Even more hurdles?

A week ago, it was revealed through a study by the OECD that the “resilience” level of UK pupils, or in other words, the likelihood of pupils succeeding despite the odds being stacked against them, was one of the worst in the developed world.

A reason given as an explanation for these findings included levels of self-confidence i.e. the lack of self-esteem instilled in those from poor socio-economic backgrounds. The report finds that motivation must be inward facing, and should not be manifested outwardly through rewards. Of course, the report also finds that schools can do something about this shambolic state of affairs through:

“… providing more opportunities for disadvantaged students to learn in class by developing activities, classroom practices and teaching methods that encourage learning and foster motivation and self-confidence among those students.”

It comes as no shock therefore that only yesterday, a challenge to the potential scheme to allow universities to expand by taking on more AAB standard students emerged from Pam Tatlow, head of Million+.

Tatlow explains that this move could be detrimental to social mobility and it is plain to see why. The total number of students that are below the AAB line will be reduced, not in line with Clegg and Cameron’s commitment to social mobility. It is clear that the majority of students that achieve AAB will be students at better schools, in better areas, with higher socio-economic status. Couple this with the outrageous fee level, and we could see a return to the elitist institutions of the past.

Tatlow goes on to explain that the plans may hit the Science subjects the hardest, as people achieving AAB grades tend to do so in Arts and Humanities. So now we have an even more dangerous concoction of policies designed to limit university places to those with a head start in life.

The most important thing in promoting social mobility in education is to ensure contextual data is not pushed to one side by universities. The government has promised prospective students that Universities charging the highest fees possible will be doing so only under the condition that they find other ways in which to widen access. These new proposals may very well eliminate the contextual side of applications and maintain the vicious cycle in which the poorest revolve.

Nico Leon

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