LibLink: Clare Tyler: Why the class gap is holding back state school students

Private schools educate 7% of pupils, but account for 42.5% of Oxford students. This statistic, according to Baroness Clare Tyler, puts the UK behind even Harvard, the most elite US university.

She wrote for the Huffington Post in the wake of a damning report on social mobility in the UK.

At Oxford, the percent of state school students hasn’t budged since 2002. And today, just 14.3% of Oxford’s students come from the bottom half of households by income. Whilst one in five children are on free school meals, this can be said of just one in a 100 Oxbridge graduates.

She argued that universities and government must do more to make sure that people’s circumstances of their birth don’t define their future.

Making our best universities more accessible is only one of the many steps we need to take to create a fairer and more socially mobile society. It’s not that our bright low-income students aren’t working hard–in fact, research shows that state school students in Russell Group universities with the same A level grades are 50% more likely to graduate with a first class degree compared to their independent school peers.

Rather, it’s the depressing fact that class and family origin continues to dictate the available opportunities. The UK is still very much a place where your circumstances at birth determine your life chances–along with the United States, we’re one of the worst performers in the West. New research from the London School of Economics shows that when comparing those in the most elite professions, those whose parents were “routine” workers earn roughly £11,000 less per year–even after controlling for education, age, race, gender, and ‘the London effect.’ In fact, even after controlling for whether they went to Oxford or Cambridge and a private or fee-paying school, the ‘class pay gap’ shrinks to just £7,800.

To those at Oxford I would say: if Harvard can find talented disadvantaged youth, so can you.

You can read the whole article here.

* Newshound: bringing you the best Lib Dem commentary published in print or online.

Read more by or more about , , or .
This entry was posted in LibLink.
Advert

13 Comments

  • Brought up in a poor working class area of London. State Grammar school did provide the outlet for brighter working class children. There were 5 such options for our borough. Perhaps, with hindsight we may have got it wrong when they were abolished.

  • Private schools educate 7% of pupils, but account for 42.5% of Oxford students.
    And the point is what? Perhaps Baroness Tyler needs to drill down further into the statistics and better understand the demographic background of those going to private schools – it will probably surprise her!

    And today, just 14.3% of Oxford’s students come from the bottom half of households by income. Whilst one in five children are on free school meals
    Not at all surprising, the report she refers to has this to say about this group: “But today children who receive free school meals are nearly half as likely to get 5 good GCSEs as their better-off peers and even fewer get 2 or more A levels.” Which would imply that the causes of low levels of application don’t lie with the universities.

    it’s the depressing fact that class and family origin continues to dictate the available opportunities.
    It isn’t depressing, just a fact of life. However, two major factors are: asperation and envy. For reasons Baroness Tyler should investigate, it would seem in many lower income families, there is a distinct lack of asperation but an overflowing of envy and aminosity towards those who do improve themselves, seeing these people as the cause of their low standing and not their own mindset.

    Looking back, one of the strengths of the grammar school system was that it was focused on schooling people up for what we now know as the Russell Group of Universities. In the school I went to, this effectively meant that out of an intake of 150, 60~70 stayed on for A-levels, with the clear intent of going to a “Russell Group” university (and of these potentially 8~12 applying to Oxbridge). Looking at the modern secordary school, I doubt many present such clarity of purpose and could muster that size of peer group all with a common focus. [Aside: For those LDV readers who are opposed to grammar schools, I’m not suggesting we should re-introduce grammar schools, only that we understand why they were successful and why comprehensives have an uphill struggle to replicate their success, which in turn makes it a no brainer as to why they are having problems competing with the private sector.]

  • J George SMID 21st Dec '15 - 2:08pm

    Why is it that very often THE WHOLE educational debates is reduced to ‘university access from private schools’? And then this reduced argument is somehow used as a proof of ‘class entrenchments’ with the conclusion that the universities must allow more students in from ‘disadvantage background’ – implying that the universities somehow keep such students out by artificial means.
    In my view to rectify the whole lifetime education at the last and highest level is counterproductive. Universities admission should be ‘class and origin’ blind. We have to concentrate on the level of teachings and the pupil’s performance in primary and secondary schools. The issue is not that 43% of Oxbridge students are privately educated. The issue must be that in internationally comparable PISA educational tables the whole of the UK is not doing well: in reading 23 (France 21, Germany 20), in mathematics 26 (France 25, Germany 16) in science 21 (France 26, Germany 12) [Numbers indicate relative position according to the score achieved].
    Concentration on social mobility and private educations will not sort this underlying problem. They are artificial: if my grandfather was a labourer and my father a professor of art history I can hardly claim ‘social mobility’ by entering University. And the success of private education is partly due to the failure of state schools – there is a positive feedback whereby any failing state school is the best advertisement and provides increased feedstock for private schools.
    In my view Liberal Democrats should not go down the righteous indignatious route of pointing finger on the seeming injustice. As John Marriot nicely put it: the large scale abolition of selection in the state sector … in favour of … social engineering … did much to undermine the confidence of the public …. LibDems should concentrate on restoring that confidence. And you restore it only by the state pupils beating the private school pupils hands down in any pone fair and unbiased entry selection.

  • J George SMID 21st Dec '15 - 2:10pm

    Sorry – a typo. The last sentence is not: And you restore it only by the state pupils beating the private school pupils hands down in any pone fair and unbiased entry selection. It should be: And you restore it only by the state pupils beating the private school pupils hands down in any open, fair and unbiased entry selection.

    Does anybody know how to edit a post once the post is posted?

