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.
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
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.