According to the Every Child a Chance Trust, children from low-income families are likely to remain at a disadvantage throughout their school life.
Jean Gross, the trust's director, said that support should extend beyond financial backing: "You have got to provide assistance earlier, give good literacy and numeracy and give help to youngsters in developing good social and communication skills."
She said that poorer children are likely to lack the soft skills enjoyed by their wealthier peers, such as being able to chat confidently in an interview.
"You have to start early to make sure they have the basic skills they need to get onto higher education and career ladders," she added.
Her comments follow news that young people are becoming increasingly reliant upon their parents for support through university.
A recent report from the Sainsbury's Finance found that 53 per cent of undergraduates receive some kind of financial assistance from their family.
Written by Tim Colman