Despite your leader's valid demand (5 January) for practical schooling measures rather than theoretical analyses, the Government is right to pursue in depth the problem of boys' relative underachievement. When, for example, you say the DfEE should "cut the amount of coursework" to benefit boys, it is worth asking why coursework helps girls. Coursework is done in the pupils' spare time. No "cutting it" will benefit boys if boys continue to refuse to use their spare time in educational ways, as girls do.

Various factors predispose people to educational endeavour. These include: a feeling that learning puts them in control of their mental world; a desire to compensate for lack of success elsewhere; a way of coping with loneliness and oppression; experience of learning bringing praise; and a belief that learning will be rewarded with personal security.

These are not created merely by changing teaching methods. They require a cultural revolution both in male attitudes and in media marketing.

Richard Wilkins

General Secretary

Association of Christian Teachers

St Albans, Herts

I have been rejected to study medicine by all my university choices even though I have 8 A* grades and 2 A grades at GCSE and am studying for 4 A-levels. I achieved an A grade in German in the summer and have top A grades in my modules so far and my school have predicted "Dead Cert A's".

I am a keen sportsman and have captained rugby, cricket and hockey teams as well as playing football for a local team and winning Ipswich tennis tournaments. I also play the trumpet in the Windband and First Orchestra.

I have organised my own work experience, both medical and non-medical, and have been committed to being a doctor for a number of years.

I attend Woodbridge School in Suffolk where I am on a scholarship, otherwise my parents could not afford to pay. I am a senior prefect and enjoy going out with my friends and girlfriend.

I have attended four interviews where there have been more than 60 per cent overseas students and I know girls who have been accepted for medicine with lower grades. I am concerned that I have made the mistake of staying at an independent school because I have heard that more places are being offered to state school students this year.

Matthew Burden, 17,


Many boys are performing well and we should surely be targeting all pupils, not just boys, who are not succeeding. Any proposals, such as to reduce the amount of coursework, which could benefit boys but impede girls, cannot be countenanced.

Mrs EJ de Swiet

Headteacher, the Henrietta Barnett School;

President of the Association of Maintained Girls' Schools


Why does Alan Ryan ("Oxbridge fees: now the battle is just beginning", Education+, 18 December) want to meet a succession of applicants who have been coached in the answers? Why does he not enjoy finding the innate intellectual spark in the responses of an untutored applicant? If his example had shown the initiative to apply on her own and the ability to learn "quite a lot of philosophy", why was she not worthy of a place?

In 1984 my son was interviewed by two Oxbridge colleges and Imperial College, London. The product of a modest state comprehensive, he was subjected to no less than ritual humiliation at Oxbridge. Imperial interviewed him sensitively, said it wanted him and gave him a ludicrously low entry qualification so that he could enjoy the rest of school relatively unpressured.

He got himself sponsored by a large company, so there were no financial worries; he enjoyed all the outside opportunities the city offered, and left with a First, the UCL prize and (jointly) the University of London prize in his subject and a summer scholarship to Cern.

Since gaining his PhD back here in Scotland he has held two academic posts, for both of which he was invited to apply.

If Oxbridge can't be bothered to find out how to spot these candidates, then they will just go to other universities and do very well there instead.

Ann Duncombe, Menstrie, Scotland

I am writing to correct the impression offered by Oxford and Cambridge, in Lucy Hodges' article. The number of UK undergraduates who come to the LSE from private schools is 36 per cent - well below the Oxbridge 50 per cent.

Our figures broadly reflect the national pattern, where 35 per cent of those who achieve three grade As at A-level are from independent schools, and 60 per cent are from state schools.

We are far from complacent about our record on attracting pupils from state schools. We believe that there is a great deal more that we need to do, and we are planning a number of changes to improve our record. We are part of the current moves to raise young people's aspirations so that many more go into higher education, and don't get stuck in dead-end jobs, or, worse, join the dole queue.

Denise Annett

Head of Public Relations

London School of Economics