Rich pupils get the best university places

Just 0.1 per cent of students on free school meals win places at Oxbridge, according to DfE figures

Richer pupils are twice as likely to go to one of the UK's top universities than those from the poorest homes, according to new figures.

Teenagers who are eligible for free school meals (FSM) - a key measure of poverty - are also still slightly less likely to go to any university, or to go on to work or training, the data shows.

It also reveals that white 18-year-olds are less likely to continue studying, or go on to employment or training than those from other ethnic groups.

The statistics, published by the Department for Education (DfE) give new information on the background of pupils and what they went on to do after finishing their GCSEs or A-levels.

The results show that poorer teenagers are less likely to continue their studies, whether they leave school at 16 or 18.

Around 46 per cent of FSM students went on to higher education at the age of 18 in 2010/11, compared to 48 per cent% of their non-FSM peers.

Just 4 per cent of those eligible for free dinners went to a Russell Group university - considered among the top in the country - making them half as likely to go as their richer classmates (9 per cent went in 2010/11).

And 0.1 per cent of FSM pupils went to Oxford or Cambridge, compared to one per cent of those not on FSM.

Among 16-year-olds, more than four fifths (82 per cent) of those claiming free dinners went on to education, employment or training, compared to nine in 10 (90 per cent) of other pupils.

Poorer pupils were most likely to go to a further education college, the statistics show, while richer students were most likely to attend a school sixth form.

A breakdown by ethnic background shows that Asian students were the most likely to go on to education, employment or training after completing their A-levels.

In total, 80 per cent of Asian students went on to further study or work in 2010/11, compared to 79 per cent of students from 'other' ethnic groups, 78 per cent of black students, 72 per cent of those from mixed backgrounds and 69% of white students.

Around two thirds of Asian students (66 per cent) and students of 'other' ethnic groups (65 per cent) went on to university, compared to 61 per cent of black students, 52 per cent of those from mixed backgrounds, and 46 per cent of white students.

A government analysis of the data suggests a disparity between local authorities in the numbers of poorer children going to leading universities.

In Trafford, Manchester, Kirklees and Stockport at least 10 per cent of FSM pupils were admitted to one of 24 Russell Group institutions.

But in 16 other areas, not a single pupil went to one of these universities, the DfE said.

These local authorities are Merton, Sandwell, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, East Riding of Yorkshire, North East Lincolnshire, Milton Keynes, East Sussex, Portsmouth, Southampton, Bracknell Forest, West Berkshire, Reading, Halton, Isle of Wight and Northumberland.

The figures also show that nationally, the same proportions of pupils on free school meals go on to do an apprenticeship at age 16 and 18 as those not on FSM.

A DfE spokesman said: "These statistics underline, yet again, the gap between the achievement of children from poorer backgrounds, and their better off peers. Too often the poorest children are left with no choice but the worst schools while the rich can send their children to private school or move house into the catchment area of a good school."

He said the Government was setting up free schools to give parents more choice, turn round failing schools and raise teaching standards.

PA

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