Latest Educational News

Teacher training free-for-all announced

by TES Connect, June 23, 2015

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University and school based initial teacher training providers have been told they can take on as many trainees as they want from next year.

The free-for-all announced today by the National College of Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) comes in the wake of concerns about growing teacher shortages.

But universities are warning that the removal of limits on trainee numbers for each individual training providers could make the problem worse. They fear it will be detrimental to initial teacher training recruitment and could lead to courses being closed.

National allocations for the number of trainees for in each subject will remain. But universities and School Direct schools recruiting for September 2016 have been told they can take on as many trainees as they want until the national limit in each subject is met.

Charlie Taylor, NCTL chief executive said the change being made in response to frustrations from teacher training providers about the complicated allocations system.

There will be some controls set to ensure a mix of School Direct, SCITT (school centred initial teacher training) and university-led courses. The NCTL has also said it will ensure no individual providers expand beyond a certain level and it will act to prevent significant geographical variation.

But the removal of institutional limits has been condemned by bodies representing universities.

In a joint statement, Universities UK and Guild HE, said: “Within the fixed market that these changes introduce, there will be no guaranteed minimum intake level for university provider-led courses.

“This instability affects the viability of course delivery, reduces the capacity of universities to plan over the long-term and may impact on the ability of universities to support their partnership schools. The changes could, in certain instances, lead to universities withdrawing from specific subjects or from the ITT market altogether.”

James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said that the success of the plan would depend on whether there was the flexibility involved to shift applicants between universities and School Direct routes in order to maximise recruitment levels.

Earlier this month Teach First warned that schools are facing the worst recruitment crisis this century, as demand for its teachers has more than doubled compared to last year.

Pupil numbers are rising with official figures predicting that there will be 900,000 extra pupils in England’s schools by 2021, compared to 2010.

French students unable to 'cope' with tricky question

by BBC News, June 23, 2015

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The characters in Ian McEwan's novel Atonement are called upon to cope with all sorts of tricky situations.

But when French teenagers sitting an exam about the book were asked to cope with a tough question, they fell short on one key element - the word "coping".

Now almost 12,000 students have signed a petition saying the question was "impossible" to answer because they didn't know the word.

The 17-year-old behind it claims "only someone bilingual" would understand it.

The students of the baccalaureate English exam were asked how Robbie Turner - who is falsely accused of rape - is "coping with the situation".

But thousands of them took to social media after the test, using the hashtag #BacAnglais, to claim that the question was too difficult.

Addressed to France's Minister of Education Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the petition calls the question "incomprehensible and impossible to answer".

The pupil behind it, a 17-year-old known only as Arthur, told a local TV station that coping was "not a very common word" and only someone with "excellent" English would know it.

The petition calls for the question either to be annulled from the marking scheme or that bonus points are awarded to those who answered it.

However, others defended the question. Hugo Travers, 18, tweeted: "In 2015 you find a question a little difficult, you launch a petition full of mistakes. No, just no."

The complaint follows a similar controversy in the UK two weeks ago, when a petition over a maths question attracted almost 40,000 signatures.

Students ride a merry go round between final and modular courses

by The Guardian, June 23, 2015

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Some time in the late 80s, departments in my faculty received a letter from the dean instructing us to redesign our undergraduate courses, replacing outdated traditional degrees with modern, modular programmes. Up to that point, student achievement was based on finals, taken over an intensive few weeks in the third year. First- and second-year exams had to be passed to progress to the next year, but had little influence on the degree class obtained.

Modular systems promised a more even exam load, which would, so it was thought, be fairer and less stressful. They also offered greater flexibility. Nevertheless, as cynical academics, we assumed that the real reason for change was administrative convenience, including more control over staff, in belated recognition of practice elsewhere in the sector.

Most departments grumbled but did what they were told. My department, instead, wrote a letter explaining why making this change would be the end of civilisation as we knew it, or at least something close. Modular degrees, we argued, encourage superficial learning and lacked connection between the elements studied. We preferred to continue teaching for what was known as the University of London federal degree. Our students went to lectures at several different colleges, freeing academic time for weekly tutorials including, in the final year, one-to-one sessions. The tutorials were the highlight, and we couldn’t see how to continue them in the same way in a modular programme.

