Education news

Major changes' needed to improve social mobility in education

Young people from low-income backgrounds feel less likely to attend university than wealthier peers. Picture by David Cheskin/PA Wire

Young people from low-income backgrounds feel they are considerably less likely to attend university compared with their wealthier peers, a survey has found.

A ComRes poll, commissioned by education charity Teach First, found almost half (47 per cent) of students from wealthier backgrounds said they always knew they would consider university compared with about a quarter (28 per cent) of those from low-income backgrounds.

Wealthier students also started planning their applications earlier, with 23 per cent starting during their GCSEs, and were more likely to have taken part in non-academic extracurricular activities to support their applications.

Among the 1,000 surveyed, 30 per cent said they found applying to university difficult, while 40 per cent reported receiving little support from their school in planning their application.

It comes amid suggestions Theresa May is considering a raft of changes to the education system, including the reintroduction of grammar schools, in an effort to increase social mobility.

Ndidi Okezie, Teach First executive director, said: "While the government has laudable aims, progress in getting more pupils from low income backgrounds to university will continue to stall unless there are major changes to our approach. Changes that include the creation of a more aligned strategy that connects each stage of a young person's education journey.

"Despite instances of progress, on the whole, pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds still face three major hurdles to reach higher education: they continue to lag behind their wealthier peers in attainment, they lack awareness of the opportunities presented by university and, as our findings today show, they too often fail to receive quality assistance that can turn aspiration into reality.

"We must tackle these issues in a coordinated way if we are to ensure fair access to university."

Mary Curnock Cook, UCAS chief executive, said: "This Teach First research echoes UCAS findings about stirring the ambitions of young people from an earlier age. Students who have a more personal stake in doing well at GCSE will achieve higher grades and keep all their options open for progression thereafter."

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