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 Post subject: Poor children deceived by qualifications
Post Number:#1  PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2010 11:28 pm 
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BBC News, 22nd January 2010

The head of a top independent school says poor children are in danger of being deceived by "worthless qualifications".

Headmaster of Harrrow School Barnaby Lenon said pupils could be misled over the value of "high grades in soft subjects".

He said the scrapping of O-levels and CSEs in 1988 led to rapidly falling education standards at the age of 16.

He was speaking at a head teachers conference in London.

Mr Lenon said it was wrong to let pupils believe that taking "soft" subjects would bring them a top job.

'X Factor'

"If we want the brightest children from our poorest homes to fulfil their potential we must not deceive them with high grades in soft subjects or allow them to believe that going to any old university to read any subject is going to be the path to prosperity, because it's not," he said.

"So 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, or produce people like those girls in the first round of X Factor who tell us they want to be the next Britney Spears but they can't sing a note."

He warned that making social mobility the aim of England's education system could easily lead to "dumbing down" of qualifications.

He said he had been teaching in 1988 when CSEs and O-levels were abolished in favour of GCSEs and that standards of education at 16 "fell at that moment".

This had brought implications for A-levels and universities.

After the publication of a report into social mobility earlier this week, former minister Alan Milburn called for "a second great wave of social mobility" like that of the 1950s and 1960s.

The report warned that people entering careers such as medicine, law and journalism were increasingly likely to be from more affluent families.

Currently 75% of judges and 45% of senior civil servants are privately educated.

The report's authors called for wider access to universities, better careers advice to raise pupils' aspirations and more extra-curricular activity for state school pupils.

'Blurring of the lines'

The head of the Independent Schools Council David Lyscom, who was also at Friday's conference of 100 head teachers from the state and private sectors, said the key to social mobility was raising standards in the maintained sector.

"It should be a bottom-up process," he said.

"We should not be asking universities and professions to doctor their application criteria in order to favour a lower academic standard just because someone appears to come from a disadvantaged background.

"There has been a blurring of the lines and it is not just the rich and privileged people who send their children to independent schools.

"Top state schools are usually in middle class areas which people have paid to move in to and in the independent sector we have an increasing number of pupils receiving means-tested bursaries."

The Department for Children, Schools and Families has not yet commented on Mr Lenon's speech.


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 Post subject: Re: Poor children deceived by qualifications
Post Number:#2  PostPosted: Tue Jan 26, 2010 9:41 pm 
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Why has it taken the media so long to report this?

Part of the problem is schools in areas of low academic achievement using soft subject to bump up their position in the league tables. You wouldn't believe how many secondary schools have made RE compulsory at GCSE despite it being virtually worthless in the job market.


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 Post subject: Re: Poor children deceived by qualifications
Post Number:#3  PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2010 12:16 am 
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It all boils down to preferring quantity over quality. When I took my O Levels back in the 1980s it was unusual to take more than 8 subjects at a state school. The modern trend is for students to take 11 or even 12 GCSEs which often ends up with many students taking several soft subjects. Canopus is right that it is primarily to bump up positions in league tables. It is also to offer children who are weak at the 'hard' subjects such as maths, science, and foreign languages the chance to get high grades in something even if it's a subject that few employers are interested in such as RE or food tech.

I requested that my son was exempt from RE when he returned to secondary school in Y10 which provoked a response that he was losing a GCSE. My son also managed to avoid having to study a foreign language and an arts subject resulting in him only studying for 8 GCSEs whilst his classmates were studying for 10 or 11.


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 Post subject: Re: Poor children deceived by qualifications
Post Number:#4  PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2010 10:47 pm 
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jencam wrote:
It is also to offer children who are weak at the 'hard' subjects such as maths, science, and foreign languages the chance to get high grades in something even if it's a subject that few employers are interested in such as RE or food tech.


Are science subjects any better than soft subjects from the point of view of employment? I'm led to believe that science careers are scarce in Britain and most don't pay very good salaries. Some HE parents mentioned that formally studying science beyond GCSE level is only really worthwhile if you want to go into medicine.

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I requested that my son was exempt from RE when he returned to secondary school in Y10 which provoked a response that he was losing a GCSE.


Out of interest, explain to me why you requested that your son was exempt from RE.


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 Post subject: Re: Poor children deceived by qualifications
Post Number:#5  PostPosted: Fri Apr 23, 2010 12:42 am 
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AS Home Ed wrote:
Are science subjects any better than soft subjects from the point of view of employment? I'm led to believe that science careers are scarce in Britain and most don't pay very good salaries. Some HE parents mentioned that formally studying science beyond GCSE level is only really worthwhile if you want to go into medicine.


I think there is some truth to this. There's no end of articles on the internet and in the media proclaiming science, engineering, and IT skills shortages, yet if you read comments left by people who work or used to work in these occupations then they consistently say the exact opposite of there being too few jobs, poor salaries, and lack of respect from management and finance types.

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Out of interest, explain to me why you requested that your son was exempt from RE.


Because I have the right to request an exception. I decided a long time ago that religion and mythology are best learnt outside of the school system.


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