Digging deep on privilege and access

31st July 2009 at 01:00

I can make several suggestions for helping children from middle and working-class homes access competitive university places such as medicine or Oxbridge, from my own professional experience ("Call for report cards to detail post-school progress", July 24).

Firstly, medical schools especially count A*s at GCSE. There is no benefit in getting a B grade in Year 10 or even Year 9. Much better an A* in Year 11. Not too many subjects either - 10 is plenty although triple science should be three of those. So stop accelerating pupils - the privates are stopping for this very reason. Only take a GCSE early if you will get an A*.

Secondly, change league table methods to mean that converting an A to an A* is worth as much to a school as a D to a C. (Indeed, an E to a D or any other point on the spectrum). Use the GCSE average over, say, eight to 10 subjects, which must include certain basics. Do not manipulate it to make it advantageous to get pupils to take less academic courses that may be flavour of the month.

Thirdly, good careers advice that puts the need of the pupil first - not the institution or the latest craze - is paramount. Able pupils should be shown things like the Cambridge list and allowed to make informed decisions; the sort that children from privileged homes are already making.

Do these and you can succeed. No playing political games or promoting one's own course above the need of the individual and what will help them achieve their ambition.

Let them know what their options are, encourage aspiration related to ability and then enable and encourage. It can be done.

Karen Revans, North Petherton, Somerset.

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