Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Stop pandering to the lowest common denominator

The news today that nine universities in England are looking at offering interviews to "disadvantaged" youngsters even if their grades don't merit it annoys me immensely. Why should people who don't achieve the necessary results be offered interviews? It patronises them and it insults the students who have achieved the grades needed.

It also, much more damagingly, helps to perpetuate the system we have at the moment where failing schools (and for that read bad teachers) are allowed to thrive happy in the knowledge that somewhere further up the system someone will bail them out. I went to school in a deprived area and as far as I know only two students in my year went to university. That's not to say that everyone at my school was stupid but we had no encouragement and no support from 90% of the teaching staff. It was a fairly common thing to be told "No-one from this area will amount to anything" or "You'll never achieve anything". When we had our discussion - with the school librarian - about university she gave the same answer to everyone. Do an English degree. So when I asked about medicine her answer was "Do an English degree."

Pupils from disadvantaged areas don't need patronising, they don't need false methods of entry into university. They need good schools and strong teachers. They need teachers who tell them they won't amount to anything to be sacked. They need the first step to be the right one, not the final step to be a muddle.