Page last updated at 01:40 GMT, Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Gifted poor pupils 'need advice'

Secondary schools should arrange visits to universities, says report

A lack of effective careers advice is pushing gifted poorer students into wasting their chances of going to university, research suggests.

A report from the Sutton Trust education charity says that improving advice will be key to getting more disadvantaged pupils into university.

It quotes research that found that only half of youngsters received adequate advice on their options after school.

Too many pupils ended up in a "cul de sac of opportunity", said the report.

In particular, it warns that those most likely to miss out on fulfilling their potential are high-ability children from poorer backgrounds, where there is no family advice available about higher education.

The Sutton Trust is calling for every secondary school to have a designated teacher who will be responsible for giving advice about university.

'Ill-informed choices'

It also wants schools to have a duty to give pupils information about university, such as organising visits and giving advice to parents.

Universities should also be targeting their outreach projects at younger age groups, says the report.

"The absence of high-quality advice and support has a particularly negative effect on young people from non-privileged backgrounds, who do not have access to networks of graduates and professionals to make up for deficiencies in the system," says James Turner, the Sutton Trust's director of policy.

"The fear is that too many are making ill-informed choices early on which effectively put them out of the running for certain university choices and careers later in life," he said.

The report highlights previous research which has found weaknesses in the provision of the advice given to teenagers.

This found that students did not feel they received enough information about how going to university and choosing a course could affect their future employment.

The report from the Sutton Trust into improving the participation of disadvantaged youngsters in higher education is to be submitted to the National Council for Educational Excellence.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "Government is committed to ensuring every young person reaches their full potential. By empowering young people with the knowledge and skills they need to make positive choices about their lives, we can achieve this."

National Union of Students president Wes Streeting says the union "has long called for better guidance about higher education for state school pupils".

Shadow university secretary David Willetts said: "We need much better advice on higher education, more information for young people choosing A-levels and a careers adviser in every school. That is why our proposed independent all-age careers service is so important.

“The government must provide earlier, more sustained and more integrated support if they are to stop letting our young people down."

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