Researchers point finger at schools for ‘educational equality crisis’
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.
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