Ellie Fry mentions Sutton Trust research in a comment piece for the Guardian.
The education secretary’s announcement on Monday that the Conservative government wants to offer less “economically valuable” university subjects at cheaper prices will serve only to further entrench elitism in education. As a working-class student who has battled the stigma against BTECs, I know hierarchical attitudes to qualifications exist in our schools, a condescension that is rooted in class discrimination. If this outlook were to be introduced to university as well, disadvantaged students would continue to suffer throughout their education.
Despite the threat of debt and the abolition of maintenance grants, students from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely than ever to apply for higher education. But the gap between them and their more advantaged peers remains high, especially at institutions that don’t accept nontraditional qualifications.
Without the varied education pathways offered to me at school, I wouldn’t have been able to go to university. Students at less prestigious schools in poorer areas usually have fewer subject options, and are more likely to be offered BTECs. So a bias against those qualifications is a bias against the working class. An unconventional educational pathway has led me to the same career prospects as my grammar school-educated peers.
Recent research from the Sutton Trust found that high-achieving disadvantaged students are more likely to have their grades under-predicted during A-levels than their wealthier counterparts. But varied course types can be a chance to succeed nonetheless: I used them to my advantage.