Education reforms aid the better off

She said the gap between rich and poor in national curriculum test results and admissions to universities had grown.

"We must treat seriously the possibility that - despite all our efforts - who your parents are still affects attainment as much in 2004 as it did in 1998," she told a seminar at the Institute of Public Policy Research.

She said improvement in English and maths tests for 11-year-olds among youngsters on free school meals was slower than those from more affluent homes.

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