‘Twice as many poor children would go to elite universities if they had better support and careers advice at 16, research suggests.
Pupils from low-income families are much more likely to drop out of education after their GCSEs and far fewer study A levels. The study also found that poor teenagers were less likely to go to university when compared with pupils with identical GCSE results and who lived in the same area.
This “progression gap” was blamed on poor advice when deciding on whether to study A-levels and in which subjects, and on a more complicated education system beyond 16, according to analysis by Education Datalab for the Social Mobility Commission.
It looked at the education records of young people who sat GCSEs in 2010, using the Department for Education’s national pupil database, individual learner records, and Higher Education Statistics Authority records.
This showed 24 per cent of poor teenagers went on to higher education compared with 42 per cent of pupils from better-off families, despite many having achieved the same results and living in the same areas. Just 2 per cent of pupils from low income households went to Russell Group universities but 10 per cent of other teenagers did so. Some 16 per cent of pupils on free school meals dropped out of school at 16 but only 9 per cent of other teenagers did the same.’ - The Times
‘[former Labour minister Alan] Milburn, who chairs the commission, said: “When low income youngsters from the same area with the same school results are progressing less than their better-off classmates, that is not about lack of ability. It is about lack of opportunity. The progression gap has many causes but it suggests something is going badly wrong in our education system.”
The lack of proper careers advice and the complexity of post-16 education and training made it hard for those from lower income groups to “translate their attainment at school into qualifications that are well rewarded”, Milburn said.
The researchers from the Education Datalab unit, which carried out the analysis, said pupils on free school meals “have marked differences in the post-16 choices they make that cannot be explained by inequalities in institutional availability”, compared with those in the same neighbourhoods with similar GCSE performance from wealthier households.
Rebecca Allen, Datalab’s lead author on the research, said the issue presented a dilemma for policymakers who wanted to improve educational results, if the groups involved avoided making the best choices they had available.
“One response is a behavioural one: try to understand their choices and nudge them into better ones,” Allen said. “The other is an authoritarian one – if they aren’t making academically stretching choices then shut down the choices they are able to make at 16.” ‘ - The Guardian