Fewer than half of state school teachers encourage Oxbridge applications
The Guardian World News
Fewer than half of state school teachers would advise bright pupils to apply to the UK’s top universities, and the numbers are falling, research suggests.
The Sutton Trust, which commissioned the study, said it was deeply concerning that the majority of teachers would not encourage gifted students to apply to Oxford and Cambridge.
It said more needed to be done in schools to “dispel the myths” about the two elite institutions and other leading universities.
The study, which questioned 730 state secondary school teachers as part of the Teacher Voice Omnibus which regularly surveys teachers’views, found that just 44% would encourage their gifted students to consider Oxford or Cambridge, down from 50% five years ago.
A breakdown of the findings shows that 16% of teachers always encourage their academically gifted pupils to apply to Oxbridge, while 28% say they usually do.
The survey also reveals that many state school teachers underestimate the proportion of pupils from state schools that study at Oxford or Cambridge.
Of the 86% that gave an answer, more than half (55%) said it was less than 30%, while just 7% said over half of the UK students at Oxbridge were from the state sector. Around 14% said they did not know.
In reality, 57% of students admitted to Oxbridge are from state schools, the Sutton Trust said.
The trust’s chairman, Sir Peter Lampl, said: “It is deeply concerning that the majority of state school teachers are not encouraging their brightest children to apply to Oxford and Cambridge.
“It is also worrying that almost all state school teachers, even the most senior school leaders, think that Oxbridge is dominated by public schools.”
He added: “The sad consequence of these findings is that Oxford and Cambridge are missing out on talented students in state schools, who are already under-represented at these institutions based on their academic achievements. We need to do much more to dispel the myths in schools about Oxbridge and other leading universities.”
These universities also needed to ensure they were accessible to bright students, regardless of background, Sir Peter said.
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said pupils needed good careers advice from independent, qualified advisers.
“We agree that young people should be made aware of the opportunities available to them, which is why we have been so concerned about the removal of national funding for face-to-face careers guidance by a qualified adviser,” he said.
“This should be an entitlement for all students. Applying to Oxbridge is only one of many appropriate routes for our brightest young people. There are many good universities in the UK and other excellent employment-based routes into top careers, all of which are available to high-calibre applicants from all backgrounds. Social mobility is about far more than entry to Oxbridge.”
Lightman said teachers were not careers advisers and may not know, or have experience of, Oxbridge and their admissions processes.