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Oxford retains its reputation... ...as a bastion of elitism

The article "Failure at the state school hurdle" (TES, October 31) suggests that students in the state sector are reluctant to apply to Oxford and Cambridge.

Our recent experience suggests that this may not be without reason: good students who apply from the state sector are rejected. In 1996, a student from Ruabon high school applied to an Oxford college to read medicine. She had an excellent academic record at GCSE. Her predicted A-level grades were three As; her actual grades were three As and a distinction in a special paper in mathematics.

She was rejected by Oxford. She was a student of whom we had the highest opinion and who carried with her the strongest recommendation. Happily, she is now reading medicine at Edinburgh University; its gain is Oxford's loss.

However, I find myself wondering how many more state schools have had similarly discouraging experiences after they have encouraged able students to apply to Oxford and Cambridge. One swallow does not make a summer, but Oxbridge's continuing failure to right the balance as demonstrated by the statistics in your article would appear to confirm my suspicion that our best universities remain bastions of privilege.

JOHN MACKAY

Headteacher

Ruabon High School

Ruabon, Wrexham

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