Teaching trainees have worst A-levels

`E' grades enough for some courses
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The Independent Online
Trainee teachers have lower A-level grades than any other group of university students, according to the first league table of students' qualifications.

Figures compiled by UCAS, the universities' and colleges' admissions service, show that while medical and veterinary students have an average of two As and a B, aspiring teachers need only a C and two Ds. Some colleges will take entrants with two Es, it emerged.

Among the most difficult courses to get into are classics, dentistry and Japanese, all of which require an average of three B grades, followed by law, pharmacy and other modern languages.

The trainee teachers are those going on four-year undergraduate courses which provide two-thirds of primary school teachers and just over a fifth of secondary-school teachers; almost all other teachers take a one-year post-graduate course after an initial degree.

The table, which has been sent to all schools and colleges, will allow students to base their subject choices on the grades they expect to get. Although individual universities give estimates of the grades students need for each course, these are the first national figures to show the actual grades needed to study various subjects.

Although teacher-training courses have lower requirements than any other group, some individual subjects do take students with fewer qualifications. Among the subjects which do not usually require high grades are industrial relations, librarianship and social work, all of which take students with an average of three Ds.

Officials at UCAS said the table reflected demand rather than the quality of courses. Popular subjects such as English, history and psychology all demand two Bs and a D, while engineering and technology subjects demand three Cs.

Some science courses, which are regarded as being hard to fill, still expect students to have strong A-Level grades, though. Candidates for physics need an average of almost two Bs and a C, while those wanting to study chemistry need three Cs.

The National Commission on Education pointed out three years ago that the A-level scores needed to train as a teacher were dropping.

In 1986, students going to university to teacher training courses had two Cs and a D, on average, though the figures are not directly comparable with the new table because the former polytechnics are included in the UCAS table.

Tony Higgins, chief executive of UCAS, said there was no reason to suppose that the quality of teacher training was lower than the quality of training for doctors. "We all know performance at A-level is a very poor predictor of performance at degree level," he said.

Ted Wragg, professor of education at the University of Exeter, said some institutions expected very good grades for teacher-training courses while others had very low requirements. At Exeter, students normally need to have a B and two Cs while some former polytechnics would take entrants with two Es, he said.

"For schools of medicine you need the same grades to get in anywhere, but there is an immense variety between the prestige institutions ... and a number of newer universities," he said.

Gillian Shephard, the Secretary of State for Education, will this week announce reforms to teacher training which will include a national syllabus for teacher-training courses. The syllabus will require colleges to train students in whole-class teaching, rather than the more progressive group- work approach.

Grammar veto, page 3

University entrance

Hardest subjects to get into and grades required

Veterinary science AAB

Pre-clinical medicine AAB

Classics BBB

Dentistry BBB

Modern Languages BBB

Japanese BBB

Averages for each group of subjects by A-level points. (A=10, E=2)

Top five:

Medicine/dentistry 27

Languages 20.6

Humanities 19.8

Social studies 19.3

Biological sciences 19

Bottom five:

Mass communication 16.8

Business studies 16.2

Architecture, building and

planning 16

Combined studies 14.3

Teacher training 14.1

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