Russell Group universities accused of killing key subjects such as economics and the arts at secondary school level

Head of one of the country's top performing grammar schools claims Russell Group is encouraging their demise through its promotion of a list of 'facilitating' subjects

Britain’s elite universities have been accused of presiding over the death of key subjects like, music, the arts and economics in secondary schools.

The head of one of the country’s top performing grammar schools has claimed that the Russell Group - which represents 24 of the country’s most research intensive universities including Oxford and Cambridge - is encouraging their demise through its promotion of a list of “facilitating” subjects which will smooth pupils’ paths to the most selective universities.

In an open letter to Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, Hilda Clarke, head of Tiffin school in Kingston-upon-Thames, said:  “If ever there was a time when the Russell Group needs to spring into action and communicate effectively, it is now and we urge you to do so.

“Albeit with initial best intentions, we feel that you have inadvertently become a pawn in some kind of political agenda.”

Her campaign to persuade the group to speak out in defence of the arts and related subjects was backed last night by leaders of the country’s two main headteachers’ organisations - the National Association of Head Teachers and the Association of School and College Leaders.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, said:  “I think there is a case that the Russell Group have overstated their case for individual subjects.”

Heads have been angered by the fact the list of facilitating subjects omits music, religious studies, politics and government, philosophy, economics, art, design and technology, theatre studies and PE and that exam league tables now rank schools by the percentage of pupils with two A grades and a B at A-level in facilitating subjects -  which puts many independent schools with a strong tradition in the arts well down the list.

“Since the term has been introduced, schools had seen a decline in the number of students choosing these subjects at A-level.  Often under pressure from parents, the Russell Group advice was being misinterpreted as measuring that students should only chose facilitating subjects,” Miss Clarke said.

She warned that - if the Group did not speak out strongly - “you will have presided over the death of these enriching subjects in schools, ultimately depriving a generation of this country’s young people a balanced, meaningful and fulfilling experience in their most formative years.”

It was pointed out that Prime Minister David Cameron had obtained a place at Oxford with history, history of art and economics A-levels - only one of which was a facilitating subject.

Dr John Newton, head of Taunton School - one of the country’s leading independent schools, added: “I think the lady is right.  There are a few people who haven’t caught up with how subjects have developed in the last few years.

“Some people believe that what served pupils in 1982 still serves them in 2013.”

Dr Piatt, who said she would be replying to Tiffin School, stressed the Group had highlighted the fact that taking two facilitating subjects out of three was “a smart way for students to keep their university options wide open.”

The Group had also said “it would be wrong to use this simple indicator (the DfE’s league table ranking) as a measure of the number of pupils in a school who are qualified to apply successfully to a Russell Group university”.

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Jilly's jewels: gardener Alan Titchmarsh
peopleCountry Life magazine's list of 'gallant' public figures throws light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Sport
John Terry goes down injured in the 70th minute
sportAtletico Madrid 0 Chelsea 0: Blues can finish the job at Stamford Bridge, but injuries to Terry and Cech are a concern for Mourinho
Student
student
News
<b>Rebecca Adlington</b>
<br />This, the first British swimmer to win two
Olympic gold medals in 100 years, is the eversmiling
face of the athletes who will, we're
confident, make us all proud at London 2012
peopleRebecca Adlington on 'nose surgery'
Arts & Entertainment
tvJudge for yourself
Life & Style
tech
Life & Style
Tough call: is the psychological distress Trott is suffering an illness? (Getty)
healthJonathan Trott and the problems of describing mental illness
Life & Style
23 April 2014: Google marks St George's Day with a drawing depicting England's patron saint slaying a fire-breathing dragon
tech
Life & Style
On the dogwalk: a poodle on the runway during a Mulberry show in London
fashionThe duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable
News
peopleEmma Appleton says photographer said he would shoot her for magazine if she slept with him
Extras
indybest
News
peopleRevealed: Goop.com's losses - and the pay rises
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Customer Development Specialist

COMPETITIVE: STONETOOLS: The position is within the Customer Development Team ...

Purchasing Assistant

£24,000 - 27,000 per annum: STONETOOLS: The position is within the Purchasing ...

KS1 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: The successful candidate will show a ...

Cover Supervisor Preston

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Cover Supervisor Jobs in Presto...

Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home

It's not always fun in the sun: Moving abroad does not guarantee happiness

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home
Migrants in Britain a decade on: They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire

Migrants in Britain a decade on

They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire
Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

The 'Thick of It' favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series 'Trying Again'?
Why musicians play into their old age

Why musicians play into their old age

Nick Hasted looks at how they are driven by a burning desire to keep on entertaining fans despite risking ridicule
How can you tell a gentleman?

How can you tell a gentleman?

A list of public figures with gallant attributes by Country Life magazine throws a fascinating light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

The duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire
Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Celebrate St George’s Day with a nice cup of tea. Now you just need to get the water boiled
Sam Wallace: Why Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term

Sam Wallace

Why Ryan Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term
Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

Having smashed Sergei Bubka's 21-year-old record, the French phenomenon tells Simon Turnbull he can go higher
Through the screen: British Pathé opens its archives

Through the screen

British Pathé opens its archives
The man behind the papier mâché mask

Frank Sidebottom

The man behind the papier mâché mask
Chris Marker: Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Chris Marker retrospective is a revelation
Boston runs again: Thousands take to the streets for marathon as city honours dead and injured of last year's bombing

Boston runs again

Thousands of runners take to the streets as city honours dead of last year
40 years of fostering and still holding the babies (and with no plans to retire)

40 years of fostering and holding the babies

In their seventies and still working as specialist foster parents