The Telegraph is reporting that pupils from private schools are tightening their grip on places at top universities despite hundreds of millions of pounds being spent attempting to widen access to higher education …
Official figures show that almost two-thirds of A-level students from the independent sector went on to Britain’s leading institutions in 2010/11 compared with less than a quarter of those from the state system.
The gap in progression rates between private and state schools has actually widened over the last five years, it was revealed.
It also emerged that teenagers from the poorest families - those eligible for free school meals - were half as likely to progress on to any higher education course as relatively affluent classmates.
The disclosure - in data published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills - was made just a week before the publication of A-level results for almost 300,000 schoolchildren.
Universities are supposed to set ambitious targets designed to create a socially-balanced student body.
At least half of members of the elite Russell Group, which represents 24 leading institutions across the UK, are attempting to increase the proportion of places awarded to state school students.
According to figures, universities are also planning to spend more than £700 million by 2017/18 on measures designed to “widen participation” to degree courses – an increase of some £100m on the most recent academic year.
But the latest data suggests that pupils from fee-paying schools are actually claiming a greater share of places.
In 2010/11, an estimated 86 per cent of pupils from English independent schools progressed on to any university course compared with 70 per cent of those from the state education system - a 16 percentage point gap.
But the gulf was even wider when analysing entry rates to “the most selective” universities - the third of institutions with the highest entry requirements. This includes Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London, University College London and other members of the Russell Group.
According to figures, 64 per cent of students from independent schools went on to these universities in 2010/11, compared with 24 per cent from state schools - a 40 percentage point gap. The gap widened from 39 percentage points a year earlier and 37 points in both 2006/7 and 2008/9.
Within the state system, pupils from selective grammar schools were far more likely to win places than those from comprehensives or further education colleges.
When looking at comprehensives and FE colleges alone, just 20 per cent of pupils gained places in 2010/11, down from 22 per cent in 2009/10 and 23 per cent in 2008/9.
Separate figures also show how many poor pupils - those eligible for free meals - go on to university. In all, 20 per cent entered higher education in 2010/11 compared with 38 per cent of other pupils, although the gap between the two groups has narrowed.
Fewer than one-in-10 poor pupils in some local council areas got a university place, including Barnsley, Bristol, Bournemouth, Doncaster, Durham, Norfolk, Southampton, West Sussex and Wiltshire.
A report earlier this year from Alan Milburn, the Government’s social mobility tsar and former Labour cabinet minister, suggested that top universities should admit teenagers from poorly-performing state schools with lower A-level grades than their privately-educated peers to boost access rates.
He said 3,700 more places at Russell Group institutions should go to state school pupils to make the higher education system “more representative” of society.
More at: Private school pupils monopolising top university places
So universities are spending more and more on outreach programmes but the numbers are going the wrong way. So how can they change for the better? What should they do differently? What is being missed at the moment? Should, for example, they focus more on working with teachers at under-represented schools? What do you think would help? Please share in the comments or on twitter…