11 Plus Exams Forum

Oxford Change Admission Policy - Should We be Worried?
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Author:  Dr Jalal [ Wed Feb 14, 2007 9:02 am ]
Post subject:  Oxford Change Admission Policy - Should We be Worried?

As I have already mentioned in an earlier thread, my son managed to get an Assisted Place Scholarship/Bursary last week at the King Edward's Independent School (KES). 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.


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.

Author:  Guest [ Wed Feb 14, 2007 11:01 am ]
Post subject: 

I think, without being rude or insensitive, that you are living your dreams through your son. Your threads are all about what you want, with little evidence of sharing any info that helps other parents. Don't you think its a bit early to start thinking of Oxford/Cambridge.

I went to a local school in Solihull, studied 4 A levels, got a place at Exeter Collge Oxord University, did Maths.

Need I say anymore !

Author:  Guest [ Wed Feb 14, 2007 11:45 am ]
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Hi Dr Jalal,

Not sure where you got your figures of 21% Oxbridge entry from.

For Oct 2006 Oxbridge entry only 4 boys got places compared to 22 the previous year! That about 3% compared to about 18% previously

I can assure you that there has been significant debate about these figures amongst KES (and KEHS) parents (and staff)

It's interesting that for next year's entry into Birmingham University medical school KEHS (and presumably KES) students need to have a minimum 7 grade A*s at GCSE and be predicted to get the usual 3 grade As at A level just to be considered for an Interview. That plus the usual extras. Heaven only knows what the Oxbridge requirements are!

However nothing new in that - it's always been easier to get into Universities from poor or failing schools. I was an 11+ failure who went to a very poor secondary modern school - I was given an offer of 2 grade 'E's to study at Manchester University. I eventually obtained a PhD from there.

Several of my friends at University from Grammar's around the country were given the normal offers of 2As and a B! I really appreciated the low offer which the admission tutors told me was a reward for having to fight my way through the system the hard way.

I don't actually have a problem with students from KEHS or KES having to get better grades than state sector children - they should do gven the teaching enviroment at these schools. What I don't like is the fact that they may be rejected automatically just for attending this type of school!

Author:  Guest [ Wed Feb 14, 2007 1:43 pm ]
Post subject: 

When looking at application forms/interviewing potential university candidates how do you distinguish between students who are predicted straight A's at A level. I look at the 'extras' ie. musical instrument, sport and even more importantly something that makes them stand out from the crowd - the wow factor - the thing that makes you think they will make the most of the course and university life. However, I am much more impressed by students who have achieved off their own back rather than because parents have pushed them in that direction. Rather than worrying too much about 'the right university' at this stage I would concentrate on ensuring that the secondary school will meet your sons needs and whether he will be happy there. From there I would concentrate on nurturing his interests to ensure he becomes a well rounded person who makes the most of all opportunities life throws at him and allow him to make decisions about university when the time comes. If your aspirations are not his aspirations ultimately you will be disappointed and he will spend years feeling guilty that he has let you down.

Author:  Guest [ Thu Feb 15, 2007 7:38 am ]
Post subject: 

Here ! here!. I couldn't agree more. Both my childrenare learning to play the piano, and my oldest, 10 has reached grade 2. I have met other parents who have kids at grade 3 and above at the same age. I totally agree, having academic brilliance is not the end all and be-all, you have to have that extra something that says "I am a different, I have other skills and attributes, as well as being clever". As for the KES and the Oxford or Cambridge debate, I think learn to walk before you can run comes to mind. Thera are many children who show great potential in the early years, and through time and other interests fade away. The opposite is also true, children who don't well early on at school, but don't peak in their potential, and through hard work become a success.

Author:  DR S [ Thu Feb 15, 2007 9:13 am ]
Post subject: 

I agree with comments regarding compartmentalising children so early. I am also speaking as someone who's son has just got a place at KES. I think there is evidence around comprehensive children having a better chance. I have seen this with other parents who have had children attending KES and not had an offer for Medicine despite 4As at A level.

In some ways you could be better off with a very decent A level scores from Joseph Chamberlain College!