A quarter of kids say playing computer games is exercise, research shows

by TES Connect, June 23, 2015

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Nearly a quarter of young people believe that playing a computer game constitutes a form of exercise, according to a study released today which warns that children are becoming “hostages” to handheld devices.

The research, published by the Youth Sport Trust, raises serious concerns about the physical fitness of today’s young people. It says that PE and school sport are at a “critical crossroads” in terms of ensuring children’s mental and physical well-being.

As part of its report, the charity surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,000 five- to 16-year-olds, which revealed that 23 per cent felt that playing a video game was a form of exercise.

The poll also found that 35 per cent of the respondents spent more time speaking to their friends via social media than they did face-to-face. The accompanying report warns that young people are becoming “disengaged” from physical activity.

The study, entitled The Class of 2035: promoting a brighter and more active future for the youth of tomorrow, urges schools to utilise technology in their approach to delivering PE and sport to ensure that the next generation remains active.

YST chief executive Ali Oliver warned that too many young people were at risk of living their lives “devoted to technology” and were effectively “hostages to handheld devices”.

“This report clearly signals that action is needed now to modernise the approach to PE and school sport and in doing so, guarantee the best possible future for generations to come,” Ms Oliver said.

“If we are to avoid a future whereby young people are disengaged from physical activity, living increasingly sedentary lifestyles, we must recognise their needs today, working with government and partners within the education, sport and health sectors to improve opportunities for young people through PE and school sport.”

The study found that 40 per cent of respondents wanted to do more exercise and 75 per cent said they enjoyed doing PE and sport in school.

The government has committed £300 million over two years to deliver PE and sport in primary schools in the form of the primary sport premium. Children’s minister Edward Timpson said research had shown that the investment was already improving PE and sport.

“We want to encourage all young people to get into the healthy habit of playing and enjoying sport – both inside and outside school – which is why PE remains a government priority,” he added.

Young becoming hostages to handheld devices, says charity

by BBC News, June 23, 2015

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Future generations of young people risk becoming "hostages to handheld devices" and disengaged from physical activity, a sports charity says.

The Youth Sports Trust report suggests that nearly a quarter of children see playing computer games with friends as a form of physical activity.

The trust called for technology to be integrated with PE in schools.

The government said it had given schools £300m to improve school sport, and PE was a priority.

The Leicestershire-based trust describes itself as an independent charity devoted to changing young people's lives through sport.

It commissioned a survey of children's attitudes to sport, as part of its report on the future of sport in schools.

'March of technology'

This poll of 1,000 five- to 16-year olds suggested 75% of young people enjoy PE at school, and two-thirds feel better after taking part in sport.

But the survey revealed the scale of the challenge from digital technology.

Some 23% of children said they viewed playing a computer game with a friend as a form of exercise.

And a third said they spoke to their friends more on social media than in person.

The report - The class of 2035: promoting a brighter and more active future for the youth of tomorrow - said "there is no resisting" the march of technology.

"Policymakers can feel nostalgic for a time before the challenges new connected technologies have brought in engaging young people, or they can harness these technologies to their advantage," the report said.

Interstellar 'should be shown in school lessons'

by BBC News, June 23, 2015

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The film Interstellar should be shown in school science lessons, a scientific journal has urged.

They say their call follows a new insight gained into black holes as a result of producing the visual effects for the Hollywood film.

Experts have also confirmed that the portrayal of "wormholes" is scientifically accurate.

Scientific papers have been published in the American Journal of Physics and in Classical and Quantum Gravity.

Dr David Jackson, who printed one of the papers in this month's AJP said "publishing this paper was a no brainer".

He added: "The physics has been very carefully reviewed by experts and found to be accurate. The publication will encourage physics teachers to show the film in their classes to get across ideas about general relativity."

The director of Interstellar, Christopher Nolan, told BBC News that Dr Jackson's comments and the two journal publications were "very important" to him.

"Right from the beginning we all really believed it's time to inspire another generation to really look outwards and to look to the stars again.

"We hoped that by dramatising science and making it something that could be entertaining for kids we might inspire some of the astronauts of tomorrow - that would be the ultimate goal of the project," he said.

Even 'good' schools could be forced to become academies, PM warns

by TES Connect, June 22, 2015

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Prime minister David Cameron increased the pressure on schools today by warning that even those with “good” Ofsted ratings could be forced to become academies.

