Discrimination by employers, schools and universities on the basis of "irrelevant" qualifications should be outlawed, Professor Geoffrey Walford told the conference. He said education institutions should only use previous qualifications to distingush between entrants if directly relevant to the course.
Professor Walford compared discrimination by academic attainment to sex and race discrimination. "We have this idea that you cannot do A-levels unless you have a certain number of GCSEs. Why is this not illegal?
"This injustice needs to be rectified not only because it is unfair to individuals who do not happen to have the qualifications demanded but do have the skills and abilities to do the job or benefit from the course but also because such unjust discrimination is damaging to the educational system itself," he said.
He added that the emphasis on qualifications means schools teach pupils how to pass exams to get a job rather than how to do the job itself. If schools did the latter they might become "more truly educative" and "employers might be provided with applicants better able to meet the real demands of employment."