Poorer students who achieve top marks in their GCSE exams will receive a "well done" letter from ministers, it has been revealed, prompting accusations the government is patronising poorer pupils.
In the proposed letter, universities minister David Willetts has also said he would urge pupils to think about going to university, despite the Business, Innovations and Skills (BIS) department repeatedly pledging to increase the value of apprenticeships,.
"With today's sensitivities about data protection, it is hard for ministers to drop a line directly to Joe or Gemma congratulating them on their exam results and urging them to think about going to university," the universities minister said in a speech on Thursday. "But perhaps we can write to the head teachers with a message to pass on."
The plans, which look to be rolled out this summer, have been received with mixed reactions by the public, with some saying they feel the letters would be motivational but the majority condemning the proposal as "patronising".
In December last year, the minister for business and education Matthew Hancock urged students to skip university and take up apprenticeships if they were looking to train for high-flying careers - a stark contrast to Willett's proposed message to students. The government has repeatedly been warned about the state of apprenticeships, with Dragons Den star Doug Richard saying they should be equal to degrees, with Lord Adonis warning of the "black hole" of apprenticeships for thousands of young people.
Even David Cameron has said he wants apprenticeships to become "the new norm", while a report released in March warned careers advice is letting young people down by not informing them about apprenticeships.
Although the proposed letters to poorer students would have been an opportunity to promote university and apprenticeships as equally respected educational routes, Willetts is opting to "urge" students to think only about university.
In his speech, Willetts continued: "We are not going to start telling people where to apply. But I want to work with you so that we can go further in ensuring that students know where to look for the information that will help them make the right decision for them - about the range of universities and the support available."
A spokesperson for the BIS told HuffPost UK: "There has not been any decision on who the letters will go to. it is a letter to show pupils university is an option.
"It does not discourage pupils from doing apprenticeships.
"The suggestion is to make sure that prospective students have a full understanding of the options available to them, so that they can make an informed choice of what will be best for them."
Would you be patronised or motivated if you received a congratulations letter from the government? Tweet @HPUKStudents and let us know.
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