Far fewer brilliant youngsters are going to go to university in the long term

The Sunday Times, 12.07.15, the head of the school ranked London’s No 1 in The Times annual league table tells Sian Griffiths that employers are going cold on degrees. HMC member Clarissa Farr, high mistress of St Paul’s Girls’ School features and 

A staggering 98.9% of A-levels at St Paul’s Girls’ were awarded grades A*-B last summer. Runner-up in our table of London’s best schools is North London Collegiate (97.7%), third is St Paul’s School for boys and fourth King’s College School, the Sunday Times independent school of the year.

Last week Farr told The Sunday Times why St Paul’s Girls’ — which in the past has had a reputation as a hothouse — is so successful. To start with, she says, it is highly selective — girls sit an entrance test and have to be bright to gain admission. However, Farr insists the school is far from being an exam factory.

“I think, contrary to popular belief, we keep exams in their place,” she says. “What we emphasise is enjoyment of learning, and absolutely outstanding teaching. Many think brilliant students can teach themselves. I do not think that. We make sure all our teaching is outstanding. We do not run school trips in term time, because nothing must interrupt that 35-minute lesson time.”

Farr has always seemed ahead of the curve. Now she is preparing for a future that will puzzle many aspirational parents. In a few years, she says, instead of aiming for an Ivy League university, Oxford or Cambridge, it will become normal for girls to leave school at 18 and go straight into work.

Farr, a mother of two teenagers, says companies such as Google are questioning the value of a degree and that many Paulinas are taking up “handsomely paid” holiday internships.

“Far fewer of these brilliant youngsters are going to go to university in the long term. Employers do not care about university,” she says. “Some will still go into world-class universities but some will go straight into employment aged 18 and that will cease to be an unacceptable choice for the very brightest girls.”

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