More needs to be done to ensure the most able state school pupils realise their potential, according to the Sutton Trust.
The charity stated that research has shown the early promise shown by many youngsters can be lost as they progress through education, particularly between the ages of 11 and 16.
It is calling for the introduction of a national support programme for the most able state school pupils, citing a survey that revealed over 80 per cent of parents and teachers believe it is important that schools provide extra programmes for their most able students.
The Sutton Trust has launched a scheme giving 400 highly able youngsters from non-selective state schools the opportunity to take part in two and three-year programmes at four leading universities.
Students from low and middle incomes from schools in challenging circumstances are to be chosen to participate in regular academic seminars, skills sessions and visits run by the universities of Cambridge, Warwick, Nottingham and University College London.
Each university involved in the initiative will select pupils in Years 7, 8 and 9 who are in the top ten per cent of the ability range from target schools.
Government funding for 'gifted and talented' programmes was discontinued in 2011, and data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has shown the UK fares poorly in international comparisons of the highly able.
According to polling conducted by YouGov, however, 80 per cent of parents of five to 18-year-olds think schools should provide specific programmes that give extra support for the most able students.
In addition, 90 per cent of teachers questioned by the National Foundation for Educational Research in a poll for the Sutton Trust gave their backing to such initiatives.
Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: "If we want more students from low and middle income homes to be in the running for university places when they are 18, we need to support them much earlier on, so that they continue to do well at school, have high aspirations for their futures, and make the right educational choices."
Posted by Charlotte Michaels