The Education Blog

News Press 3rd November, 2016

Do universities favour grammar or comprehensive school pupils?

Question: Do universities favour grammar or comprehensive school pupils?

The Telegraph, 3 November 2016 – Read the article in full here.

Universities favour applicants with the best GCSE and A-level grades

Your daughter’s consistently high performance in Year 5 augurs well for academic success when she transfers to senior school in Year 7. You would obviously be wise to submit an application to both schools, if this is possible.

My personal view is that grammar schools can offer exceptional opportunities for academically talented students. The 40 minute bus journey you mention to your chosen grammar school is close enough to be a very realistic option for your daughter, if she is able to achieve a place.

Unlike most adults, teenagers tend to enjoy their commuting journeys, regarding them as social or homework time. Your daughter is also likely to make local friendships, even if she does attend the grammar school.

My personal view is that grammar schools can offer exceptional opportunities for academically talented students. The 40 minute bus journey you mention to your chosen grammar school is close enough to be a very realistic option for your daughter, if she is able to achieve a place.

Unlike most adults, teenagers tend to enjoy their commuting journeys, regarding them as social or homework time. Your daughter is also likely to make local friendships, even if she does attend the grammar school.

I would advise you to check the list of leavers’ university destinations for the past three years, at each school.  If this information is not readily available on the school website, do ask the head.

These lists will give you an idea of how successful each school is in preparing for a range of university courses and also confirm how many students per year have gained places to read medicine.

Comparing GCSE and A-level statistics (particularly in maths and science) is another good point of comparison. First and foremost, universities favour applicants with the best GCSE and A-level (predicted) grades plus relevant qualifications and medical work experience.

For medicine, all universities will require high scores in either the BMAT or UKCAT exams, in addition to A-levels. I would ask the head of science at the grammar and comprehensive school how sixth formers applying for medicine are prepared for these specialist exams, in addition to their A-level lessons.

Above all, my advice would be to choose the senior school which is brimming with exciting extra-curricular opportunities, in addition to inspiring classroom teaching, which has happy, motivated students and which has an atmosphere that quite simply feels “right” every time you and your daughter go on a prospective visit.

Vivienne Durham, schools advisory director at Enjoy Education and former head at Francis Holland School, Regent’s Park

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