result in Oxford taking on more people from state schools, further education colleges or poor neighbourhoods. "I imagine that there will be a small increase in numbers of such people," she said. "But they are people who probably should have been here anyway who were probably being disadvantaged by the system before.

"It is not a question of taking people who are weaker, it is a question of a more sophisticated selection process that gets closer to the qualities we are looking for. Our overriding concern is to be fair to all candidates and the more we understand about those candidates' backgrounds and their prior achievements the better we can judge them on an equal playing field."

Figures earlier this month showed Oxford was still far short of the government's benchmark for state schools. Oxford took 53.4% of its new young undergraduates from state school or college backgrounds in 2004-05, down 0.4 percentage points from the previous year. The benchmark was 74.6%. Cambridge was also far short of its benchmark, while overall applications to universities from state school pupils fell across the UK.


There is also another interesting article on "Why five As and two Bs can beat nine A*s"

http://education.guardian.co.uk/univers ... 74,00.html

Are we to be overly concerned about these issues? Please add your comments.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2007 9:21 am 
My niece and nephew both applied to Oxbridge from the background of being at an independent school. Neither of them got in.

My nephew was badly advised about which undergraduate course he should apply for at Cambridge (he applied for Natural Sciences rather than Engineering).

My niece's application to Oxford was just too ordinary. She's a lovely bright girl, but there was nothing about her application to make her stand out from the crowd.

I'm sure that your son will do really well at KES, but I think whether or not he goes to Oxbridge will have less to do with which school he went to, and more to do with how he uses his time there. He needs to make himself stand out from the crowd in 7 years time!!


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2007 9:43 am 
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Dr Jalal

A lot can change in 7 years - you can't second guess the future and your son may not want to go to Oxford or cambridge.
- KES is a good place I'm sure your some will love it.

Just a word of advice - those of us who went to KEHS and KES used to get driven mad by our parents going on about how prestigious it was and how fortunate we were to be there. we knew that anyway and it got embarassing to keep going on about it.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2007 10:16 am 
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Hi

Couldn't agree more, I come from an HE admissions background and things can change significantly over such a period of time.

There is no possible way you can predict what will happen in 7 years time. My daughter will be going through the application process next academic year and although Oxbridge is an option, she is very keen to explore what others have to offer for her subject. I wouldn't let your choice of school be decided by future HE options.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2007 10:29 am 
As far as I can tell, Oxford are only saying they will try and INTERVIEW more candidates from underperforming state schools. They already interview the large majority of candidates. However, at the moment I think they pretty much filter out anyone without at least 5-6 A*s at GCSE.

To be honest, not many students apply to Oxford from these types of underperforming schools anyway. And let's face it, if you have achieved, for example, 2A*s, 3As, 2Bs and 1C at GCSE when the school average is only 16% 5 A-C passes, you probably deserve an interview!

Jed


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2007 10:37 am 
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This debate has been going on for years! What Universities want is more than someone with straight A grades - you should encourage your child to do sport or D of E or music or something. If medicine or vet you need work experience. When I applied the 'personal statement' was a one-liner now it has a whole page!

I think it's fair to look at people with lower grades if the school does not have good results. If someone is predicted BBB from a school that gets very few higher grades [and has the potential to have got AAA at a better school] is that person not a better prospect than someone with AAB from a high achieving school?

Oxbridge is not automatically the 'best' choice for every subject or every person - some of the pupils I've taught have turned down places because it was not right for them.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2007 11:52 am 
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Joined: Thu Nov 02, 2006 3:07 pm
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Location: Finchley - Barnet
Oh well,

This is the government of the day. Things do change and having been an admissions tutor myself in a University (and a PG student in Cambridge), I can testify to that. This approach affects all top performing schools, not just independent schools.

On the other side of the coin, I find it rather pleasing knowing that pupils that do excellently (only then will they be considered by these two insititutions) DESPITE rather than BECAUSE of which school they are in, will be given a chance. Let's face it: they consider people that "stand out of the crowd". Then if you are a star you will shine more impressively if you spark against a grey background, rather than if you are surrounded by hundreds of other stars (Oh, the poet in me!). But then again would you risk putting you son in that grey background for all this time, just to gain a doubtful benefit in 7 years time? Let's be serious!

This despite having my son in line to go either to a top independent selective school or a top grammar.

INEX


Quote:
Oxford University yesterday drew fierce criticism from independent schools after announcing changes to its admission system designed to attract more pupils from poorer backgrounds.
Oxford colleges will consider the academic record of a candidate's school when deciding whom to shortlist for interview. Pupils from schools near the bottom of the government's league tables could be offered an interview while some with better grades from top schools may miss out.

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sj355


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2007 12:48 pm 
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Interesting debate - I agree with SJ355 comments on this, but let me pose a hypothetical question that some parents with GCSE children will be facing:-


Your child failed the 11+ and attended an ordinary comprehensive. Despite this your child has performed exceptionally well in the GCSE exams and has obtained several A*s at GCSE. So well in fact that they have been offered a place in the sixth form at a top Independent or Grammar school (such as KES or KEHS). Do you accept knowing that by staying on at the comprehensive they may get a better/lower University offer?


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2007 1:18 pm 
So many of the comprehensive schools seem to fail to offer the full range of academic A'level subjects (if they have a 6th form at all), that I think that you have to go for the Grammar School/Independent School 6th form most times if you want to get the subjects you want!!

Local examples: Shireland Language College cannot offer Further Maths without bussing pupils to George Salter High in West Bromwich. I understand that Lordsword Girls had a problem with offering Biology this year, and has had problems with Maths in previous years. The comprehensives are offering more vocational courses in 6th forms in order to increase the number of pupils staying on.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2007 2:01 pm 
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Location: Finchley - Barnet
Quote:
Your child failed the 11+ and attended an ordinary comprehensive. Despite this your child has performed exceptionally well in the GCSE exams and has obtained several A*s at GCSE. So well in fact that they have been offered a place in the sixth form at a top Independent or Grammar school (such as KES or KEHS). Do you accept knowing that by staying on at the comprehensive they may get a better/lower University offer?


Good question.The answer is yes you do because if I remember correctly in the UCAS form they ask details of your school(s) in the last 3 years! And yes we do look at that section! Also in the reference letter your current headteacher/teacher will mention where you came from.

INEX

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