Poorer white pupils underperform in later academic choices – study

Dec 6, 2016 by

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Children on free school meals less likely to go to top universities than better-off peers with similar GCSEs, says mobility watchdog

Students from white British backgrounds are often holding themselves back by making poor educational choices, with many shutting themselves out of better careers as a result, according to a study for the government’s social mobility watchdog.

Researchers found that as much as half of the gap in admissions to highly selective Russell Group universities between children on free school meals (FSM) and their better-off peers could be a result of factors beyond academic ability.

The analysis published by the Social Mobility Commission, headed by former Labour minister Alan Milburn, found that pupils with the same GCSE grades differed markedly in their later progress, with white British students from deprived backgrounds in particular choosing weaker academic subjects and institutions, and less likely to attend higher education than their better-off peers.

Milburn, who chairs the commission, said: “When low income youngsters from the same area with the same school results are progressing less than their better-off classmates, that is not about lack of ability. It is about lack of opportunity. The progression gap has many causes but it suggests something is going badly wrong in our education system.”

The lack of proper careers advice and the complexity of post-16 education and training made it hard for those from lower income groups to “translate their attainment at school into qualifications that are well rewarded”, Milburn said.

The researchers from the Education Datalab unit, which carried out the analysis, said pupils on free school meals “have marked differences in the post-16 choices they make that cannot be explained by inequalities in institutional availability”, compared with those in the same neighbourhoods with similar GCSE performance from wealthier households.

Source: Poorer white pupils underperform in later academic choices – study | Education | The Guardian

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