Shaun Fricker on University Entrance, Life Skills and Citizenship in the Curriculum

08:20 Thursday 18th August 2011
Peterborough Brealfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

ANDY GALL: Let’s speak to Shaun Fricker, Head of Sixth Form at Jack Hunt School. Good morning to you Shaun.
ANDY GALL: What a morning! Well done. Full of the joys of autumn. Are you as nervous as many of your students Shaun?
SHAUN FRICKER: We always are, every year.
ANDY GALL: Right. Why are you nervous though? Your job’s done now. You should feel OK, yeah we’ve done our ..
SHAUN FRICKER: It’s not done actually.
ANDY GALL: It’s not?
SHAUN FRICKER: We’re not done. We’ve got a lot of staff coming in. I’m sitting in the main office this morning, and they’re rolling in as I’m talking to you. And that’s because obviously, in particular with this year, with the demand for places very very high, near misses may not do. And every year we always bring a lot of staff in, because we’ve got a lot of students we have to support, because they come in, and they’re nervous, they’re worried. A lot of them will have checked on the UCAS website early this morning to see the status of their application, and whether they’ve been accepted or not. If they’ve got bad news on that, or they’re still what I call in the twilight zone, and universities haven’t decided, they come in and they need help, because quite often a lot of them are like rabbits trapped in front of car headlights, if they haven’t got the grades they were hoping for. And they need support, and they need a bit of care, and they need people just to sort of point them in the right direction, steer them, advise them, and help them hopefully get a place by the end of the morning.
ANDY GALL: Yes. It seems a bit of rhetoric really to say that students are going to be stressed out, but you’ve got to think of the current climate as well, politically, about the tuition fees rising, and that kind of thing. And there can be worries that this added even bigger stresses onto the shoulders of these students.
SHAUN FRICKER: Yes. We’ve spent an awful lot of time this year with our students who are hoping to go off to uni., in particular the lot that are in the current year 12, who are getting their AS results this morning, who will be the first cohort of students to hit the fee hike. And as I’ve always maintained, if you view it as a tax at the end, the fees should not be a disincentive for you to apply to university. With the current state of the employment market, graduate status is still just as important as it was, if not more so. And you shouldn’t let money put off things that would hopefully enable you to achieve your dreams in three, four, five years time.
ANDY GALL: Can you .. this is a bit more philosophical I suppose, but if you took the modern exam paper, and put it in front of a 1960, 1970 student, what I’m trying to say is do you think that we’re becoming more intelligent?
SHAUN FRICKER: Young people have always¬† got an awful lot of potential, I don’t think we’re necessarily becoming more intelligent. I think we’re becoming more in tune with the sort of society that we’ve evolved into. We are a society that has tested our young people to exhaustion. (LAUGHS)
ANDY GALL: Actually, on the back of that, Ben the Producer has just said, is there an argument that actually people are being taught to pass exams, a kind of mechanism you’re imposing on people?
SHAUN FRICKER: Well it’s a very fine line as educators that you walk. Because you’ve got the responsibility that you hold to your local authority, to your own school, to the young people themselves. They need the qualifications, and you’ve got to get them through examinations and tests. But at the same time you can’t lose sight of the fact that when they come into a school, they’re here to be educated as people, not just as factory produce, that you turn out with an examination package at the end of it.
ANDY GALL: The argument is that you have to prove to future employers that you have the ability to take on board information and regurgitate it in certain academic fora.
SHAUN FRICKER: I think to a large extent, I don’t think employers are necessarily that concerned by it. I think if you talk to big employers, people like Tesco for example, Sir Terry Leahy has always bleated on about how young people coming to work for Tesco don’t have basic skills. I think he overeggs that a little bit. I think what employers want is they want competence in basic functional skills like literacy and numeracy and so forth. But I think in the modern workplace, interpersonal skills are just as important. And you’ve got to have finished people who are confident, outgoing, they’ve got a sense of humour, they’re friendly, they’re effective and productive, and they get on well with people. I think that’s just as important a lot of the time as things like examination certificates.
ANDY GALL: Indeed. Certainly in the current climate what we saw was some of the disenchanted youth of the island, and you know, that kind of thing has to be a shot in the arm.
SHAUN FRICKER: What do you mean? Getting decent people out into the workplace?
ANDY GALL: Yes. Well just making sure that it’s an overall kind of address of like you know being a good human being.
SHAUN FRICKER: Well, you know, one of the things which is interesting when you look at some of the media coverage of the civil unrest we had recently, a lot of people came on particular current affairs programmes, Newsnight in particular. We had somebody being interviewed about what the Government is doing in getting rid of citizenship as a subject within schools. Because citizenship is incredibly important. And we had educators who were being interviewed in the light of the civil unrest who were saying, it’s really important that people are taught values, they are taught responsibility, and they’re not going to function as effectively out in the real world unless they’ve got that sense of responsibility.
ANDY GALL: Indeed.
SHAUN FRICKER: And is it the responsibility of schools to instill that.
ANDY GALL: Indeed. Shaun, thank you very much for talking to us, and the best of luck with today. That’s Shaun Fricker, Head of the Sixth Form at Jack Hunt School.