Plea for partners

November 28, 2003

May I make a plea to university lecturers to have more contact with sixth-form students and staff through partnerships in regional conferences and seminars? We meet university admissions officers, but hardly ever those who teach our subject.

Curriculum 2000 has made sixth-form study disjointed and unsatisfying, not least in my own subject - history. The leap from GCSE to AS is too small, and the leap from AS to A2 is too great. The structure of both is too fragmented. Pupils have lost the opportunity to study topics in depth and to hone their research and writing skills.

But we have to work with what we have got. Greater direct contact between university lecturers and sixth-form students would benefit both. The students would gain an insight into the lecture experience and academic feedback about university. The lecturers would have preliminary contact with students, which would help inform their own teaching to undergraduates, as well as providing opportunities for disseminating research in an accessible manner.

This kind of contact already takes place through the large commercial conferences, primarily staged in London. However, attendance is largely dependent on finance and geography. At Millfield School, we run a conference each spring to bring university speakers, exam-board officials and students together for an afternoon. It is attended by several hundred students from state and independent schools. But this is a largely regional venture and time consuming to organise.

If universities were to form partnerships with schools to organise seminars and speaker programmes, there could be meaningful contact between university lecturers and sixth-formers countrywide. Many in schools would be willing to collaborate.

Ben Vessey
Head of history
Millfield School, Somerset

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