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No trumpets for the golden 50

IN less than a decade the percentage of school-leavers going into further or higher education has gone up from 40 to 50. It is a remarkable continuation of a pattern that dates back to the Robbins report in the early 1960s when the then figure of about 7 per cent entering higher education was given its first major boost. Why the Executive, usually so eager to sound the triumphal trumpets, did not make more of the latest figures last week is a mystery.

Wendy Alexander, Minister for Lifelong Learning, did comment that at last the statistics showed a rise in university entrance amongoffspring from poorer families, although the change is not yet across all schools and local authorities. Access programmes must take some of the credit, and one might have expected the Executive to make some reference to the abolition of fees.

Will the rise ever stop? How close will we get to 100 per cent, or at what point would, in the old accusation, more become worse? Prediction could be dangerous. After 1945, senior secondary education was based on the firm belief that only a minority could benefit from academic rigour. Generations suffered from that misconception.

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