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LESS THAN HALF OF STATE TEACHERS WOULD ADVISE THEIR MOST ABLE PUPILS TO APPLY TO OXBRIDGE

27 April 2012

LESS THAN HALF OF STATE TEACHERS WOULD ADVISE THEIR MOST ABLE PUPILS TO APPLY TO OXBRIDGE

Less than half of secondary state school teachers say they would advise their brightest pupils to apply to Oxford and Cambridge universities, a national survey of teachers commissioned by the Sutton Trust has found.

The proportion (44%) of teachers who would advise academically-gifted pupils to apply to Oxbridge has also declined since the Trust last surveyed teachers five years ago, when 50% said they would do so[1].

The latest survey also reveals that state school teachers hugely underestimate the proportion of state school students at Oxbridge. When asked what proportion of state school students were at Oxbridge 14% of teachers said they didn’t know. Of the 86% of teachers who gave an answer only 7% thought it was over 50% and almost two thirds thought it was less than 30%. The actual number admitted to Oxbridge is 57%. The survey found little difference in the beliefs of senior school leaders compared with classroom teachers.

The survey, which interviewed 730 secondary state school teachers, was carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) as a part of their Teacher Voice Omnibus.

Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “It is deeply concerning that the majority of state school teachers are not encouraging their brightest children to apply to Oxford and Cambridge. It is also worrying that almost all state school teachers - even the most senior school leaders – think that Oxbridge is dominated by public schools. Almost two thirds think that over 70% of Oxbridge students are from public schools when the reality is that they are in the minority.”

The Sutton Trust sponsors summer schools and a range of other access initiatives at Oxbridge and other leading research universities. It recently announced an expansion of its summer schools - which have been found to dramatically increase participation of non-privileged students at top universities – to more UK universities so summer schools this year are running at Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Imperial, Nottingham, St Andrew’s and UCL. Also this is the first year the Trust is offering a US summer school at Yale and it is planning more US summer schools in future years.

Sir Peter added: “The sad consequence of these findings is that Oxford and Cambridge are missing out on talented students in state schools – who are already under-represented at these institutions based on their academic achievements. We need to do much more to dispel the myths in schools about Oxbridge and other leading universities.

But also these universities need to  ensure that they are accessible to bright students, regardless of background. That means investing in proven outreach schemes, offering adequate financial support and ensuring that their admissions processes are fair and do not discourage talented state school students from applying. It is by tackling the issue from both the school and university perspectives that we can hope to change things.”

Tables and findings

Teachers were asked about the frequency with which they advise their academically gifted pupils to apply to Oxbridge. Table 1 shows the responses. Almost a fifth said they never advise their academically gifted pupils to apply to Oxbridge. Just under a half said they always or usually do (16% and 28% respectively). Senior leaders were more likely than classroom teachers to advise their pupils in this way: 26 per cent said they always do, compared with 14 per cent of classroom teachers, and 36 per cent said they usually do, compared with 26 per cent of classroom teachers.

Table 1. Which of the following best describes the frequency with which you advise the academically-gifted pupils that you teach (or have taught) to apply to Oxbridge? 

Always

16%

Usually

28%

Rarely

29%

Never

19%

Don't know

10%

Number of teachers in survey

730

Due to rounding, percentages may not sum to 100. Source: NFER Omnibus Survey February 2012.

Table 2 shows that when asked what proportion of state school students were at Oxbridge, 14% of teachers said they didn’t know. Of the 86% of teachers who gave an opinion only 7% thought it was over 50% and about two thirds thought it was less than 30%. The actual number is 57% [check]. The survey found little difference in the beliefs of senior school leaders compared with classroom teachers.


Table 2. At Oxbridge, what percentage of students from UK schools and colleges on undergraduate courses come from the state sector? 

Up to 20%

32%

21 to 30%

23%

31 to 40%

14%

41 to 50%

10%

51 to 60%

5%

61 to 70%

1%

71 to 80%

more than 81%

0%

Don’t know

14%

Number of teachers in survey

730

Due to rounding, percentages may not sum to 100. Source: NFER Omnibus Survey February 2012.

Notes for editors

The findings are based on the online Teacher Voice Omnibus survey* of 1686 practising teachers from 1269 schools in the maintained sector in England undertaken by NFER between the 17th and 29th February 2012. The survey included teachers from the full range of roles in primary and secondary schools, from headteachers to newly qualified class teachers. Fifty five per cent (921) of the respondents were teaching in primary schools and 45 per cent (765) were teaching in secondary schools. Findings from the full set of questions will be published by the Trust in due course. 

The Sutton Trust is a charity founded in 1997 by Sir Peter Lampl with the aim of providing educational opportunities for young people from non-privileged backgrounds and improving social mobility through education. The Trust and its partners have committed around £35 million to educational access projects helping tens of thousands of students. It has commissioned over 100 research studies. Last year, the Government announced it had awarded £125 million to the Trust as the lead charity with the support from Impetus, to establish the Education Endowment Foundation to boost the attainment of some of the country's most disadvantaged children.

In July 2011, the Trust published a study showing that four schools and one college sent more students to Oxbridge over three years than 2,000 schools and colleges across the UK – approximately two thirds of the total.

For more information contact Tim Devlin, press officer to Sutton Trust, on 07939 544 487


* For more information on NFER’s Teacher Voice Omnibus surveys, visit www.nfer.ac.uk/teachervoice

 


[1] In 2007 the Sutton Trust commissioned a survey by Ipsos-Mori which asked teachers the same questions.


Attached documents

  1. NFER Teachers Poll Report 2012PDF 237kb