Educational initiatives which are well targeted – particularly at key junctures in young people’s educational careers – produce benefits worth an average £15 for every £1 spent, according to a new report based on an analysis by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a global management consulting firm.

BCG used a corporate portfolio analysis to compare nine Sutton Trust programmes with three comparator programmes. The analysis was undertaken by BCG for the 10th anniversary of the Sutton Trust, which provides educational opportunities for non-privileged young people and aims to improve social mobility in the UK.

The returns were measured in terms of the present value financial benefit to the individuals who take part. The analysis did not include the wider benefits to society – for example, in terms of better health, well-being and community participation – which result from these initiatives and which are significant.

Taking the Sutton Trust Cambridge summer school as an example, the cost of providing the week long school to 144 students is £72,000. BCG calculated that the summer school increases the percentage of participants applying to top universities by 24 percentage points, and of those applying who take up places by 35 percentage points. More of the participants will therefore gain a degree from a top university, which in the case of Cambridge is worth a premium of £79,000 over a degree from a university outside a small group of elite institutions. The study finds that the value generated by the initiative is therefore £975,000 – a return of 14 to 1 on the investment made.

The report concludes: “Investment works best when it is targeted at key milestones in a child’s life: pre-school before starting primary education; transition from primary to secondary school; moving from school to college or higher education. Educational investment is better deployed when it is focussed on targeted individuals, such as those at highest risk of falling behind in primary school or bright pupils who may not fulfil their potential.”

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