In a speech at an academy in Runcorn he expanded on the government’s “zero tolerance” approach to failure in education and condemned “coasting schools”.

These are "schools where standards could and should be higher, given their intake and potential”, he said, adding: "These include some schools rated 'requires improvement' – but who aren't improving quickly enough.

"And other schools rated 'good' at their last inspection – but which haven't been maintaining high standards since. They are giving children 'just enough' to avoid falling beneath our floor standards. But frankly 'just enough' isn't good enough for my children, and it shouldn't be for yours.

"So we're going to say to those schools: if you're not making fast enough progress in raising standards, you have to change and if you can't do it yourself, you have to become a sponsored academy and welcome in people with a proven track record of running outstanding schools."

The government has previously said that up to 1,000 failing schools in England would be turned into academies under new laws being introduced to Parliament.

Every school in England rated inadequate by Ofsted will be become an academy under the Education and Adoption Bill.

New powers would speed up the process of changing a failing school's leadership and stop campaigners "obstructing" takeovers, according to the Department for Education.

Mr Cameron said today: “One of the great frustrations of the past five years was that because of bureaucratic rules, we could only intervene in 50 per cent of the schools rated 'inadequate' by Ofsted. So as part of our education bill, we will sweep away these rules and make sure every 'inadequate' school will be turned into an academy, with new leadership.”

The prime minister insisted that the task of raising aspirations was not simply for headteachers and teachers but also for parents.

"What I would say to anyone, whether it is the teachers in a school that's coasting, or the parents who send their children there, is we have all got to lift our aspirations," he said. "We should set the aspiration high and, to be fair to teachers, asking them on their own is not enough. We have got to ask parents, too, to aspire to do more for their children and make sure they are being demanding of their schools and, as I know as a parent myself, demanding of their children, too."

Four in 10 students say university not good value - survey

by BBC News, June 22, 2015

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Four in 10 of the first students to pay higher fees do not believe their courses have been good value for money, a survey for BBC Radio 5 live suggests.

Just over half say their university course has been good value and about 8% are undecided.

The survey of 1,004 final-year students also shows 46% would do the same course again.

Universities UK said the last national student survey found 86% of students were satisfied with their course.

The survey, carried out by ComRes from 1-7 May, focused on undergraduates in their final year of degree courses in 2015.

These students were the first to pay higher fees of up to £9,000 per year, after the price of university tuition trebled in 2012.

Many commentators predicted there would be a fall in student numbers but this did not happen.

The school that's ditched homework to help teachers get a life

by TES Connect, June 21, 2015

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Traditionalist academy spares educators the stress of marking

A "traditionalist" school, founded with the explicit intention of bringing the values of private education to a deprived corner of north-west London, has decided to stop setting pupils homework.

Michaela Community School was set up by Katharine Birbalsingh, the headteacher renowned for receving a standing ovation at the 2010 Conservative Party conference, after she decried the state of English education.

But now Michaela’s assistant headteacher, Joe Kirby, has explained that the school has decided to “replace…setting, chasing, checking, marking and logging homework with revision, reading and online maths”.

“For teachers who’ve got to set, correct, mark, track and chase homework, it’s taking time out of lessons,” he told TES this week. “I think there’s a clarion call in the teaching profession now to let teachers plan and mark, and not have to handle any bureaucracy. But we say: let teachers get on and teach, and not drown in hours and hours of marking.”

Michaela, in Wembley Park, is not the first school to have questioned the wisdom of the traditional homework timetable. Earlier this month, Eve Jardine-Young, principal of the independent Cheltenham Ladies’ College, made the national news when she said she might review the school’s policy of setting prep in order to tackle teenagers’ “epidemic of anxiety”.

But at Michaela, the elimination of homework is not about saving pupils – it is about saving teachers. “Common practices result in heavy workload, high burnout, and very, very high levels of teacher turnover,” Mr Kirby said.

“Every single decision we make, we want to look at through this lens: is it going to reduce workload for teachers? We want to create a new blueprint, where it’s possible for teachers to have a life.”

Class of 2015 graduates desperately seek jobs to recoup £30,000 loans

by The Independent, June 21, 2015

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The Class of 2015 – the first to graduate from university having paid tuition fees of £9,000 a year – are the most job hungry and ambitious ever, according to published research.

