Headteachers’ fears at ranking system for university hopefuls

HEADTEACHERS have blasted controversial plans to rank potential university candidates according to the schools they attend – a move that could penalise private and high performing schools.

The plan unveiled by the Assessment and Qualifications Association (AQA) means universities could look favourably upon students from poorer schools that have performed below their potential.

However, students who attend very good public schools or whose parents choose to pay for their education could lose university places.

Felsted’s headteacher, Dr Michael Walker, believes the move is wholly unfair to his students, who routinely achieve around 97 per cent overall pass rate in their A-Levels.

“My concern with ranking by school is that it takes no account of many of the other factors that may affect educational outcome, such as private tutoring, difficulties at home and emotional stability and as a result it would be very undermining to the exam system.

“It cannot be right that a student from a school that is perceived as performing less well could gain more university entrance points than a student from a good school. Good schools are about more than educational performance, but the holistic education of each child, and this move narrows everything down to pure grades.”

Headteacher of Friends’ School in Saffron Walden, Graham Wigley, believes the plans could be detrimental to the very people they are trying to help.

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He said: “Schools similar to Friends’ strive through bursaries to widen access to those who are of more modest means. If the AQA proposal is adopted, then the grades of a highly achieving pupil on a generous bursary could be reduced, the irony being that this young person could be just the sort of candidate that the proposal is meant to help.”

Mr Wigley agreed that the plans sent out the wrong message to high-achieving students and instead suggested emphasis on results should be refocused.

“Perhaps more emphasis should be placed on raising standards in poorer- performing schools so that aspirational youngsters there can harness their potential and win places alongside their peers at university.”

Saffron Walden County High headteacher John Hartley said he would be “very concerned” if the plans were implemented.

“We admit students from a full range of backgrounds, and I believe it would be grossly unfair if a student from challenging circumstances and with no previous experience of higher education were penalised under this system just because they attended our very high-performing sixth form.”

• WHAT do you think? E-mail editor@saffronwalden-reporter.co.uk

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