Margot Lawrence: My bright daughter can't get into university. Why?

In 2003, my 11-year old-daughter found herself rejected by five secondary schools, despite being a bright and well-liked pupil. She was not alone – there were several children in her position. Our only option was to have a home tutor and wait for a place to become available. Instead, we remortgaged our house and sent her to a small private school until Year 11.

She did very well, achieving 10 As and A*s at GCSE, and is now completing her second year of A-Levels (ironically the very schools that rejected her at Year 7 fell over themselves to offer her a place in their sixth form once they saw her GCSE results). With 4 As at AS-Level and 95 per cent for the first module of her A2 English literature exam, she seemed set on the road for a fine academic career. But history repeats itself and, once again, we find ourselves let down by the education system.

My now 18-year-old daughter applied to four top universities to study English Literature, and been rejected from all her choices. We talked to one university but all they really told us was that there were too many students for too few places: "Almost every applicant has already three As at A-level or is predicted three As, and over 50 per cent of applicants have more than 6 A*s at GCSE. Because of the overwhelming number of outstanding applications, we are obliged to disappoint many applicants each year. Nor do we have the resources to interview what would be, to be fair to all candidates, at least 1,000 applicants."

So now what do we tell her? I feel like an idiot, that I haven't played the game properly. When I, surprisingly, produced a diligent and self-motivated child, I naturally assumed that hard work would pay off and the world would be her oyster. In some ways, it stands against her. Friends of hers who are predicted Bs and Cs in their final A2 exams have had no problem getting places at universities with lower entry requirements.

As one of her teachers said: "It stinks". What kind of education system are we offering that penalises children who work hard and achieve high grades? Recent evidence suggests that at least 50,000 sixth-formers with good grades will not get to university next year.

The new head of UCAS Mary Curnock Cook has suggested school-leavers go to university later in life. Her advice is for them to "reappraise their aspirations". Why should they? Why should my daughter who achieved 100 per cent in English literature at GCSE and 95 per cent at A2 Level feel she cannot study English literature. Maybe she should "reappraise" her ambitions and study something else... or not study at all? Is it temerity on her part to think she would be good enough to study English literature in the country of her birth? If so, why didn't someone tell her when she was 11 that she could work hard if she wanted, but it wouldn't necessarily guarantee any great opportunities. It's true that she works hard because she enjoys the process of studying and learning for its own sake – it's not all about the next step. But if you enjoy something and you're talented, you should be able to continue doing it.

If an 18-year-old does defer university entry, what are they going to do in the meantime? Without experience or a higher education qualification, they will only be able to get menial jobs or end up on unemployment benefit, straining the social welfare system. There's also the matter of their parents supporting them. My husband is coming up to retirement but he won't be able to consider it if he has to wait several years for my daughter to go to university. So it's putting a noose around our necks as well. We'll be so old and doddery by the time she finishes, she'll have to support us, as well as attempt to pay back her student loan.

These bright, hard-working A-grade pupils who feel as though they are on the scrapheap at 18 (because logically or not, when you are 18 that is how it makes you feel), have been let down by this country. If there are not enough university places for them to study the subject of their choice, the Government needs to question what is going wrong with its higher education policies.

News
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
fashion David Beckham fronts adverts for his underwear collection
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
i100Most young people can't
Extras
indybest
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

EYFS Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education require an ex...

Year 3 Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Year 3 primary supply teacher ne...

SEN Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply special educational ne...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home