A survey of more than 18,000 final-year students revealed more than one in four (26 per cent) will walk straight into a job after graduation – the highest level for 14 years.

The survey, by graduate recruitment experts High Fliers Research, also revealed that nearly half (an astonishing 48 per cent – the highest figure ever recorded) had begun searching for a job during their first year at university.

A glance at the levels of debts by this year’s graduates gives a clue as to why – on average they owe £30,000 on graduating, 50 per cent higher than 2014’s graduates. One in 50 estimate they will leave university owing more than £50,000. Those who studied at Imperial College London had the largest level of debt at £39,300 on average, followed by University College London (£36,500) and the London School of Economics (£36,400) – all possibly as a result of studying in the capital. Those with the least debt were graduates of Strathclyde (£13,000) and Glasgow (£15,700).

Why schools should do more for teen dads

by TES Connect, June 20, 2015

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Teenage fathers need as much support from schools as young mothers, according to a leading thinktank.

In an article written by English teacher Tobias Fish in the 19 June issue of TES, Jeremy Davies of the Fatherhood Institute explains that schools have a duty to support teen dads. “A school’s primary aim is to ensure that young dads can achieve, and to provide pastoral care,” he says.

However, Fish explains that although services – including schools – tend to invest a good deal of time and energy into supporting young mothers, young dads get far less assistance, if any. Given the strong weight of evidence about the impact of fathers’ involvement on outcomes for children, he argues, that needs to change.

“At first sight, these young men might appear to offer unpromising raw material for transforming into loving, emotionally capable hands-on dads, but with the right support they can become just that,” Fish writes.

Davies agrees. “The aim should be to turn any potentially negative impact into a positive: a well-supported young father could, in fact, become a positive role model for other young men,” he says.

The article features the story of 15-year-old Errol who became a father this year. Errol's advice to schools is simple. “Support him through the time. Let him take time out of lessons. Let him go to a young dads’ session. Check if he’s all right. Help him mature a bit. Most of all, let him know that, if you’re a young dad, you can do it.”

British children reluctant to cheat, US study shows

by The Independent, June 20, 2015

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The idea that the British have an inherent sense of fair play is met with scorn by those who view it as nothing more than nationalist myth-making.

However, psychologists researching links between the development of memory in young children and their ability to lie hit a problem when studying six- and seven-year-olds in the UK.

Despite specifically designing a study to lure the youngsters into peeking at the answer to a trivia question – so their skills of deception could then be put to the test – the vast majority of the British children refused to cheat.

Based on studies mainly in North America, about two-thirds were expected to sneak a look at the right answer when the researcher left the room, but less than 25 per cent of the British children actually did so.

Dr Tracy Alloway, of North Florida University, who led the research, told The Independent that they now planned to try to find out why so few took the bait.

“A great follow-up study we’re interested in pursuing is looking at cultural differences,” she said.

How can we best prepare students for the workplace?

by School World, June 19, 2015

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What are we to make of the student who, at a job interview, checks her mobile for messages?
Most young people who enter the workplace for their first job, are, on day one, utterly bemused.

Of course, to some degree they will be prepared, for they will have heard stories from parents, older siblings, friends who left school a year before…

Unfortunately, 95% of these stories will be at best irrelevant to the workplace they are entering or at worst utterly wrong in every regard.

For entering work is not just about the skills a young person brings to the job in hand. It is also about the young person’s attitude.

If the employer and the staff already in place treat the new employee as a responsible adult who is going to work hard for the company, and the young employee doesn’t realise that when a job is complete he/she should find out what to do next, there is already a significant misunderstanding of how to behave.

Indeed, knowing how to behave in the work place can be the most important issue on day one. The issue reported in the headline above might look bizarre in the extreme, but it has been reported and is just one very graphic example of students simply not knowing how they are supposed to behave.

Marking and motivation turned upside down

by School World, June 19, 2015

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That question raises an interesting dilemma – for it suggests that we are looking for a way of marking pupils’ work which is both effective in terms of generating ever greater improvements in their work, but is also at the same time less time-consuming.

Such an approach (leading to less time spent marking, but ever greater improvements in children’s work) might lead us to ask in return, “Is this really possible?”