  • David Cooper 22nd Dec '15 - 11:23am

    @George SMID

    Well said. Setting targets for state/private ratio of Oxbridge/Russell Group University entrance is dealing with the wrong end of the problem. If Baroness Tyler had been captain of the Titanic , she have no doubt have campaigned passionately to set targets to ensure that access to the lifeboats was fair and proportionate, while ignoring the need to avoid icebergs in the first place.

  • Peter Watson 22nd Dec '15 - 12:05pm

    @David Cooper “Setting targets for state/private ratio of Oxbridge/Russell Group University entrance is dealing with the wrong end of the problem.”
    I agree that starting with Oxbridge entry seems the wrong way round, but in Baroness Tyler’s article she states, “We know that independent school students with similar grades were 14% more likely to be offered a place at Oxford compared to comprehensive school students.” so there is scope in the short term to improve the situation for those students who already satisfy the academic criteria. In the longer term, this could also create successful role models to reinforce any other measures.
    As an aside, I am not entirely comfortable with the way that places at Oxbridge or Russell Group universities are often presented as the be-all and end-all of social mobility, particularly it sometimes seems in Lib Dem circles. For many children, vocational training for skilled work in many non-graduate professions would be an incredibly valuable alternative.

  • Peter Watson 22nd Dec '15 - 12:21pm

    P.S. My last paragraph was not directed at David in particular. This article and Baroness Tyler’s are focussing on one part of the report by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.

  • David Cooper 22nd Dec '15 - 12:40pm

    @Peter Watson
    … but anyway you make a valid point. Even if you examine a problem through the wrong end of a telescope, you may see minor tweaks that are nevertheless perfectly sensible. But those who emphasize university entrance in the context of social mobility are suffering from an acute lack of perspective.

  • @Peter Watson – Like Clare Tyler, Firstly, I think you are confusing actual grades with anticipated grades; as initial university place offers are made prior to students sitting their A-levels. Also if you’ve been anywhere near Oxbridge entrance, you would know that (certainly in the past) it places emphasis on the results of its own entrance exams and interviews, additionally, they were looking for something more than just the ability to pass exams.

    The problems are right down the pyramid, hence, why we need to rebuild the whole system from the ground up. The small steps made in nursey and pre-school provision and school meals are examples of policies that will over time make a difference. The need is to continue making small changes throughout the system as those who have benefited from the early years investment travel through the school system. And yes whilst there are real concerns over the Gove reforms, we should remember the intent was to improve standards in the state sector…

  • Peter Watson 22nd Dec '15 - 2:52pm

    @Roland “Also if you’ve been anywhere near Oxbridge entrance, you would know that (certainly in the past) it places emphasis on the results of its own entrance exams and interviews, additionally, they were looking for something more than just the ability to pass exams.”
    I did have a tough Cambridge interview many years ago and exceeded the conditional offer which I binned for the bright lights and big city of London instead. However, I think it is the “looking for something more than just the ability to pass exams” that leaves Oxbridge open to accusations of a bias, however unconscious, towards people who are more like the interviewers than those who are not. I suspect that any bias would be less likely in subjects like maths (where good performance in A-levels and STEP examinations is usually a pre-requisite) than in the humanities where there could be less objectivity and potentially more discrimination.
    Even if we ignore everything before 6th form (a pretty tall order!) I think there are a whole bunch of other factors that contribute to this though. I remember an article which suggested that Nick Clegg benefited from a school which could steer him towards a soft course in a soft college (relatively speaking) because the “objective” was to tick off an Oxbridge degree. In my experience, bright kids from less privileged backgrounds look to Oxbridge because it is regarded as the “best” for the academic subject that they want to study and they are motivated by that subject not the idea of an Oxbridge degree per se, so perhaps pursue a much more competitive route to entry.

  • @Peter _ “I remember an article which suggested that Nick Clegg benefited from a school which could steer him towards a soft course in a soft college (relatively speaking) because the “objective” was to tick off an Oxbridge degree.”

    Yes, this is something I alluded to in my original post concerning grammar schools who were able to consistently put forward 8~12 candidates. When you (consistently) have a group applying to Oxbridge, there are things the school can learn and put in place and hence improve the chances of it’s candidates being accepted.

    “In my experience, bright kids from less privileged backgrounds look to Oxbridge because it is regarded as the “best” for the academic subject that they want to study and they are motivated by that subject not the idea of an Oxbridge degree per se, so perhaps pursue a much more competitive route to entry.”
    I would tend to agree, however, Oxbridge itself has become more competitive because it increasingly has a world standing to maintain, rather than simply being the finishing of the English upper class male.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJoeB 24th May - 1:27am
    Peter, the former Portugese colony of Macau is one of the wealthiest regions of the world in terms of per capita GDP. It has its...
  • User AvatarGlenn 23rd May - 11:10pm
    Nick Baird I sort of agree, but I associate a lot of the language of identity more with American politics and campus culture than anything...
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 23rd May - 9:41pm
    It seems to me there is a sub-text in the idea that 'we should help people in communities to take and use power'. I think...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 23rd May - 9:19pm
    I'm afraid it didn't have the impact of referring to Gordon Brown as Mr. Bean.
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 23rd May - 9:17pm
    @ Richard Underhill "The context could have included the fact that Heath’s predecessor Sir Winston Churchill had offered a Cabinet post to a former Liberal...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 23rd May - 9:05pm
    @ Wlliam Fowler, Governments have complete control over how much they spend – as long as they tax fully to cover the cost of that...