University advisers for pupils

30th May 2008 at 01:00
Every secondary should have a senior teacher who can steer pupils from "soft" subjects. Proposals will also suggest higher education visits for every primary

Every secondary should have a senior teacher who can steer pupils from "soft" subjects. Proposals will also suggest higher education visits for every primary

bright pupils at all secondaries should be advised against taking "soft" A-levels if they want to get into a leading university, the Prime Minister will be told this summer.

A report will recommend that every secondary school should appoint a senior teacher to offer guidance on pupils' choice of courses from the age of 14 onwards.

Meanwhile, every primary pupil should be sent on a visit to a university, it will add.

League tables ranking secondaries on the proportion of pupils they send on to university could also be published.

The recommendations are expected in a report by the new National Council for Educational Excellence (NCEE) on widening access to higher education.

The council, which includes teachers and leading figures from businesses and universities, was set up by Gordon Brown as one of his first acts as Prime Minister.

The council has been persuaded of the need for these measures by statistics which show that pupils from poorer backgrounds have a far lower chance of getting into a leading university than those with the same grades from richer families.

Earlier this month, a study found that one in three A-levels was taken in a subject that the most selective universities deemed to be poor preparation for a degree course.

Some university admission tutors are known to be sceptical about courses such as media studies, business studies and general studies.

A source at the NCEE said: "Students need good advice about their A-level choices. Particularly, they should know that they need to take certain A- levels in order to make sure they could get into the most selective institutions."

Last month, a study by the Sutton Trust education charity found that four in 10 pupils said they got little or no information on university applications from their schools.

The council's report is also likely to call for a national advertising campaign to persuade poorer pupils of the benefits of studying at the older universities; recommendations on improving maths and science A-level take-up; and reform of the university bursaries system.

The prospect of a new league table on university access, however, will be the most controversial issue.

Steve Smith, vice-chancellor of Exeter University, who is in charge of the council's higher education agenda, said league tables were being considered because of the pressing need to persuade pupils from poorer backgrounds to stay on in education post-16.

He said the plans had still to be "tested" with school and college representatives before being presented to Mr Brown on July 1.

The league table suggestion has been greeted angrily by the NASUWT teachers' union, although the Association of School and College Leaders said it was worth considering.

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