Bright young teachers point way to Oxbridge for deprived pupils

1st February 2008 at 00:00
Gifted pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are to be mentored by high-flying young teachers on how to gain places at Oxbridge and other top universities.

The scheme is being piloted in London this month and will be extended to the Black Country and Greater Manchester as part of a pound;15 million, three-year package aimed at helping the most talented but deprived pupils in these areas fulfil their potential.

But it is likely to create controversy following the publication of figures showing that 15 per cent of the pupils identified by state schools as "gifted and talented" failed to gain five good A-C GCSEs, let alone a university place.

The statistics released to Parliament also show that only 29 per cent achieved three A-level grades - now a prerequisite for many top university courses. The Government claims that many of the pupils failing to reach the GCSE benchmark will have been identified for their talent in sport or the arts.

Schools are encouraged to nominate 10 per cent of their pupils for the extra support provided by the scheme. The new pilot will involve outstanding graduates who teach, or have taught, in challenging schools as part of the Teach First programme, acting as advocates and advisers to pupils and their families from an initial 25 London schools.

They will be taken through the universities admission process, and taught life skills such as how to behave in interviews.

Lord Adonis, schools minister, said: "Teach First graduates are already exceptional individuals who are well-equipped to become advocates of higher education, providing structured support and information to bright young people who may not recognise the value of a university education because of their family background."

The scheme, introducing young teachers to show disadvantaged children ways to get into Oxbridge, may have a whiff of Alan Bennett's play The History Boys.

And its author was in the news this week for offering his solution, namely abolishing private schools and the advantages they confer.

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