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.
@HPUKStudents Whether intention's to send the letters to financially poor or academically poor students, it's patronising, truly farcical
@LantaPlowden @HPUKStudents Seperate recognition yes, although central government isn't well placed to identify those deserving of it.
@HPUKStudents Surely those students did that did not achieve the top grades but still worked to the best of their ability deserve them also?
@Hannah_MCurtis @HPUKStudents really really patronisiing. How is it helpful AFTER they've taken the exams? What about encouragement before?
@HPUKStudents Patronising. I was a poor GCSE student, it would have been utterly humiliating to receive a letter like that
@HPUKStudents maybe we should give them all a certificate and a well done for turning up to lectures, society thanks them.
@JennNiff @hpukstudents I can imagine it being like this " awwwh, well done *pat on the head* we thought poor people were thick" *RAGE*
"@HPUKStudents: Helpful or patronising? Poor students to receive 'well done' letters if they achieve top GCSEs followed by pats on the head.
@JennNiff @Hannah_MCurtis @HPUKStudents Is this satire?
@HPUKStudents Poor students = low-income, or that they usu perform poorly in school? The latter might be helpful, the former patronizing.
@Hannah_MCurtis @HPUKStudents Presumably instead of the grants that they should be getting?
@Hannah_MCurtis @hpukstudents what the....? Just poor ones? That's offensive as hell.
@hpukstudents "Well done" letters coming with a giant foam finger with "go go go student" written on it. Plus a high five from Michael Gove.
@HPUKStudents definitely patronising. Wealth doesn't, and shouldn't, indicate whether a child is intelligent/capable of passing GCSEs imo
@HPUKStudents I think it's a good idea. Praise often motivates people.
For the kids? Embarrassing RT"@HPUKStudents: Helpful or patronising? Poor students to receive 'well done' letters if they achieve top GCSEs"
Ian R Close
@HPUKStudents yes. Very patronising.
@HPUKStudents patronising. Just another way of diving state and private schools.
Mohamed Ali Al-Badri
@sherrifflucy @HPUKStudents as a poor student, I would've liked that (:
@HuffPostUK @HPUKStudents totally patronizing waste of money, think they'd rather have their EMA reintroduced.
@HuffPostUK @HPUKStudents and one thing's for sure. this government won't be getting any 'well done' letters! #disgusted
@HPUKStudents So poor students have smaller brains and therefore good GCSEs are a more impressive achievement? #Patronising!
John D Stories
@ADStarrling @HPUKStudents It's a silly idea. Perhaps rich students could get a condescending letter if they do badly? Just to even it out!
@sherrifflucy @HPUKStudents Surely you see this is to steer smart kids with low aspirations towards good unis rather than condescend them?
@HPUKStudents it's so patronising, this government is so out of touch with the youth.
@HPUKStudents as far as I remember, being singled out is the last thing any teenager enjoys, I would have been mortified!
@HPUKStudents Totally patronising, and borderline degrading. Ridiculous idea.