19 Mar 2008

Minister for Higher Education praises results of Open University courses in schools

Leventhorpe YASS students

Leventhorpe YASS students

Bill Rammell, the Minister for Higher Education, watched 23 sixth form students from Leventhorpe School in Sawbridgeworth, Herts honoured for passing university courses from The Open University.

The students are part of the Young Applicants in Schools and Colleges Scheme (YASS) now offered in more than 300 schools which enables academically gifted students in Years 12 and 13 to study a wide range of undergraduate modules at first-year level alongside their AS and A levels.

Denise Jackson, Leventhorpe School with Bill Rammell

Denise Jackson, Leventhorpe School with Bill Rammell

“What impresses me most is not that Year 13 students have been taking higher education courses and passing them, it’s the range of courses that they have taken - from writing poetry to human genetics and from sustainable technologies to digital photography,” Mr Rammell told the group.

“There is a social and economic imperative to see as many people as possible going in to Higher Education. Other countries are ahead of us in terms of the number of students undertaking HE – fifty per cent of UK jobs in the future will require HE experience,” he added.

Leventhorpe students have studied first level HE courses in personal finance, astronomy, medicine, human genetics, computing, social science and others. YASS gives them the opportunity to study at university level, encourages independent learning, builds confidence and has the added bonus of differentiating them from other students when it comes to applying to traditional universities.

17-year-old Leventhorpe student Adam Kidd studied Data, Computing and Information (M150), a course about how computers work. Adam wants a degree in computer and systems practice and says he liked the OU course. “I like the flexibility of the course. I could do my work gradually in my own time. And it really opened my eyes to student debt. I realised I could get an OU degree while I work and get a degree without debt.”

17-year-old Jodi Abbott also works part-time as a sales assistant and studied the popular OU You and Your Money- Personal Finance in Context (DB123) course. “I learned quite a lot, like how money can affect different parts of your life,” she said.” It’s definitely going to help me budget for university.”

Michell Sui, 17, took An introduction to the human genome (S195) because she wants a degree in medicine. “It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be because I’m taking my A-Level Biology now and that really helped. At first I thought it would take up a lot of time, but using your time wisely means it wasn’t a struggle,” she said.

Mr Rammell said: “I am a great admirer of the OU and it is one of the finest creations of previous governments and I firmly believe that it opens doors and unlocks potential.”

Editor’s Notes

• There are early indications that students who have studied with The Open University are more likely to succeed at university studies;
• Their OU study differentiates them from other candidates on their UCAS application and admissions officers view such study very positively - particularly for the more competitive subjects such as medicine.
• There are very clear benefits in terms of study skills, personal organisation (the ability to plan ahead and meet deadlines) and independent learning;
• Students encounter new subject areas and/or approach familiar subject areas from a different standpoint;
• Those young students who decide to continue their university studies with The Open University can count the module they have passed while at school towards their degree;
• Most young students studying with The Open University acknowledge their increase in self-confidence;
• The competing demands of school and Open University study (together with, in many instances, part-time jobs) results in the development of a strategic approach to learning which will stand them in good stead in the future.

Links to government policy
Schools are now being encouraged by Government to deliver HE as part of a full-time level 3 programme for an individual pupil and the LSC will fund that HE qualification.

The scheme fits directly with the Government's agenda in the 14-19 Education and Skills White Paper (2005) to: 'enable the most able teenagers to take HE modules while in the sixth form'.

Consequently, funding in maintained schools is available through the Learning and Skills Council as set out in their booklet, School Sixth Forms - Funding Guidance for 2005/06: Updated Information to the 2004/05 Funding Guidance, September 2005 or visit

External recognition
YASS is supported by the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT), the CFBT Education Trust in its new National Programme for Gifted and Talented Education (NPGATE) and the National Extension College (NEC).

The scheme is also recognised by the DfES Standards and Effectiveness Unit, UCAS and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA).

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