Friday, 3 December 2010

How state pupils raise their game in elite universities

The most important piece of educational research this month, which is from the Sutton Trust, raises many important questions. The Trust, in a study originally meant to show the benefits of adopting a US-style SAT for entrance, has instead shown pretty conclusively that all other things being equal, a comprehensive school student will outperform a grammar or independent school undergraduate at an elite university. In other words, when universities award a place to a bright state pupil with just 3Bs when the same place would require AAB from an independent or grammar student, they are not 'dumbing down' but exercising both common sense and social inclusion. This is hugely important for several reasons.

First, it suggests that it can be reasonable to differentiate between the experiences of different students, where there is clearly a similar degree of aptitude. Second, it argues for the development of programmes that link academic achievement to elite university places in some schools and academies. There are still many state-educated AAA students who don't apply for or get Russell Group places. And third, we should hear no more nonsense about dumbing down from the Mail or Telegraph, when universities do make such allowances. Instead, these august organs might start to ask why independent school pupils underperform at university. Meanwhile, those who are paying the fees at independent schools might wish to drill down into the data to find which of the schools are really providing lasting benefits for their children.

1 comment:

Richard Moorhead said...

V important report, especially for my discipline (Law) where the elite law schools typically take AAA students. At the risk of looking like a spammer, I've read the report and provided a summary here from my own perspective: