State school pupils 'being put in for soft A-level options'

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The Independent Online

Thousands of state school pupils are being put in for “soft” options at A-level to boost their school’s league table ranking, a conference heard today.

The claim came as new research showed that nearly 30 per cent of all university places in medicine and dentistry had gone to private school pupils despite only seven per cent of youngsters being educated in them.

The research, based on statistics from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, also showed that more than one in four places on European language courses had also been snapped up by the private sector.

It also showed that private school pupils were taking the lion’s share of places at the 30 top ranked universities. - more than 20 per cent.

Outlining the research to the Independent Schools Council’s annual conference in London today, Rudolf Eliott Lockhart, its head of research, said: “The real reason was that the most disadvantaged students simply don’t apply in enough numbers and don’t study the necessary A-levels in enough numbers.”

He added: “Schools in the independent sector have the good fortune to be free of government interference and are thus able to choose the best curriculum for their pupils, concentrating on education rather than targets.

“Our schools are able to guide pupils towards the subjects that will benefit them rather than the subjects that will help the school rise up a league table.”

Education Secretary Michael Gove is attempting to encourage more state schools to adopt a more academic curriculum by introducing his new flagship English Baccalaureate.

Under it, pupils will be awarded the certificate for gaining five A* to C grade passes in English, maths, science, languages and a humanities subject – history or geography. Schools will also be ranked on it in the league tables.

Meanwhile, scores of independent schools are ready to forgo their charitable status to escape the scrutiny of the Charity Commission, independent school representatives at the conference said today.

They want to pursue a new model with the Government under which they remain not for profit and would retain a lock on their assets.

At present, if they lose charitable status because they cannot satisfy the Commission about their charitable status as a result of offering too few bursaries to poorer students.