Author:  Guest [ Thu Feb 15, 2007 10:10 am ]
Post subject: 

Dr S, I doubt that going to Joesph Chamberlain would get you into Oxford or Cambridge

Author:  Guest [ Thu Feb 15, 2007 11:13 am ]
Post subject: 

I really don't think it is a matter of compartmentalising the child at an early age. In Year 3,when the children started Junior school, we just wanted them to keep on top of their work at school, make friends and enjoy their home life and all their other musical and sport activities.

But we also thought about where they would be heading for when they go to Senior school as their school was only a infants and Junior school.

We obviously looked around and out of the handful of three average to good schools in our borough, the older child manage easily to get into the top grammar. We wanted him to go there because he would have 'disappeared' if he went to the two local schools-luckily he had seen their students walking home after school hours using particularly unsavoury language and decided those schools were not for him.

Now the second child is awaiting school allocation. I must say that whilst we were looking for schools, Oxbridge did come in mind. It's only natural progression to think about it. But it does not mean we are going to force our children to go down the academic route to Oxbridge if they decide, as they went along their studies, that they wanted to do something else.

It's just to place them ,in Yr 7, at a point where they can have as much advantage as possible if they do decided to go to Oxbridge. So I don't feel it is wrong to consider Oxbridge as a destination 7 years before the fact as it is ONLY a possibility my children might WANT to go there.

As it is, when the children were born,we took out some saving plans for their education and the person who arranged it mentioned Oxbridge and I hadn't a clue what he was on about(post natal haze) but it was just a little insurance to put something aside for whatever might be needed in future.
Yes, they may go to Oxbridge or be on the hippy trail or own their own stables or whatever,but starting at a good point at Yr 7 just optimises their chances. Aspirations are only hopes after all and so many of us change our dreams and hopes as we go along. I don't think Dr. Jalal in his threads came across as wanting to make his son go o Oxbridge.

Author:  Guest [ Thu Feb 15, 2007 12:46 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hi Doubting Guest,

I think you are totally wrong, all things being equal ( and even not quite equal) then a Joseph Chamberlain student will have a much better chance of getting an Oxbridge place than a KES student. It's just the fact that most JC students probably don't aspire to Oxbridge and don't apply.

If the government sets targets and quotas for the Oxbridge and Russell Group Universities to achieve to get funding then believe me the Universities will make sure they hit them. Every one in the Education sector knows that.

We have just witnessed recent evidence of this in my daughters school where 2 girls from 1st generation, non graduate families with only ok GCSEs have got offers from Cambridge whereas several of the high flying 10A*s students from strong academic family backgrounds have been rejected.

Higher Education is all about funding - they will follow the money!

Author:  Dr Jalal [ Thu Feb 15, 2007 12:49 pm ]
Post subject: 

Well I must say, this is the kind of discussion I wanted to provoke with my initial post. Thanks to all those who contributed, I'm sure there'll be many more posts to come on this issue.

I noticed some rather personal comments about us wanting to live our lives through our son, which I think were rather unfair. Like all parents we want the best for our children. It should be made clear that it was our son who wanted to apply to the KES (he'd sat the KE Grammar School test there) and he pestered us for weeks to put in an application.

Goals and ambition give us the drive and determination to succeed, which some, if not most, of the contibutors here appreciate. We have not discussed the issue of Oxbridge with our son and we don't intend to do so for a long time. Indeed, as some guest contributors have mentioned, he may not even want to go there or the course he chooses to pursue would be better suited elsewhere. However, as responsible parents we need to ensure that we provide the best opportunities that will allow our children to flourish and to fulfill their potential. Our concerns about the Oxford article were that maybe some doors were being closed rather unfairly.

We're all currently on cloud nine with our son's achievement and he can't wait to get started in September. In the meantime he'll enjoy the next 6-8 months like any other 11 year old.

The fact that this is an 11+ forum, suggests that most of you out there have, at some stage, thought about long-term goals for your children, whether they be getting into Oxbridge or just making it into your local Grammar School. So the condescending and rather judgmental tones in some of the posts smack a little of hypocrisy!! Nevertheless, I'm glad I managed to instigate a somewhat heated debate.

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