Data shows Oxbridge chances divide


More than one in seven schools and colleges is failing to send any pupils to the UK's top universities, new figures show.

Almost two-thirds do not send any teenagers to Oxford or Cambridge, according to the Government data.

The statistics reveal a stark divide in pupils' chances of attending a leading university, with those educated at grammar schools much more likely to win a place than their peers.

The data, published for the first time today, show how many A-level pupils at each school and college in the country went to on higher education in general, as well as the numbers that went to Oxford or Cambridge, and other leading Russell Group universities.

The figures include state schools only, excluding private schools.

Four schools and colleges in England did not send any pupils to university in 2009/10.

Some 330 schools and colleges, around 15%, which entered pupils for A-levels or equivalent qualifications, did not send any students to a Russell Group university.

In addition, 1,395, around 64.5%, did not send any youngsters to Oxford or Cambridge.

Between them, these two universities, considered to be the best in the country, have around 6,700 places for undergraduates each year.

The figures suggest that selective, or grammar, schools are much more likely to send pupils to these two institutions than other schools.

Of the top 13 schools and colleges sending pupils to Oxbridge, all but one were selective, the Department for Education's figures show.

The number one school was Colchester Royal Grammar in Essex, which saw 16% of its pupils gain Oxford or Cambridge places in 2009/10.

Of the top 14 schools and colleges sending pupils to any Russell Group university, including Oxbridge, 12 were selective, according to the statistics.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), said: "There is still a postcode lottery in the UK when it comes to education. Unfortunately where you live still makes a difference on how you get on in life.

"We cannot afford to have areas in the country where it is unheard of for people to go to Oxford and Cambridge. The UK badly needs more highly skilled workers if it is to compete with other countries but this cannot be achieved if youngsters are not allowed to strive to reach their full potential."

Schools minister Lord Hill said: "It is interesting to see how well some local authorities in more deprived areas, and some schools and colleges in those authorities, do in terms of students going to our best universities, compared to those in other parts of the country."

Reading had the highest proportion of pupils going to a Russell Group university (28%), the figures show, as well as the biggest numbers going to Oxbridge (7%).

Overall, out of the top 10 local authorities sending pupils to leading universities, all but four have at least one grammar school.

The statistics also reveal that almost two-thirds of young people (64%) were in "sustained" education (meaning they were in education for at least six months) after taking their A-levels or other qualifications.

Just over half (52%) were at university, with 8% at a Russell Group institution and 1% at Oxbridge.

Harrow had the highest proportion of teenagers in sustained education (79%), while Portsmouth had the lowest (48%).

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: "Having destination data is useful for schools and colleges and will help them to plan their curriculum and careers advice so that it best meets the needs of students. However, today's figures only give us a snapshot of one year group. We need three years of data in order to start talking about trends."

He added that he was worried about the "fixation" with Oxford and Cambridge.

"They account for less than 7,000 places a year and even if half of these were filled by students from disadvantaged backgrounds, it would only be a drop in the ocean in terms of addressing social inequality in this country," Mr Lightman said.

"The most important outcome is that young people are made aware of all the opportunities available, are encouraged to set their sights high, and are helped to make choices that are right for them. There are many good universities in the UK and excellent employment-based routes into top careers, all of which are available to high calibre applicants from all backgrounds.

"Success is about far more than entry to Oxbridge."

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said the figures show there is "still a major divide between rich and poor in our education system".

"What is worrying is that the Government risks making things significantly worse, by abolishing the education maintenance allowance, trebling tuition fees, and getting rid of advice services," he said.

"At the same time, schools need to be far more ambitious for their pupils to get into top universities."

Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said: "The most important factor in whether pupils are able to apply successfully to leading universities is whether or not they achieve the right grades. Entry to all our universities is very competitive for many courses and places are limited so these figures should be seen in that context.

"In addition this data does not tell the whole picture - where small numbers of pupils gain entry from particular schools this will not even show up.

"We already know that pupils from some schools are not only less likely to attend Russell Group universities but less likely to apply in the first place.

"It is also particularly important that students with no family history of higher education are given good information, advice and guidance. Yet a recent Sutton Trust report found a surprisingly high number of state-school teachers do not encourage their brightest pupils to apply to leading universities.

"We want every student with the qualifications, potential and determination to succeed at the Russell Group university to have the opportunity to do so, whatever their background or whatever school they have attended.

"That is why our universities and the Russell Group hold events to advise teachers working in disadvantaged areas on the admissions process."


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