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Friday, 26 May, 2000, 14:19 GMT 15:19 UK
Head 'delighted' with admissions debate
view of Oxford University
Oxford University: Under attack
The head teacher of the school attended by Laura Spence says he is "delighted" that the government is to address the issue of discrimination in university admissions policies following her rejection by Oxford University.

Dr Paul Kelley, head teacher of Monkseaton Community High School in Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear, called Laura a "stunningly wonderful student", and said that Magdalen College had made a "mistake" in not offering her a place to read medicine.

Dr Paul Kelley
Dr Paul Kelley: "Laura is exceptional"

But he said the argument had now moved on from Laura and her specific case, and he hoped the attention it had generated meant the university's admission process could be changed to benefit others like her.

"It's not done Laura harm - she has a place at Harvard, she's done extraordinarily well," he said.

"She's delighted with Gordon Brown. She thought she stood in the firing line unexpectedly, but she's held on to what she believes to be the case, and now somebody else can take it on another stage.

"She's all right, she can go to Harvard, but now what's happened to her can hopefully help other people."

Dr Kelley said Laura was now concentrating on studying for her five A-levels, for which she is expected to get straight A grades, and did not want to speak any further about her experiences to the media.

He refused to disclose details of the report tutors at Magdalen College sent back to the school following Laura's interview.

Laura Spence
Laura Spence is said to be "delighted" with Gordon Brown

But he did say: "What I am certain of is that she is an absolutely exceptional student. We have sent a number of students to Oxford and Cambridge, and you get a feel for these sort of things.

"Even in that group of people, Laura is exceptional."

He added that the memo written by Oxford tutors about Laura, obtained by the BBC, proved "there probably was discrimination in the process in my view".

'The principles are clear'

The memo said that "as with other comprehensive school pupils" Laura was "low in confidence and difficult to draw her out of herself ".

Dr Kelley said: "No one should have that attitude about a whole group of millions of people."

He said he was "not an expert on university admissions", and so could not say how admissions policies should best operate.

But he said: "The principles here are clear. The first is that everyone has the right to an education, and the second is that everyone has the right not to be discriminated against."

He added that he admired the way Harvard University handled its admissions, which involved a panel of 20 people considering a candidate's qualifications, test and interview results "blind" - without knowing who the candidate was or where they were from.

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26 May 00 | UK Politics
Labour's 'class war' over Oxbridge
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