The Guardian is reporting that headteachers have suggested David Cameron was wrong to blame top universities for a lack of diversity as the problem partly lies with state schools being unable to prepare their students for Oxbridge.
…John Weeks, headmaster of the London Academy of Excellence (LAE) in Stratford, east London, said the criticism of Oxford and Cambridge was unfair as they had done “huge amounts in terms of outreach” for students from diverse and deprived backgrounds.
He said the problem was simply that there were not enough applications to top universities from pupils from deprived and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, and that post-16 provision in some areas was not strong enough.
As university vice chancellors attended a hastily convened meeting at No 10 on Monday to discuss the prime minister’s concerns about diversity, headteachers highlighted the disadvantage faced by state schools with little or no history of sending students to Oxbridge.
Last month, eight LAE students, who have all grown up in the deprived borough of Newham, were offered places to study at Oxbridge, leading to the selective sixth form free school being known as the Eton of the East End.
While delighted with their success, Weeks readily acknowledged that much of it was due to the college’s partnerships with leading public schools including Eton and Brighton college who helped set up the academy three years ago.
“Where we’ve been very lucky is we’ve been able to tap into the experience of our independent school partners who have hundreds of years of experience of getting their children into Oxford and Cambridge…”
Is this the root of the issue: it’s not that more state school students aren’t plenty good enough for Oxbridge, or that Oxbridge is discriminating against them, but that their schools just don’t know how to help them apply and present themselves in the right way?
If so, where is the opportunity for sorting this out? Who needs to do what?
Please let us know what you think in the comments or via Twitter…
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