From The Times, 21 Oct.
When education specialists, not a politician with a fixed agenda, talk ......
A transformation of secondary school teaching in the north of England is needed to reduce the widening north-south divide among Oxbridge students, leading education officials have said.
Schemes to attract the best and brightest teachers and head teachers to the north should emulate the success story in London schools, the children’s commissioner for England told The Times. Anne Longfield called for the change after figures were released showing that half the offers from Cambridge and Oxford went to applicants from London and the southeast.
Statistics for applicants between 2010 and 2015 show that the west London borough of Richmond sent eight times as many students to Oxford (333) as Salford, Middlesbrough, Stoke, Hartlepool and Blackpool combined.
Ms Longfield, who lives in Leeds and has a son, said that many bright pupils were being failed by secondary school teaching in the north. Research by the children’s commissioner found that a young person leaving school or college in London was 57 per cent more likely to go to a top university than a school leaver in the north. However, at primary school, children in the north have been shown to do as well as in the south. Ms Longfield said: “There has been a huge economic boost in the southeast and that comes at the same time as schools in the past five years have improved beyond recognition. This means kids growing up in the south are in a very different environment. The speed London turned around its schools leads me to believe that it is perfectly possible in all areas.”
Nationally about 31 per cent of people are in the top two social income groups, which include doctors, lawyers and senior managers. However, the data reveals children from these background had their share of Oxbridge offers increase from 79 per cent to 81 per cent between 2010 and 2015. This was despite both universities spending £5m each a year on efforts to cast the net wider for students, according to official figures. David Lammy MP, who obtained the Oxbridge application data, said: “We have gone backwards on social class, we have made no progress at all on the north-south divide and we have made very little progress on race.” The data also shows that only one in four Cambridge colleges made offers to black British students in every year between 2010 and 2015. And each year over that period, a quarter of colleges failed to make any offers at all to black British applicants. During this period, an average of 378 black students per year got AAA grades or better at A-levels.
Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, said that without the outreach work Oxford and Cambridge do in disadvantaged areas the picture would be even worse. He told The Times that there was “not a critical mass of great teachers” in the north and students’ talents were “not being as well cultivated away from the southeast”.
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