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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 September 2007, 00:20 GMT 01:20 UK
Old school 'key to student place'
Oxford's Radcliffe Camera
100 mostly independent schools won a third of Oxbridge places
The school that a pupil attended remains a bigger factor in whether they get into a top university than having good A-level grades, research suggests.

The Sutton Trust charity, which analysed admissions from 2002-06, says state school youngsters are losing out.

The trust found the number of pupils at the top 30 comprehensives who went to Oxbridge was just a third of what might be expected if based on ability.

But at the top 30 independent schools, more than expected got Oxbridge places.

The Sutton Trust is committing at least 10m over the next five years to lift the chances of youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds.

It is deeply worrying - not to mention a sad waste of talent
Sir Peter Lampl
Sutton Trust
It wants others to "join the cause", both financially and by coming up with innovative schemes.

It is also investigating how it can help state schools where the average A-level (or equivalent) score is high but the access to the top universities is relatively low.

Five years

The "Sutton 13" research-led universities the trust cites in its reports are Cambridge, Imperial College London, Oxford, the LSE, University College London, York, Warwick, Bristol, Nottingham, St Andrews, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Durham.

For this latest study it analysed admission rates between 2002 and 2006 involving more than one million students from 3,700 UK schools and colleges.

Among the other findings:

  • 100 elite schools accounted for a third of Oxbridge admissions
  • at the 30 most successful schools, a quarter of all university entrants went to Oxbridge
  • 100 elite schools accounted for more than a sixth of admissions to the Sutton 13 universities

More than 80% of these elite schools are in the independent sector.

The trust says the findings cannot be attributed to A-level results alone:

  • the proportion of university entrants going to Oxbridge from the top performing 30 independent schools was nearly twice that of the top performing 30 grammar schools - despite very similar average A-level scores
  • at the 30 top performing comprehensives, only half the expected pupils were admitted to the Sutton 13
  • at the 30 top performing independent schools, however, a third more pupils than expected went to the Sutton 13

Sutton Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl said: "It is deeply worrying - not to mention a sad waste of talent - that the chances of reaching one of these highly selective universities are much greater for those who attend a small number of the country's elite schools, mainly fee-paying.

"Where does this leave the vast majority of the population who do not have access to these opportunities?"

Researcher Lee Elliott Major said the "killer fact" was that the top 30 independent schools had twice the numbers going to Oxbridge than the top 30 grammar schools.

Sir Peter said: "We are not saying there's any skulduggery going on."

Family aspirations were obviously a key factor.

Young people need to choose a university that meets their subject needs
Jonathan Evans, Newport

Independent schools tended to prepare their students much better to cope with admissions interviews and tests.

"There's a big problem with a lot of schools not encouraging kids to aim high enough."

And he added: "We have a class structure, that is the very simple answer.

"We actually do have a class structure and that gets in the way of trying to do something about this."

Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said: "The government is strongly committed to ensuring that every young person with the ability and potential to benefit from higher education has the opportunity to do so."

The Independent Schools Council said: "We believe the problems in widening access from the maintained sector require a solution much earlier in a child's education."

Universities UK president Rick Trainor said universities already did a great deal to widen access.

"We agree with the point that potential students should not be disadvantaged by where they happen to go to school - raising aspirations and attainment and offering appropriate guidance while at school is key to this."

The table below shows what percentage of university entrants from each school went to the "Sutton 13" top universities between 2002 and 2006. Only state schools with at least 100 entries were counted:


TYPE: SEL-Selective; COMP-Comprehensive; FE-Further Education College; SF-Sixth Form College

Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe SEL 81.9
London Oratory School COMP 62.4
Queen Elizabeth's School, Barnet SEL 61.8
Henrietta Barnett School SEL 54.7
Colchester Royal Grammar School SEL 54.5
King Edward VI Camp Hill Boys School SEL 52.5
St Olave's Grammar School SEL 52.5
Reading School SEL 52.1
Tiffin Girls School SEL 51.4
Latymer School SEL 47.9
Watford Grammar School for Boys COMP 46.3
Pate's Grammar School SEL 46.2
Chelmsford County High School SEL 46.1
Judd School, Tonbridge SEL 46
Tiffin School SEL 46
King Edward VI Grammar School, Chelmsford SEL 45.8
Kendrick School SEL 44.6
Colchester County High School For Girls SEL 44.5
Dr Challoners Grammar School, Amersham SEL 44.4
King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Girls SEL 44.1
Newstead Wood School for Girls SEL 42.1
Wolverhampton Girls' High School SEL 42
Beeslack Community High School COMP 41.3
Woodford County High School SEL 41.1
Lady Margaret School, London COMP 40.8
Queen Mary's Grammar School for Boys SEL 40.4
King Edward VI Handsworth School, Birmingham SEL 40
Watford Grammar School for Girls COMP 39.9
King Edward VI Five Ways School SEL 39.8
Dr Challoner's High School SEL 39.5
Tonbridge Grammar School SEL 39.3
Wilson's School, Surrey SEL 38.8
King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon SEL 38.8
JFS School COMP 38.1
Sutton Grammar School For Boys SEL 37.7
Queen Mary's High School for Girls SEL 37.7
Bishop Wordsworth's Grammar School SEL 37.6
Dame Alice Owen's School COMP 36.6
Hills Road Sixth Form College SF 36.2
Colyton Grammar School SEL 36.1
Aylesbury Grammar School SEL 34.9
Sir Thomas Rich's School SEL 34.8
Adams' Grammar School SEL 34.4
Ilford County High School SEL 34.4
Ermysted's Grammar School SEL 34.3
Sir William Borlase's Grammar School SEL 34.1
King Edward VI Aston SEL 33.6
Stratford Upon Avon Grammar School SEL 33.6
Skinners School SEL 33.6
Nonsuch High School for Girls SEL 33.5
Lancaster Royal Grammar School SEL 33.3
Cardinal Vaughan School COMP 32.6
Wycombe High School SEL 32.5
Sutton Coldfield Grammar School for Girls SEL 31.4
Simon Langton School For Boys, Canterbury SEL 31.4
Tunbridge Wells Girls' Grammar School SEL 31.2
St Michael's Catholic Grammar School SEL 30.9
King Edward VI College SF 30.9
Castle College FE 30.8
Ripon Grammar School SEL 30.8
Bishop Veseys Grammar School SEL 30.5
Royal High School, Edinburgh COMP 30.1
Cranbrook School SEL 29.7
King's School, Peterborough COMP 29.3
Wallington County Grammar School SEL 29.2
Skipton Girls High School SEL 28.8
Jewel & Esk Valley College FE 28.5
James Gillespie High School COMP 28.4
Beaconsfield High School SEL 28.3
Handsworth Grammar School SEL 28
West Cliff High School for Boys, West Cliff SEL 28
Altrincham Grammar School for Boys SEL 27.9
Wallington High School For Girls SEL 27.9
Torquay Boys Grammar School SEL 27.7
Camden School for Girls COMP 27.5
High School for Girls, Gloucester SEL 27.4
St Francis Xavier VI Form College SF 27.4
Cherwell School COMP 27
Durham Johnston Comprehensive School COMP 27
Altrincham Girls Grammar School SEL 27
Peebles High School COMP 26.9
Westcliff High School for Girls SEL 26.8
Aylesbury High School SEL 26.2
Craigmount High School COMP 25.9
Mill Hill County High School COMP 25.8
Banchory Academy COMP 25.7
Royal Latin School SEL 25.6
Dartford Grammar School for Boys SEL 25.6
Bourne Grammar School SEL 25.4
Boroughmuir High School, Scotland COMP 24.8
Coopers Company & Coborn School, Upminster COMP 24.7
City and Islington Sixth Form College SF 24.7
Old Swinford Hospital, Stourbridge COMP 24.7
Methodist College, Belfast SEL 24.6
Southend High School for Boys SEL 24.5
Southend High School for Girls SEL 24.3
Stroud High School SEL 24.3
Devonport High School for Girls SEL 24.2
Lancaster Girls Grammar School SEL 24.1
Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Horncastle SEL 23.9

Two prospective Oxford students compared

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