Research over recent years strongly suggests that the route to achieving more improvement, with less time spent on marking, arises when one does two things.

First one needs a structured marking system which focuses on peer support and verbal feedback. And second, within this there needs to be a motivational system which the pupils like and to which they immediately respond.

Ofsted purges 1,200 'not good enough' inspectors

by BBC News, June 19, 2015

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Ofsted is ditching 1,200 school and college inspectors after assessing them as not good enough to judge schools.

The move by England's education inspectorate is part of its plan to improve quality and consistency, and bring inspections in-house.

Ofsted had been using about 3,000 additional inspectors, contracted through inspection service providers.

Teachers have long complained about inspection quality, but Ofsted insists it does not mean it is substandard.

Speaking to the Times Educational Supplement, Sir Robin Bosher, Ofsted's head of quality and training, said the organisation wanted to have high quality inspectors.

'Not up to the job'

He said: "I am committed to making sure that my colleagues in headship can be assured they have a good inspector walking up the path. I'm determined that will happen."

But National Association of Head Teachers general secretary Russell Hobby said: "You look back and say, for the last few years we've been inspected by a group where 40% weren't up to the job.

"If Sir Michael Wilshaw had done this from the start, we would have avoided everything that has followed.

Eton launches online lessons for China

by BBC News, June 19, 2015

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Eton College is going to launch online lessons for schools in China.

From this autumn, the leading UK independent school is going to provide classes in leadership to Chinese students, using live online tuition.

The school has formed a partnership with a technology firm to create a company called EtonX.

The school, in Berkshire, says any income raised by the international project will be used for bursaries to cover pupils' fees.

Percy Harrison, director of information technology at Eton College, says the school would be able to reach a wider number of pupils, without setting up an overseas campus.

He said there were risks to the "brand" of independent schools setting up overseas "franchises", but the online venture would allow Eton to provide lessons for students in China without losing control of the quality.

Leadership skills

The EtonX project will see pupils in China learning from a mixture of interactive content produced at Eton, with one-to-one online teaching from tutors in the UK.

The cost, about £700 per pupil, will be paid by Chinese parents as an optional extra, like a music lesson.

Teachers from Eton have been to the schools in China to talk to their counterparts in Chinese classrooms. At the launch, the project is expected to involve "less than a dozen" schools in China.

The lessons, aimed at China's aspirational middle-class families, will teach secondary pupils a "modern leadership programme", taught in English and focusing on communication skills and how to work collaboratively.

The aim is to give Chinese students skills for a modern international workplace, which will help them think beyond a school system with a high level of rote learning.

Mr Harrison said the project would carry Eton's "DNA" in terms of the school's emphasis on developing leadership.

The project is being run with education-technology company Eighteen70 . Its founder, Simon Walsh, said he wanted to "humanise" digital education through individual online tuition.

Such online courses have been mainly associated with universities - and the EtonX brand is reminiscent of online projects by US universities, such as HarvardX and MITx.

Former pupils at the school include Prince William and Prime Minister David Cameron.

Teaching attracting more Oxbridge graduates

by BBC News, June 19, 2015

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The number of Oxford and Cambridge graduates teaching in state schools has nearly doubled to 11,000 in the past 12 years, a report says.

The Sutton Trust education charity report says education is the top area of employment for Oxford graduates.

Teach First, which recruits top graduates into teaching, said the profession's status had been raised.

Independent schools are three times more likely to have Oxbridge-educated teachers than state schools,

The report says: "While there remains a gap between the state and independent sectors, however, there is evidence that this gap has narrowed.

"Since 2003, and extrapolating from the findings of this report, it can be estimated that the state sector has recruited about 6,000 additional secondary teachers from Oxbridge, while recruitment to the independent sector from the same has remained broadly stable.

"Extrapolating these figures for the nation as a whole, it can be said that there are now more Oxbridge-educated graduates in the state sector, than in the independent.

"This suggests that, while there is clearly a long way still to go, there has been progress in realising the goals of consecutive governments to recruit more teachers educated at the nation's best universities into the state school system."

Subject knowledge

Teach First founder Greg Wigdortz said: "Teach First is proud to have played a part in raising the status of the profession, with teaching now being seen as one of the most prestigious careers for the graduates.

"Great teaching and leadership are among the most powerful forces for social change."

