Re­searchers point fin­ger at schools for ‘ed­u­ca­tional equal­ity cri­sis’

Bristol Post - - NEWS - Tris­tan CORK tris­tan.cork@reach­plc.com

RE­SEARCHERS have fi­nally worked out why there is such a huge dif­fer­ence in the num­bers of 18-year-olds go­ing to uni­ver­sity in dif­fer­ent parts of Bris­tol – and it’s a fun­da­men­tal is­sue with the way the city’s se­condary schools are set up.

The Uni­ver­sity of Bris­tol re­search has pointed the fin­ger firmly at a shock­ing lack of op­por­tu­nity for stu­dents to do A-lev­els in some of the city’s more de­prived ar­eas.

They have called for the es­tab­lish­ment of a new ed­u­ca­tion board to bring in all the city’s Academy schools, col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties to tackle the prob­lem, and said help­ing in­di­vid­ual stu­dents and in­di­vid­ual schools isn’t enough on its own.

A new re­port pub­lished by re­searchers from the Uni­ver­sity of Bris­tol high­lighted the huge dif­fer­ence in uni­ver­sity take-up gen­er­ally by 18-year-old stu­dents liv­ing in dif­fer­ent parts of the city.

Of all the stu­dents leav­ing school who live in Clifton, 100 per cent of them went to uni­ver­sity.

Of all the stu­dents leav­ing school who live in Hart­cliffe, only 8.6 per cent – that’s just one in 12 – went to uni­ver­sity.

The re­searchers said the dis­par­ity was noth­ing new – Bris­tol Live has re­ported that the South Bris­tol par­lia­men­tary con­stituency has reg­u­larly fea­tured as the place in Bri­tain with the low­est num­ber of peo­ple go­ing to uni­ver­sity .

But for the first time, the re­search has spot­ted some­thing that par­ents have known in­for­mally for years – all the good sixth-form places are in af­flu­ent ar­eas of the city.

And of the 11 se­condary schools that don’t of­fer a straight­for­ward path to A-lev­els and then uni­ver­sity with their own sixth-forms, ten of them are in those ‘de­prived’ ar­eas of the city where uni­ver­sity take-up gen­er­ally is the low­est.

The Uni­ver­sity of Bris­tol de­scribed the di­vide in ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties for young peo­ple in Bris­tol de­pend­ing on where they live as ‘shock­ing’, and said the school’s ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem set up an ‘ed­u­ca­tional in­equal­ity cri­sis’.

They said that while this at­tain­ment gap has ‘long been known and de­bated’, there has been a ten­dency to talk about in­di­vid­ual schools – not the struc­ture of the school sys­tem in the city.

They found uni­ver­sity take up is dis­pro­por­tion­ately low in many parts of the city – es­pe­cially across south Bris­tol, and in north west Bris­tol, around Avon­mouth and Lawrence We­ston.

But it wasn’t just that the pupils get lower GCSE re­sults than in af­flu­ent ar­eas. Even then, the ones who get good enough grades at 16 don’t go on to uni.

For ex­am­ple, the GCSE re­sults for young peo­ple in Hen­grove sug-

❝ Our re­search has clearly shown that a com­bi­na­tion of struc­tural fac­tors are work­ing against the most dis­ad­van­taged stu­dents.

Pro­fes­sor Rosamund Suther­land

gest that 22.2 per cent could con­tinue into higher ed­u­ca­tion and yet only 14.2 per cent of pupils do so. Such ar­eas are known as ‘gap wards’ – a term which de­scribes over half of Bris­tol’s 35 wards.

The ‘no-uni cy­cle’

» Post-16 cen­tres and col­leges are con­cen­trated in limited ge­ographi- cal ar­eas, re­sult­ing in a lack of choice for young peo­ple.

» Lack of ef­fec­tive pub­lic trans­port to en­able stu­dents to travel to these Post-16 cen­tres and col­leges also ex­ac­er­bates the sit­u­a­tion.

» His­toric and class-based fac­tors fur­ther com­pound the sit­u­a­tion, with young peo­ple from the more dis­ad­van­taged ar­eas be­ing less

likely to re­ceive good ad­vice about ac­cess to higher ed­u­ca­tion and re­lated ca­reers.

» Fur­ther­more, the ma­jor­ity of young peo­ple from the more dis­ad­van­taged ar­eas of the city are likely to be the first in fam­ily to progress to higher ed­u­ca­tion and even the first in their fam­ily to progress to post-16 ed­u­ca­tion.

» Their fam­i­lies do not have the knowl­edge or con­tacts to help them nav­i­gate the sys­tem.

What the re­searchers said

Pro­fes­sor Rosamund Suther­land, who led the re­search in the School of Ed­u­ca­tion at the Uni­ver­sity of Bris­tol, said: “Bris­tol is con- sidered to be a pros­per­ous city with an ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem that on aver­age per­forms well.

“In re­al­ity, Bris­tol has more ar­eas cat­e­gorised as be­ing in the most de­prived 10 per cent in Eng­land than other cities in the coun­try, with stark dif­fer­ences in ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties for young peo­ple de­pend­ing on where they live.

“Ad­dress­ing these in­equal­i­ties is a col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity; ev­ery­one has a role to play, from the lo­cal author­ity to schools, FE col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties.

“Our re­search has clearly shown that a com­bi­na­tion of struc­tural fac­tors are work­ing against the most dis­ad­van­taged stu­dents in Bris­tol.

“Now these bar­ri­ers have been iden­ti­fied, we need to ur­gently start ad­dress­ing them,” she added.

The so­lu­tions

To bridge these gaps and en­sure Bris­tol ful­fils its aim of be­com­ing a Learn­ing City with equal ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties for all, re­searchers rec­om­mend:

» The es­tab­lish­ment of an ed­u­ca­tional part­ner­ship board with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from schools, academy trusts, post-16 col­leges, FE col­leges, uni­ver­si­ties and the lo­cal author­ity.

» All schools and Fur­ther Ed­u­ca­tion Col­leges in Bris­tol take re­spon­si­bil­ity for in­creas­ing the pro­por­tion of their stu­dents from ‘gap wards’ who progress to higher ed­u­ca­tion.

» Bris­tol City Coun­cil to es­ti­mate the year-on-year ad­di­tional num­ber of Post-16 places for A-level and BTEC qual­i­fi­ca­tions that are needed in Bris­tol if the pro­gres­sion rate to higher ed­u­ca­tion is to reach the na­tional aver­age across all ar­eas of Bris­tol.

» Lo­cal trans­port sys­tems need to al­low stu­dents from all ar­eas of the city to eas­ily ac­cess ap­pro­pri­ate A-level and BTEC pro­vi­sion, to en­able them to have choice when pro­gress­ing to higher ed­u­ca­tion.

» The es­tab­lish­ment of a young peo­ple’s board to en­sure young peo­ple are aware and can help ad­dress the ed­u­ca­tional in­equal­i­ties that ex­ist.

» Busi­nesses in the city should con­tinue to work in part­ner­ship with ed­u­ca­tion providers to en­sure a joined-up ap­proach to ed­u­ca­tion and em­ploy­ment.

Re­searchers from Bris­tol Uni­ver­sity have found out why chil­dren from more de­prived ar­eas of the city are not reach­ing uni­ver­sity

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