Destination data diverts attention

28th October 2011 at 01:00

There are so many problems with the Government's view that state schools should be judged by their success in getting their students into the more selective universities that it is hard to know where to begin (Cover story, 21 October).

William Stewart does a good job of amassing the evidence that most of the factors that determine progression to university are outside schools' control. But even when one looks at what schools can do, is it right for them to divert resources in this way, especially as they are still basically judged by their overall results as in the league tables?

But there is a wider problem. Such a policy, if followed, would simply reinforce the class and area-based stratification that is the curse of the English school system, and which will soon be true of the (relatively) egalitarian higher education system. There is no justification - educational, social or economic - for this. What it does do, of course, is divert attention away from those Government policies that will retard progression to post-compulsory education.

As it happens, two of those policies - changes to early-years education ("Ministers' early-years changes meet with hostility") and the post-EMA bursaries ("Bungled cash allocation leaves poorest in need") - were featured in the same issue.

It is these policies, and many others, that we should be focusing on if we are serious about increasing social mobility.

Roger Brown, Professor of higher education policy, Liverpool Hope University.

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