A new study released today (June 30th) finds that talented pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely than their better-off peers to attend elite universities.
The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission has published research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies which shows nearly 2,200 fewer disadvantaged children are attending top universities than would be the case if they had the same opportunities as better-off pupils with the same attainment levels at age 11.
Poor children are less likely to be high achievers than their wealthier counterparts at any stage of the education system, leading chair of the commission Alan Milburn to declare that Britain "is wasting talent on an industrial scale".
As the period between 11 and 16 is the point at which the divergence in performance becomes entrenched, the commission recommends that policy interventions are focused on secondary school education.
While just nine per cent of pupils from the most deprived families reach level three in reading and maths at age seven, 27 per cent of the least deprived children achieve the same level.
At age 11, only seven per cent of pupils who claim free school meals throughout secondary school reach level five in English and maths, compared to 19 per cent of those who do not.
According to the research, much of the progress shown by the brightest students from disadvantaged backgrounds can be lost as they progress through secondary school. By age 16, poorer pupils who were high achievers at age 11 are typically outperformed by those from better-off backgrounds who were average achievers.
In addition, those from disadvantaged backgrounds who achieved level five in both English and maths at age 11 are far less likely than their better-off peers to attend an elite university. Just 800 of the almost 8,000 who achieved these results made it to top universities - 2,160 less than would be expected if they followed the same course as those from wealthier backgrounds.
Mr Milburn said: "It is vital that secondary schools focus harder on helping disadvantaged children convert high results at age 11 to excellent GCSE and A-level results in academic subjects and that all high-attainers are given appropriate advice, access to opportunities and support to progress to elite universities."
Posted by Tim Colman