Gary Lineker blames Charterhouse, or is it the Pre U, for his son’s failure


Charterhouse, the premier division co-ed independent school, located near Guildford , attracted publicity a couple of weeks ago .

Gary Lineker’s son who has just left the school failed to secure the equivalent of three Bs at A level to secure a place on a business studies course at Manchester University. A pretty modest ask it has to be said  if you have been educated at one of the country’s most academic schools. Gary was  not best pleased, having invested  around £30,000 a year over the last five years in his son’s education. (he has another son there too).

Parents are prepared to invest such high sums in their child’s education for a number of reasons.  A good rounded education, of course, is up there heading the field, and indeed  the access to a privileged social network given by public schools rates highly too, for some at least, but so too is a virtual guarantee that your child will get onto a good course at a top university at the end of this rather  expensive  process.

Lineker grumbles that Charterhouse, in  opting to take the Cambridge Pre-U this year, for the first time might have something to do with his son’s failure to secure even modest grades.  The media, never reticent about knocking public schools when given a whiff of a chance,  has suggested  that his son’s alleged party habit and going to Tenerife, just before his exams, might not have   helped his cause much.

That the  Pre-U is more demanding than A levels is self-evident.  It was designed to be more testing and to allow admissions tutors, at the very  best  universities , to separate the wheat from the chaff – which is why many good schools are opting for it. But well taught pupils who put in the effort shouldn’t have too much of a problem with the exam.  Indeed Charterhouse claims to be pleased, overall, with their Pre-U results.  60 per cent of its students this year achieved the equivalent of straight A grades or better, while 31 per cent achieved A* grades or better. Over twenty pupils won places at Oxbridge, high by any standards.

At the moment, students studying A-levels are graded on a six-point scale – A* to E while the Pre-U is assessed on a nine-point scale – Distinction 1, 2 and 3; Merit 1, 2 and 3; and Pass 1, 2 and 3. Students who take Pre-U exams cannot re-sit them. Cambridge International Examinations, which sets the test, says it provides more time for “great teaching and deep thought” because all of the exams take place at the end of a two-year course. 1,578 candidates from 59 schools received the very first published Cambridge Pre-U examination  this  month after beginning their studies two years ago.

While the Pre-U is unlikely to be the culprit, it  is entirely understandable that Lineker is upset about his sons underachievement.

There are many parents who send their children to private schools who, looking at their grades at the end of the process, maybe five, maybe ten years, wonder whether it has, literally, all been worth it.  Even in the best private schools it requires individual effort and application combined with good teaching to succeed. Most Privately educated pupils find getting As and A*  a challenge too. Although teaching  is perceived to be better in independent schools, you still get some  bad teaching in all schools, and indeed Professor Wiliam of the Institute of Education claims that if you take into account relevant variables there is no evidence that the quality of teaching in the independent sector is better overall than in the state sector.

Private schools tend to select their pupils and the best schools take the best pupils. Teachers are used to teaching motivated  pupils, well supported by parents. Unlike teachers in the state sector who often have to get the best they can out of extremely challenging pupils (its called adding value) and, rather too  often , never see the parents.  If the inputs are good, there is  every likelihood that the outputs will be too, and  some independent schools might find it difficult to demonstrate unequivocally (no names no pack drill) that  they add value. Presumably Gary Lineker’s son reached the normal common entrance standard to enter Charterhouse, which is relatively high, so  one wonders what went wrong in the interim. Did the school add any value and if not  why not? Was it due to his lack of application or some other reason?  Did he just have bad luck on exam days? Who knows – but buying a good education for ones child does not always deliver the expected results.

Its not obviously good publicity for Charterhouse, nor is it particularly bad, as  the school  can use it to highlight its other pupils  overall success, which is impressive using any benchmark.  As far as  the Pre U is concerned, Cambridge Assessment probably rates any publicity for its new qualification as timely, highlighting its existence, of course and the fact that it is  clearly challenging and robust, a message that admissions tutors might like to hear.   The Pre-U is designed to prepare students for university study and was launched following extensive consultation with Higher Education institutions,  so CA believes that it has  pitched  it just about right.

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