A subset of ‘elite’ state schools are contributing to north-south Oxbridge bias, according to a new geographical study.
Schools in the south-east region send nearly 50 per cent more students to Oxford and Cambridge colleges than the national average, with some schools in London sending as many as one in three of their pupils to one or the other.
It has long been known that students from schools in London and the south-east are disproportionately overrepresented at the top universities, but research undertaken by King’s College London suggests a growing number of selective sixth forms have become "feeder schools" for Oxbridge colleges.
Sol Gamsu a researcher from Kings College London who led the study, said one grammar school in Barnett sent 16 per cent of its pupils to Oxbridge in one year.
“There are a group of elite state schools, which over the past 20 years have sort of pulled away from the rest of the state sector,” he said. “It’s not exclusive to London or the south, but it is certainly more polarised in the capital.”
Using Department for Education data for the 2013-2014 academic year, the long-term research project highlights the extent to which access to the top two universities is limited in poorer areas of the country.
“Some of these state schools do outperform many independents but there is plenty of research showing that they also tend to have more affluent intakes than other local state schools,” said Mr Gamsu.
A key reason these state schools do so well in terms of Oxbridge candidates is that they are selective, he added, either at age 11 upon entry for grammar schools or at 16 on entry to sixth form for the comprehensive schools.
“They are effectively also creating a more polarised state system,” he said, adding that government plans to allow for more grammar schools will only contribute further to this bias.
“In many ways, the rise of these ‘super-state’ grammar schools represents the complete undoing of comprehensive school reform, as the attempt to produce a more equal school system has been deliberately dismantled and highly competitive elite state schools have been allowed to rise.”
The study finds that London’s grammars receive more applicants per place than similar grammar schools in Birmingham or Manchester.
The 6 most important issues Theresa May needs to address
The 6 most important issues Theresa May needs to address
The big one. Theresa May has spoken publicly three times since declaring her intent to stand in the Tory Leadership race, and each time she has said, ‘Brexit means Brexit.’ It sounds resolute, but it is helpful to her that Brexit is a made up word with no real meaning. She has said there will be ‘no second referendum’ and no re-entry in to the EU via the back door. But she, like the Leave campaign of which she was not a member, has pointedly not said with any precision what she thinks Brexit means
2/6 General election
This is very much one to keep off the to do list. She said last week there would be ‘no general election’ at this time of great instability. But there have already been calls for one from opposition parties. The Fixed Term Parliaments Act of 2010 makes it far more difficult to call a snap general election, a difficulty she will be in no rush to overcome. In the event of a victory for Leadsom, who was not popular with her own parliamentary colleagues, an election might have been required, but May has the overwhelming backing of the parliamentary party
Macbeth has been quoted far too much in recent weeks, but it will be up to May to decide whether, with regard to the new high speed train link between London, Birmingham, the East Midlands and the north, ‘returning were as tedious as go o’er.’ Billions have already been spent. But the £55bn it will cost, at a bare minimum, must now be considered against the grim reality of significantly diminished public finances in the short to medium term at least. It is not scheduled to be completed until 2033, by which point it is not completely unreasonable to imagine a massive, driverless car-led transport revolution having rendered it redundant
4/6 Heathrow expansion
Or indeed Gatwick expansion. Or Boris Island, though that option is seems as finished as the man himself. The decision on where to expand aviation capacity in the south east has been delayed to the point of becoming a national embarrassment. A final decision was due in autumn. Whatever is decided, there will be vast opprobrium
5/6 Trident renewal
David Cameron indicated two days ago that there will be a Commons vote on renewing Britain’s nuclear deterrent on July 18th, by which point we now know, Ms May will be Prime Minister. The Labour Party is, to put it mildly, divided on the issue. This will be an early opportunity to maximise their embarrassment, and return to Tory business as usual
6/6 Scottish Independence
Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP are in no doubt that the Brexit vote provides the opportunity for a second independence referendum, in which they can emerge victorious. The Scottish Parliament at Holyrood has the authority to call a second referendum, but Ms May and the British Parliament are by no means automatically compelled to accept the result. She could argue it was settled in 2014
This ‘hyper-selectivity’ for places brings high results, with some grammars insisting on an A* at GCSE in the subject to be studied at A-level to continue on in the sixth form.
What we’re seeing is a rise in inequality between schools at the top-end with a concentration of elite schools in the South-East of England. Much of the attention has been on the background of the students that Oxbridge recruits, but the way Oxbridge recruits remains the same: they still recruit large numbers from a small group of elite feeder schools. This process effectively fosters unequal relationships between schools, resulting in unequal access to England’s top universities.”
Analysis of the data, which is to be presented to the Royal Geographical Society later this month, found that state schools in the South east send an average of 1.43 times more students than the national average to Oxford and Cambridge.
Private schools in regions including Yorkshire and Humber, the East Midlands and the North East sent half as many as the national average, however, suggesting that high performing pupils in the south still stood a better chance of being offered top university places.
“There is also considerable cost involved in accessing these schools,” he said, “either through paying for tutors to pass the 11+ exams or through the cost of buying a house within the catchment areas for good comprehensive schools”.
Earlier this month it was announced that around 20 new grammar schools were to be considered in “typical working-class areas”, following hints that Prime Minister Theresa May is in favour of the more selective schools being reintroduced in England.
Mr Gamsu said: “This study suggests that expanding the grammar school system will not redress the inequality in access to Oxbridge. Not only are elite state schools contributing to inequality in access in their local areas, they show a clear geographical bias towards London and the South-East, the causes of which will not be addressed if the grammar system is expanded.”
The top 20 state schools for Oxbridge applicants
|Institution||Local authority||Percentage of Oxbridge candidates|
|Queen Elizabeth's School, Barnet||Barnet||16%|
|King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys||Birmingham||15%|
|Colchester Royal Grammar School||Essex||14%|
|The Judd School||Kent||14%|
|The Henrietta Barnett School||Barnet||14%|
|Colyton Grammar School||Devon||13%|
|St Olave's and St Saviour's Grammar School||Bromley||12%|
|The Latymer School||Enfield||11%|
|Pate's Grammar School||Gloucestershire||11%|
|Dr Challoner's Grammar School||Buckinghamshire||11%|
|Stratford-Upon-Avon Grammar School for Girls||Warwickshire||11%|
|Wolverhampton Girls' High School||Wolverhampton||11%|
|Lancaster Royal Grammar School||Lancashire||10%|
|Chelmsford County High School for Girls||Essex||10%|
|Tiffin School||Kingston upon Thames||9%|
|Sutton Grammar School||Sutton||9%|
|Colchester County High School for Girls||Essex||9%|