Oxbridge still 'out of reach'

15th July 2011 at 01:00
Disproportionately few Scots gain places at elite English universities

Oxbridge is still out of reach for a disproportionate number of Scottish pupils - even if they attend independent schools.

Scottish schools are conspicuous by their absence in research from educational charity the Sutton Trust, which ranks the top 100 UK schools by proportion of higher education applicants accepted at Oxbridge over the past three years. The only Scottish school listed is Edinburgh's Fettes College, ranked 77.

Kingussie High, Madras College in St Andrews, Ullapool High, Banchory Academy and Lochgilphead High are the only Scottish schools within the top 100 comprehensives in the UK for pupils reaching Oxbridge. Kingussie, which has had three pupils accepted, and Madras (14) are the only Scottish entries in the top 100 across all state schools, including England's many selective schools.

However, the list of top 100 UK comprehensives for getting into 30 "highly selective" universities is dominated by 49 Scottish schools. St Ninian's High in Giffnock is ranked sixth, with 66.2 per cent of applicants accepted.

The top 20 UK comprehensives also include Douglas Academy in Milngavie, Mearns Castle High in East Renfrewshire, and Glasgow's Hillhead High, St Ninian's High and St Thomas Aquinas Secondary. St Luke's High in East Renfrewshire, which has a free meal entitlement of 21.8 per cent, is 16th. Those seven schools make up Scotland's representation in the state sector's top 100, including selective schools.

"One of the most obvious factors relating to the failure of Scottish pupils to get into Oxbridge is poverty, which still has a major impact on pupil destinations," said Larry Flanagan, the Educational Institute of Scotland's education convener and a Hillhead High teacher. Another was that Oxford and Cambridge were "not automatically" the desired destinations for Scottish pupils, although a substantial number of schools were highly effective in raising aspirations.

Oxbridge is "out of bounds" for large swathes of UK pupils, said Lee Elliot Major, Sutton Trust research and policy director: "Overall figures suggest there is this cadre of elite English private schools that absolutely dominate admissions to universities, particularly elite ones."

Researchers had detected an increasing tendency to go to university locally, Dr Elliot Major said, with "even prestigious universities like Edinburgh and Glasgow" seeing catchments narrow.

School Leaders Scotland general secretary Ken Cunningham, formerly Hillhead High headteacher, said the findings were "potentially divisive, and limited in their understanding".

"The more information we have the better, but this comes with the same dangers as any selected, targeted guidance on this issue: it doesn't tell the whole story and it becomes a minefield for parents," he said.

Commenting on Fettes College's inclusion in the Oxbridge overall top 100, John Edward, director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, said it was "striking" that the school with the most non-Scottish exams featured highest.



Scottish placings in top 50 UK comprehensives, by proportion of applicants getting into highly-selective universities:

6 St Ninian's High, East Renfrewshire

8 Douglas Academy, East Dunbartonshire

9 Hillhead High, Glasgow

14 Mearns Castle High, East Renfrewshire

16 St Luke's High, East Renfrewshire

19 St Ninian's High, Glasgow

20 St Thomas Aquinas, Glasgow

23 Wallace Hall Academy, Dumfries and Galloway

25 Williamwood High, East Renfrewshire

29 Our Lady's High, North Lanarkshire

30 Boclair Academy, Glasgow

33 Bearsden Academy, East Dunbartonshire

34 St Thomas of Aquins High, Edinburgh

36 Park Mains High, Renfrewshire

37 Lenzie Academy, East Dunbartonshire

41 Stewarton Academy, East Ayrshire

46 Grange Academy, East Ayrshire

47 Greenock Academy, Inverclyde

48 Largs Academy, North Ayrshire

50 Notre Dame High, Glasgow

Source: The Sutton Trust.

Original headline: Oxbridge still `out of reach' for Scottish pupils

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