Sixth-formers shun key skills

9th February 2001 at 00:00
BASIC English, maths and computer skills are being neglected by sixth-formers because universities have not included the qualifications in their entry requirements.

As well as studying up to five AS-levels in the first year of A-levels, students also complete portfolios and sit exams in what are called key skills.

But six months into the first year of the communication, number and information technology qualifications, pupils have realised that they will not lose out on a university place if they neglect them.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said already overworked teenagers have been forced to prioritise. "Students are putting in 60 hours a week to keep up with four or five A-level subjects. Some have dropped subjects and reverted to the traditional three areas of study. And some have put the key skills element on the back-burner. There needs to be a strong indication that universities value them."

While the new Universities and Colleges Admissions Service tariff gives key skils up to 30 entry points, many places will be conditional on a combination of achievement at AS and predicted grades at A2.

John Hopkins, head of Gwernyfed high school, Powys, said universities, such as Leeds, were putting out the message that it was neither an advantage nor a disadvantage to have key skills.

"The top 50 universities are fairly non-committal. Given that the workload this year has increased by a third for some students, there must be a compelling reason to do key skills and students are not convinced there is one."

Key skills are not compulsory but the Government has made it clear that they should be taught. A Secondary Heads Association survey to be published shortly found nearly 90 per cent of schools offered them.

Tony Higgins, UCAS's chief executive, said many universities were not asking for key skills but probably would make them an entry requirement within a few years.

Leeds University said it would not make key skills mandatory until all students had the chance to take them.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today