University fee ruling would help disadvantaged children

PUBLISHED: 10:00 27 January 2013


CHILDREN as young as seven from disadvantaged backgrounds are to be targeted by top universities after an order from the Government – a move welcomed by a Weston primary school.

Director of the Office of Fair Access (OFFA), Les Ebdon, is urging universities which want to charge more than £6,000 in fees to draw up plans to work with youngsters from deprived neighbourhoods.

The plans will have to show how the universities intend to support and motivate pupils to believe that higher education is attainable. This will include campus visits, master classes in special subjects and the possibility of ploughing money into schools, to prepare students for academic success.

Martin Greenwood, headteacher of Oldmixon Primary School, in Monkton Avenue, believes the plans could help raise the aspirations of children from underprivileged backgrounds and promote hope for further education from an early age.

He said: “If children think they will not be able to afford to go to university from an early age then this will not help when they come to make a decision. Anything to help raise that motivation and give them the belief that they can go on to higher education will be a very good idea.

“My own child (aged 12) has asked me if they will be able to go to university and I know these conversations go on in other homes.

“If children get positive comments about going to university, from an early age, that may change their opinions.”

The document from OFFA states universities planning to charge more than £6,000 will have to complete an annual agreement setting out how they will support students and, if these targets are not met, they could face fines of up to £500,000 and lose the right to charge these fees.

Mr Greenwood added: “I believe university education should be free for all students, which can help them get a better job. That is what I benefited from.

“I would like to see a return to free education but I do not think this will happen.

“We have raised children’s aspirations at this school. Their aspirations were low and we fought to get the children to believe they can access higher education.

“They do talk about going to college and university, and I think this plan could help further that.”

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