'Any fool can go to university': Telford college head says schools need to take new approach

Schools need to multi-task in their approach to learning rather than just push for high academic grades, a headteacher said today.

Tim Firth
Tim Firth

Tim Firth, of Wrekin College in Wellington, claims the number of universities maintaining high standards while recruiting candidates is now “tiny” with most open to negotiation.

He said schools that focused excessively on academic grades for university places were a key player in the situation because these grades were simply not needed for most places with university now a buyers’ market.

Mr Firth said: “The key reason for sending your child to a good school, and for considering paying for one – one with the facilities, staffing and orderliness required to bring children on – is not any longer an academic one.

"Parents should decide as to whether a school can develop their son’s or daughter’s character and approach such that they have the wherewithal and resilience to hold down a long career successfully.

“Very high academic grades were never proof of that anyway.

“It is essential that pupils multi-task and keep their education broad in a school of diverse people if you really want to ‘future-proof’ them.”

Mr Firth said Wrekin College had put “its money where its mouth was” by investing £7 million on facilities which were improving the school’s ability to provide a more “prepared-for-life/work” offering.


The spend has included a £1m business school to ready students for the world of work and a £2.5m music school, with work also to start on a £2m design and technology school.

He said the investment and approach to schooling provided a wide spectrum of opportunity for youngsters who were more able at 18 to make informed choices about their future. This, he maintains, will become vital in the next five to 10 years as it becomes more apparent that only the top five to ten universities will be worth paying for.

He added: “Employers in the future should ask what were your A-level grades? Rather than what did you get at university and which one did you go to?

"Because, even after pupils get into university, high degrees are being awarded like confetti to seduce the next generation of fee-paying students into applying.

“Wrekin is determined to provide a diversity of action and compulsion so students aiming for the vocational courses as well as the universities which still maintain strict criteria for admitting candidates will achieve those ends here, but also so that we do not limit ourselves or sacrifice the better interests of pupils by simply chasing grades for the illusion of a higher education that offers no real benefit to anyone.

“Parents and students need to think about what merits their investment financially or otherwise.

“Any fool can go to university – the secret to a good school is to prepare their students so they know the valuable places worth chasing and can choose an alternative if that’s not for them.”

“Above all, the secret is to get pupils multi-tasking across a wide variety of activities with a diverse set of people, simulating the real world at school.”

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