Schools should not be judged by the numbers they get into Oxford or Cambridge, according to the head teacher of one of the country's leading independent schools.
David Lloyd, headteacher of Solihull – a 1,000-strong selective fee-paying school for seven- to 11-year-olds – has told his parents in a blog: "This, in my strongly held opinion, is a fundamentally flawed yardstick."
In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, he said that many schools publicised the number of pupils they had got into Oxford or Cambridge in their promotional material, and that this was a question brought up by parents considering sending their children to the school.
"Some of our brightest students choose to go elsewhere," he added. "If you're an economist, it makes sense to study at the London School of Economics." A trainee vet might choose Edinburgh University, he suggested. "In my time at Solihull, some of our most able pupils have chosen to study medicine at Cardiff University when the likelihood was that... they could have gone anywhere in the world," he said.
Schools can increase their Oxbridge admissions by encouraging pupils to opt for less popular courses at the universities – a practice which "feels totally immoral to me", he said. In some cases, the less popular course may be very similar to pupils' initial choice, but to suggest it for its lower grade requirement or fewer applicants was taking things too far, he thought.
"Most important is the best fit for the individual academically, socially, financially and geographically," he added. "There are lots of super universities out there, and globalisation means that the choice facing young people continues to grow."