Personal is political

October 24, 2013

The Pearson Think Tank recommends the abolition of Ucas personal statements on the grounds that not everybody makes a good job of them (“Statements of disapproval”, News, 10 October).

Where does one start with such a poor argument? Perhaps the most egregious error is the implication that “public school personal statements powerful - state school and college ones useless”. Are the admissions tutors interviewed by the thinktank such novices that they have never spotted a formulaic piece of ghostwriting from the careers tutor in a fee-paying school? Have they never seen a well-crafted piece from a state school applicant? What do they think they are being paid for?

There is a corrosive constituency within higher education and self-eyeballing institutions such as the thinktank that consider issues about personal statements without referencing (let alone directly engaging with) the people in schools and colleges who write them - or to put it another way, their customers.

Let that constituency look to its leaders for an example: even Michael Gove has not yet decided that since English is no doubt taught more effectively in some schools than in others, he should eliminate the subject from the curriculum altogether.

I would suggest to the Pearson Think Tank (and those it interviewed) that the answer is to help students (and the staff who support them) to write personal statements properly. Let’s see some pressure heaped on politicians of all stripes to restore proper advice and guidance for all school and college students, plus relevant, low-cost training and support for the staff who help them. I believe it is called “levelling up”.

Peter Millen
up2uni Community Interest Company

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