Get a job in Wetherspoon's if you miss out on university, A-level students told

·2 min read
A Wetherspoon pub - Rob Pinney/Getty
A Wetherspoon pub - Rob Pinney/Getty

Take a year out if you don’t make the grades for your first-choice university and go and work in Wetherspoon's for a year or see if you can make it as a musician, a Conservative peer has advised.

Lord Ralph Lucas, editor of the Good Schools Guide, said disappointed teenagers on A-Level results day next week should take the opportunity to “explore some other aspects of yourself”.

He said: “There’s a great deal to be said for taking a year out. First of all, there are a lot of British jobs out there at the moment. Working in Wetherspoon's or somewhere like that is not exactly joyous but it’s really good training. Or you can give yourself a chance and maybe see if you can be something in the music industry or see if you really want to try something else.

“Being out in the world a bit means that you will make a better choice of university and know more what you want to do.”

Analysis has found that as many as 60,000 teenagers will miss the grades needed for their first-choice university this year, as the government clamps down on grade inflation. Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment, warned this weekend that an unusually large group of students will be “painfully disappointed”.

Teenagers face the most competitive admissions round in decades to get into elite institutions, as the number of 18-year-olds has risen alongside appetite from overseas students. At the same time, there is a squeeze on places after universities found themselves oversubscribed last year due to pandemic grade inflation.

Lord Lucas, a hereditary peer who studied physics at the University of Oxford before working as a merchant banker and accountant, said that schools, parents and teenagers were too obsessed with the prestigious Russell Group universities. “Lesser-rated” universities “have to push harder to get that sort of reputation,” he said. “They can’t just say, ‘I’m Newcastle. Therefore if you come and do architecture here, it must be a good course.’”

Efforts by top universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, to increase the proportion of state school pupils will result in a “healthy refocusing” on other options for private school pupils, he said.

Parents will be less likely to be saying: “I can push my child’s grades to the point where they sort of get flipped into a prestigious university automatically, but going back to what used to be the mantra of schools of a rounded education, educating a child for life.”