CBI head calls for GCSEs to be scrapped

by BBC News, June 19, 2015

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The head of the CBI says a date must be set in the next five years to scrap GCSEs and introduce an exam system with equal status for vocational subjects.

John Cridland, director general of the employers' group, says England's exam system is narrow and out of date.

He proposes a system in which the most important exams would be A-levels, including both academic and vocational subjects, taken at the age of 18.

Ministers are pushing for all pupils to take a core group of academic GCSEs.

"By the end of this parliament, I want to see the date for the last GCSEs circled in the secretary of state's diary," said Mr Cridland, who warns of a "false choice" between academic and vocational lessons.

In a speech at the annual Festival of Education, Mr Cridland will set out an employers' blueprint for improving schools.

He says that for too long "we've just pretended" to have an exam system that values vocational education, when in practice, exams have operated as stepping stones towards a university degree.


Mr Cridland argues that GCSEs have been made an irrelevance when pupils stay in education or training until the age of 18.

In having such major exams at the age of 16, he says: "We have to face the uncomfortable truth that - internationally - we're the oddballs."

Further education provides a lifeline. But try telling the government that

by The Guardian, June 18, 2015

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Conservatives must currently be thrilled with the state of the English education debate. The fact that tuition fees were such a prominent part of the Labour platform back in May seems to have quietened that issue, and with it, grave concerns about the huge cultural and professional changes sweeping through higher education. For all the opposition to academies and free schools, the election result has re-energised the Tories’ great crusade on that front, and, it seems, wrong-footed Labour anew. When it comes to cuts, meanwhile, the mainstream media reaches for its collective notepad, hears the usual reassurances that the schools budget is protected, and then backs off.

Meanwhile, two huge stories bubble away. One is the crisis in state sixth-form education, which falls outside the department for education’s five-to-15 “ringfence” – and which, contrary to all that chatter about the glories of academic achievement, is really struggling. School sixth-forms are having increasing problems meeting curriculum requirements, but the gravest problems are faced by England’s 93 sixth-form colleges – some of which had lost around a third of their funding by the end of the last parliament, as well as being clobbered by the abolition of the educational maintenance allowance. Now they fear even worse cuts to come.

Those of us who benefited from what they do – and, for what it’s worth, if it hadn’t been for the sixth-form college I went to, I would probably not be writing these words – can attest to what is under threat: the huge contribution of institutions that send a higher proportion of students to university than school sixth-forms, thanks to their talent for giving young people self-respect, and ambition (“aspiration”, you might call it). What’s to blame, perhaps, is a mess of hopelessly traditionalist Tory ideas, whereby all sixth forms should be joined to schools, presumably so as to provide prefects, strapping chaps for the first XV, and more trophies for headteachers’ cabinets.

Let pupils apply after results day, universities say

by TES Connect, June 18, 2015

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The vast majority of university tutors think that the higher-education admissions system should be dramatically overhauled, so that pupils apply only after they have received their A-level results, a new survey has found.

Many tutors said that universities were more concerned about bringing in tuition fees than they were about recruiting high-calibre candidates.

More than 2,100 university and further-education tutors were surveyed by the University and College Union (UCU). Many of them work as admissions tutors or are involved in admissions for their institutions.

The survey found that almost half of the respondents believed that sixth-formers had no understanding of how their university applications would be assessed.

One of the tutors commented: “It’s not just at my institution that students don’t understand how their application will be assessed – this is true across the country.”

And seven out of 10 said that sixth-formers should be allowed to apply for courses after they had received their A-level results.

One respondent said: “University admissions is an act of crystal-ball gazing. Anything that can reduce the crystal-ball gazing would be beneficial. Post-results admissions is one way of doing that.”

This could be done in a number of ways, UCU's report says. Almost two-thirds of tutors said that they would welcome the adjustment of the exam timetable, so that pupils sat A-levels early and then applied to university. And more than half said that they would welcome a late-starting academic year, which enabled pupils to receive their results in August, and then apply for a university place.

At the moment, the admissions process relies on a combination of personal statement, A-level predictions, GCSE grades and, occasionally, an interview.

Almost two-fifths of the tutors said that the personal statement was not a useful tool for distinguishing between applicants. “The personal statement retains some value for assessing general language competence, but far less so for demonstrating competence,” one respondent said.


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