How to teach teenagers: Independent schools to provide lessons for university lecturers

Move follows students' complaints from about standard of teaching they receive in first year

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The Independent Online

Britain's leading independent schools are to lay on lessons for university lecturers aimed at telling them how to teach today's teenagers.

The move follows complaints from students upon arrival at university about the standard of teaching they receive in their first year at university.

Too often lecturers are stuck in the past, the heads argue, and think they can get away with just setting essays and offering occasional one-to-one tutorials.

In reality, though, today's students now believe they are entitled to more - especially as they pay up to £9,000 a year for their courses.

The issue emerged yesterday at the annual conference of the Headmasters and Headmistresses' Conference - which represents 250 of the country's most elite private schools including Eton and Harrow - in south Wales.

Chris Ramsey, headmaster of The King's School, Chester and chairman of a joint universities sub-committee with the Girls' School Association, said joint sessions would be arranged between sixth-form teachers and university lecturers to see if the sixth-form staff could pass on tips on how to teach today's teenagers.

"We're looking forward to doing some activities with university lecturers to make sure they understand teenagers and how to get the best out of them," he added.  Sixth-form staff would pass on their best practice.

"We will continue to monitor and look out for when we think universities are being unfair to any pupil," he said.  The undergraduate experience for students is not always what it could be.

"Some universities are doing some fantastic work and really being self-critical of their teaching."

However, a survey by the highly respected Higher Education Policy Institute think-tank had, he said, "made it clear there was still a lot of work to done on that".

Mr Ramsey added that some universities were still serving up "a diet of links and essays of the kind they would have dome 20 years ago".  "Teaching has developed hugely in all schools since then," he added.

Peter Hamilton, headmaster of Haberdasher's Aske's Boys' school in Hertfordshire and chairman of the HMC's academic policy committee, said:"Relationships have changed - fundamentally changed - since then."  Students expected more from university lecturers now they were paying up to £9,000 a year for their courses.

William Richardson, general secretary of the HMC, added: "They (the students) are very regularly very critical of what they get in university in comparison with school.  We are trying to work with vice-chancellors on this in a co-operative way.

Meanwhile, leaders of HMC warned that fees were having to rise to allow their schools to compete for students in the international market.

They warned that the increased fees were necessary to provide the kind of facilities other schools across the globe were offering.

They acknowledged that the rise in fees was putting a strain on the "squeezed middle" in the UK in terms of their ability to afford them.  However, they were now collectively paying out £365 million a year in scholarships and bursaries to help less well-off families - a rise of eight per cent on last year.