‘Don’t diss private schools over Oxbridge entries’

TES is reporting that all schools – regardless of sector – should ask if they are doing enough to get pupils into Oxbridge, argues this head.

Independent schools will spend time and resources on the university application process, but surely it is the responsibility of all schools to prepare pupils for entry to their chosen university, including encouraging our brightest to aspire to the best universities in the country?

It was reported last week that successful Oxbridge applications from just eight “top independent schools” were greater than three-quarters of all maintained schools in the UK.

University of Oxford recognises that it could do more to attract applications from the maintained sector – a move which has been widely welcomed. However, a fact frequently overlooked in the rush to “diss” private education is that many hundreds of children from limited or average financial backgrounds attend independent schools having gained bursaries and/or scholarships.

Across the UK, annual fee assistance amounts to over £378 million, representing 40,402 pupils, or 7.6 per cent of all independently educated pupils.

Having a larger percentage of independent school pupils gaining places on Oxbridge courses may provide an opportunity to have a bash at the sector, but it should also pose the question of why Oxford and Cambridge are not broader in their intake. The industry needs to look in on itself and work to encourage more maintained schools to attempt the seemingly unassailable mountain that is the Oxbridge application process.

If UK plc wishes to continue to be seen as a globally leading educational brand, we need to provide the very material with which it can work – and it takes a lot of layers to produce a top-quality fabric.

Read more: ‘Don’t diss private schools over Oxbridge entries’

Please tell us thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Emma

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Categories: Free Schools, Higher Education, Private Schools and University.


  1. Anonymous

    This ignores the fact that many students from state Schools meet the qualification thresholds for Oxbridge entrance but don’t get offers. People get A* A* A, go on to get firsts from other high quality research Universities but fail to get identified as having this potential by the Oxbridge admissions process.

  2. Anonymous

    Essentially this is arguing that state schools should be doing the same as independent schools with vastly less resources while also dealing with lots of other issues that independent don’t need to deal with or have at a much lower level (issues around deprivation for example).

    Also, I don’t know explicitly what Oxford/Cambridge’s mission/purpose is but surely there must be something in there around providing excellent education for all – so there should be a much higher threshold/responsibility on them to do this (same argument can be made of state school grammar schools – is it OK for them to “just” provide an excellent education for those who end up there or have they got a wider responsibility to make sure they are going beyond who is actually attending their responsibility).

  3. Anonymous

    My son’s school was never Ofsted good in the 7 years he attended. It is regarded as the poor school in the area and most children from middle class families tend to attend other schools. However, there was a small cohort of children who were very able at maths in the sixth form. Two applied to Oxford to do maths one, the son of a GP was accepted and offered a place which he took and the other went for interview but did not get offered a place. Both boys got 4 A stars at A level in maths, further maths, physics and chemistry. Could that boy have done more? Maybe a bit of interview coaching? But should suitability be based on an interview? No other universities (except Cambridge) have that interview stage.

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