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Pupils 'need better A-level advice'

Many state school pupils face rejection from their chosen university degrees because they are being given bad advice about which subjects to take, Education Minister David Willetts has said.

Mr Willetts told a newspaper that A-level students were studying subjects that were not appropriate for the degrees they wanted to take.

"There are people who do stay on for A-levels but they are doing PE, religious studies and geography and they say they want to be an engineer," he said. "The schools are thinking about how do we maximise your A-level grades, but perhaps a quarter of all the A-levels that young people do in maintained schools are not ... valued by most universities."

To avoid disappointment, state school pupils should be given better careers advice at 15, before they choose their A levels, he added.

Mr Willetts also accused admissions tutors of discriminating in favour of middle-class candidates with achievements in music and drama.

He said: "If you've got so many people with good A-level grades you end up delving deeper and deeper into their CVs and this is where middle-class families make an enormous effort enriching their child's CV.

"If you look at the extras that the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) identifies on its website, it is grades in music exams, speech and drama, there even used to be something like pony care. But they will not give points, for example, to apprenticeships. Engineering awards, competitions about making things, should be included. I've talked to Ucas about this and they're reviewing their form."

Teaching unions reacted angrily to Mr Willetts' comments, describing them as "astoundingly inaccurate and insulting".

Andy Brown, incoming president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "For generations of pupils, it has been their teachers who have identified their skills and interests and suggested avenues down which they can be utilised."

Patrick Roach, deputy general secretary of the teachers' union Nasuwt, said: "I'm not hearing much by way of complaint from the vast majority of universities. What you may hear from a relatively small group of elite universities is the argument being spun that they can't admit students from the state sector because of concerns about quality."


From Belfast Telegraph