Colleges ignore 'outstanding' pupil who wants to be a doctor

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The Independent Online
A Student who took five A-levels in a single year and got five grade As has failed to gain a university place to read medicine after being turned down by fourmedical schools.

Matthijs Backx, who came to this country from Holland a year ago, has wanted to be a doctor for five years. He has done work experience in a hospital but was still told that he lacked commitment.

The 19 year old took International GCSEs, of equal status to the British exams, before coming to this country so that his father Paul, who is a consultant anaesthetist, could take up a job at the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham.

Teachers at the Trinity Roman Catholic comprehensive school in Nottingham were convinced that Matthijs was capable of taking his exams in a year and predicted that he would achieve grade As in all of them.

But his applications to Cambridge, Bristol, Edinburgh and Nottingham universities were all rejected. Girton College, Cambridge, told Matthijs in a letter after his interview that he was not highly motivated enough to win a place on his course.

Last week Matthijs learned that he had received A-grades in maths, further maths, chemistry, physics and general studies, despite the fact that the general studies contained questions about English history and politics.

Although these high grades had been predicted by his teachers, his IGCSEs had let him down, he said.

"You can only take six or seven IGCSEs and some people here have done," said Matthijs. "I am obviously disappointed about this, but in some ways I can understand what's going on. I'm a complete stranger to them and the only concrete evidence of how I can perform is those exams."

Michael McKeever, deputy head of the Trinity school, where the average A-level score was equivalent to two grade As, said that perhaps he had appeared "laid back" at interview.

"He's an outstanding student and one of the most stunning things about his success is the fact that he got an A in general studies. We were very surprised that he didn't get an offer.

"We have a tradition of two, three or four people a year going to Oxford or Cambridge. We would not send anyone to interview at Cambridge if we didn't think they would at least get an offer," he said.

Since receiving his grades Matthijs has been offered a place to read genetics at Edinburgh and an interview with the medical department at Nottingham.

Anne Newbould, admissions officer at the University of Cambridge, said the standard of applications was extremely high. The standard offer for medicine was three As, she said.

"Of our acceptances for 1995, 90 per cent had three As or more at A-level. We attract immensely high-calibre people and by definition they have thought very carefully about what they want to do," she said.

n A radical new school league table which takes the affluence and poverty of the catchment area into account turns rankings in the traditional tables upside down, writes Roger Dobson.

In a test league of 68 schools, one comprehensive leapt 63 places up the table after its traditional position was adjusted for the social and economic conditions in the surrounding area. Another school dropped down 41 places.

The league, compiled by academics at the University of Wales, Cardiff, also shows that some schools in affluent areas who carry a heavy weighting were still able to maintain their position because they performed better than expected, even when their inbuilt advantage was neutralised by the weighting.

Leading article, page 18

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