The Sutton Trust… and why poorer children are at a disadvantage.


The Sutton report has brought to light some information that is of no surprise to us here at roughsociety…

“Westminster School, Eton College, Hills Road Sixth Form College, St Pauls
School and St Pauls Girls School produced 946 Oxbridge entrants over the period 2007-09 –
accounting for over one in 20 of all Oxbridge admissions. Meanwhile just under 2000 schools
and colleges with less than one Oxbridge entrant a year produced a total of 927 Oxbridge

This is completely unacceptable. The difference in standards between State and Public schools are an abomination as we all know, but for there to be this much of a gap between the wealthy and the poor in terms of progression and opportunity indicates a strong lack of social mobility. Education is of primary importance to this nation, both to develop as a society (Cameron, take note..) and economically. In order for children and young adults to progress, they must be given the help and opportunities to do so. On an equal footing.

What is even more devastating is that the report shows even students who achieve similar grades at a state school are less likely to be accepted to the top selective universities than their peers from private schools. Is this meritocracy? Professor Anna Vignoles of the Institute of Education has admitted that even after certain mitigating circumstances have been taken into account (I.e. the actual subjects in which the A levels were attained etc.) there is still an unexplainable gap between those private schools and state schools.

My last blog post on this issue called for the use of contextual data in admissions. Not surprisingly, the call has now also come from Universities UK. This data is essential in widening participation, and allowing bright pupils from state school backgrounds to be given the same opportunity as those more fortunate.

Nick Gibb, the School’s minister for Cameron’s government, has claimed that the report is proof of Labour’s inability to improve social mobility whilst in office. This is highly hypocritical of a man who forms a government that has increased tuition fees of public universities to the highest level in the Western world. As one door closes, so does another. This repeated cycle is a vicious and repetitive strain on our country’s brightest students. We must place educational social mobility very high on our list of priorities if we are ever to see true opportunity for the nation’s children and students.

Of course, we must also understand this to not only be an educational issue, but also one of social mobility as a general term. You are entirely right in assuming that those at the top universities, with the avenues available to them through peers and degree worth, will be at the top of the tree for the rest of their lives. Those that are shut out at the very beginning find it a lot more difficult to get past the first few branches.

Nico Leon


1 Comment

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One response to “The Sutton Trust… and why poorer children are at a disadvantage.

  1. David P

    For me, one of the interesting points about Sutton trust’s analysis is the divide in performance (that is, converting A level point scores into places at University) between schools that are similar: the three most successful state sixth form colleges, for example, send as many students to the ‘top 30’ unis as the least successful forty sixth form colleges.. So this isn’t just an argument about private vs. state provision, but a call to schools and universities to understand why these differentials exist, and persist. It can’t just be about inequality of provision, can it? Isn’t it also about appropriate advice, informed choice and the removal of barriers to aspiration?

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