What exactly can Harrow tell us about social mobility?

29th January 2010 at 00:00

Young people should certainly not be kept under the illusion that all qualifications are equal and Barnaby Lenon was right to warn schools against short-changing students in this way.

The responsibility for championing academic subjects such as maths, science and languages does not rest solely with schools, however. The best way to ensure that students from disadvantaged backgrounds know the value of different qualifications is for universities and employers to make it much clearer which A-level subjects they favour and to communicate this clearly to pupils.

There is clear evidence that mathematics, for example, increases an individual's lifetime earnings more than any other A-level, yet in terms of UCAS points it is equal. Can this be right?

Once the relative value of different qualifications has been made plain by universities and employers, schools will be less likely to discourage students from pursuing subjects that are perceived as more difficult.

Professor Sir John Holman, Director, National Science Learning Centre, York.

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