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
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Thursday 31 January 2013
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”.
No league table is perfect: Why you shouldn’t worry about university rankings
20 celebrity degrees you'd never suspect
The 20 best things to do this summer 2013
Leeds Metropolitan University students overwhelmingly reject 'Leeds Beckett' name-change
10 reasons why the privatisation of student loans is a really bad thing
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Vince Cable: Teachers 'know absolutely nothing' about the world of work
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
The quiet diplomat: Catherine Ashton - recognised and admired in all the world’s troubled countries, yet ridiculed at home
- 1 Oxford is the least affordable city in the UK, where houses cost 11 times local salaries
- 2 Australian man Rod Sommerville reacts to bite from deadly snake by reaching for cold beer
- 3 North Korea elections: Kim Jong-un wins 100% of the vote
- 4 David Cameron resorts to paying for Facebook fans because not enough people like him
- 5 Steve Irwin’s final words: Cameraman present at death opens up about deadly stingray attack for the first time
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: Our client is a leading digital agency bu...
£21558 - £31552 per annum + Plus TLR: Randstad Education Leeds: Assistant Curr...
£21588 - £31552 per day + Main Scale : Randstad Education Leeds: Teacher of Sc...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Randstad Education is urgently recr...