The many and the few

21st October 2011 at 01:00
Are state schools really to blame for not getting pupils into elite universities?

Debra Liddicoat sounds proud of her school's record in sending its pupils to top universities.

"I don't know, really," the head of Clarendon House Grammar says when asked to explain it. "When they are in Year 10, we will take them off to Oxford and Cambridge. We will arrange mock interviews for those pupils for whom we think it is appropriate."

Ms Liddicoat wasn't aware of statistics published this summer showing the percentage of pupils at every school sixth-form in England who have progressed to the country's 30 most selective universities.

But when told the figure for her school in Ramsgate, Kent, she is "pleasantly surprised". Then, after a long pause, the head picks up on my hesitation.

"Why?" she asks. "Is that low?"

Actually, yes, on the face of it the 17 per cent of pupils that Clarendon House Grammar sent to those selective universities between 2007 and 2009 is quite low. Other grammar schools with worse A-level results have sent up to three times as many of their pupils to top universities.

Facts like that are about to become a very big deal for schools and teachers. The squeeze on university places and ever-improving A-level results are focusing attention on where pupils go after they leave school as never before. And increasingly it is teachers who are being blamed for selling their sixth-formers short.

You can read the full article in the October 21 issue of TES.

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