Page 32 - Independent Schools Magazine
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The rise of unconditional offers - a double-edged sword
Solihull School head David EJJ Lloyd is warning both students and parents to beware of the ever- growing number of unconditional university offers.
Since the removal of the cap on numbers at English universities, institutions are keen to  ll spaces as early as possible. This is highlighted by statistics from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), which show unconditional offers almost doubled from 12,100 in 2014 to 23,400 in 2015.
Mr Lloyd believes that while there are bene ts to unconditional offers, they can also provide potential pitfalls.
He said: “There has been an increasing trend in universities offering unconditional offers over the past couple of years, which I believe can be a real double-edged sword.
“They can, of course, give peace of mind and relieve stress for students at a crucial time in their academic careers. At Solihull School, we place a real emphasis on the mental health wellbeing of our students,
with on-site counsellors and support and advice readily available.
“Exam periods are notoriously stressful for students and an unconditional offer can be a ‘pressure relief valve’, helping students feel secure about their academic futures.
“At the same time, they also raise a number of questions such as will universities be con rmed as  rst choice for the ‘wrong’ reasons and will a student ultimately underperform without the need to meet a standard offer?
“My main concern is this relatively new phenomenon is undermining our A Level system. Offers which provide a lucrative ‘scholarship’
can be particularly divisive, with a danger of the brightest pupils going to the lowest offer bidder (and the highest  nancially) when the  t between individual and institution may not be the best.
“There is also the potential for complacency to set in, with students safe in the knowledge they already have a con rmed offer. If students do sit back and
relax, they may ultimately lack the independence, work ethic and research skills required by universities.
“Things could get more dif cult for schools, too, particularly when a class contains students with
and without unconditional offers. When resources are in short supply and class sizes large, hard-working but under-pressure teachers may inevitably turn their attention to those still requiring higher grades.”
With one in 12 university applicants now receiving at least one unconditional offer, Mr Lloyd is urging students to make decisions for the “right” reasons.
“I do worry the number of unconditional offers will only increase over time and it is incumbent on teachers and parents to work together to encourage students to select universities for the right reasons,” he said.
“With the cost of a university education as it currently stands, and set to increase even further, the  nancial incentives of unconditional offers can make
those universities the right ones for some.
“Where complacency sets in, however, and pupils underachieve in their A Levels, this is something that could ultimately have career- limiting consequences, with employers increasingly looking
to exam results to differentiate between higher numbers of job applicants with upper second class and  rst class degrees.”
Marathon backs project to help the world’s poorest children
Lord Stuart Rose opens inaugural Careers Fair
Marathon has been donating backpacks to Mary’s Meals Backpack Project for over 3 years. The latest consignment of more than 500 bags was delivered to their warehouse in December 2016 on the  rst leg of the journey to some of the world’s poorest children.
Mary’s Meals sets up and runs school feeding programmes
in communities where hunger and poverty stop children from gaining an education. The Backpack Project appeals to schools, clubs and other groups to donate backpacks  lled with materials such as notebooks, pens and school clothing, to send to children
The Royal Hospital School, Suffolk, held its inaugural Careers Fair for Years 10 to 13. The keynote speaker was Lord Stuart Rose and the event was organised by Mr Chris Graham, Head of Sixth Form and Careers, who explained that the aim of the fair was to help pupils to navigate their own paths and  nd interests and skills that will unlock a broad range of career opportunities.
In his opening speech, Lord Rose dispensed a fountain of valuable knowledge and advice harvested over a long and successful career. Despite starting out on a path towards medicine, Lord Rose changed tack and has worked all of his life in retail. He started out with Marks & Spencer in 1971 and from 1989 he went on to positions within The Burton Group, Argos, Booker and Arcadia. He returned to
Marks & Spencer in 2004 as Chief Executive and became Chairman in 2008. He left M&S in 2011 and is currently Chairman of Ocado, Fat Face, and Oasis Healthcare Group and a Non-Executive Director of Woolworths (South Africa). Lord Rose was made a life peer in September 2014.
“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet” – Aristotle
www.marathonss.com
in places like Malawi, Liberia and Kenya.
Marathon’s Managing Director Janet Fay said “We are proud to be supporting a cause which enables children in deprived areas of the world to go to school and gain an education”
Pictured: Lord Rose with head Simon Lockyer
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