Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Level Results Day

The University of Cambridge is a prestigious i...Image via Wikipedia
Some children today will be really happy, some not so happy, some will reap the benefits of their efforts, some will realise they should have partied a little less.

What will be happening at schools all over the country though is that children are given no real choice in the direction of their education, at many schools the advice given is that it is A levels or nothing.  All the young people that work for me say the same thing, they are herded into taking A levels, advised and told that A levels are the only thing they should be working towards and that taking this particular set of exams completely defines whether they will be a success or failure in life.

I asked all my young staff whether they were given serious advice about other possible educational routes, college and learning a trade for example.  They all say the same thing, A levels and universities are all that schools are interested in.  Of course, school funding and teacher bonuses are linked to A level passes, so they are not really going to advise otherwise.

This week it is being reported that upwards of 170,000 children who have been advised to take A levels as the pre-requisite for university places will discover that there are no places at university for them.  660,000 university applications have been made for 482,000 places, and last year only 48,000 places were found during clearing.

When you get to university, you really do need your parents to be a reasonably well earning middle class couple to help you cope with vast debts you are going to accrue through fees, rent, bills and spending four years partying hard and earning nothing. What awaits you at the other end, for some it will be a good job and career, for others....

The owner of a small call centre was talking on R5 last week, he employs 18 people giving technical advice over the phone to customers who have bought a particular brand of machine, the average wage paid was £280 a week. He employs, out of his total workforce of 18, 14 university graduates.

Please don't read this as an anti-education rant, because it is quite the opposite, I don't want less education but more proper choice.  Our school to university system is failing large numbers of children through no fault of their own.  In five or six years when many people will be saddled with a £25,000 debt, unable to secure a mortgage on their salary, wondering why all their hard work in securing a degree didn't lead to brighter prospects, and the pipe under the sink is leaking, the plumber charges a £35 call out and £35 an hour, whilst he was fixing the pipe he chatted away merrily telling you all about his new holiday home in the South of France and how he thinks his BMW is much better than the Mercedes he used to have.
Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. The Lurker9:50 am

    Unfortunately, I couldn't agree more. When I was at school, there was 140 of us in the 6th Form. During that time we had numerous careers meetings and at every single one, we were only told about which University we should apply for and what type of course best suited us. Not once were he advised about going straight into industry, about applying for apprentices or considering a vocational route. Therefore the majority of felt we had little choice of doing anything other than going to uni. Of the 140 of us in the 6th Form, 137 went to university, of which only 70 of us completed their course. The 3 that didn't go to university, 2 are succesful plumbers and the other runs an IT business that employs 12 people. AND don't get me started on the actual universities themselves...

  2. Wow, 67 of 137 dropped out, that's frightening in itself, I wonder what the national average % for university dropping out is ?

  3. The Lurker9:40 am

    According to the Independent nearly a quarter (22%) drop out ( link - ) BUT I reckon if thats the figures Universities give you could bet your last penny that the true % will be much higher.

  4. There seems to be more applicants and less places every year. Clearing doesn't hold much hope for students without the necessary marks. There's definitely a shortage of people entering 'the trades' these days and a massive opportunity for school leavers to get involved.