State pupils do better at university

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State school pupils do better at university than independent school candidates who have achieved the same A-level grades, according to a study by the Higher Education Funding Council (Hefce).

The study tracked 130,000 students beginning degrees in 2007, looking at schooling, background and ethnicity. It found on some measures state pupils were significantly more likely to get a 2:1 than their private school peers. Private schools said a bigger share of its pupils overall got a 2:1 or above.

The Independent Schools Council highlighted figures in the report showing that 67% of independent school pupils achieved a 2:1 or above, compared with 62.3% of state school and college pupils.

But when students with the same A-level grades were compared, the results were different. Of those students who achieved ABB at A-level, some 69% of students from independent schools went on to gain 2:1 or a above compared with about 77% of students educated at state schools. And at three Bs, 61% of independent students pupils got a 2:1 or above compared with 70% of state school students.

Professor Madeleine Atkins, HEFCE Chief Executive, said: "This HEFCE study makes an important contribution to the growing evidence base on achievement in higher education. We are in a unique position at HEFCE to be able to link school data and higher education data together in this way to give a comprehensive, sector-wide picture.

"The study presents a robust and independent set of findings to inform discussion and debate, and to stimulate action. Further work – by HEFCE, by the sector and by Government – will be needed to understand why these effects are happening, and what sorts of interventions will be most effective in bringing about positive change."

The report examines in detail all 18 and 19 year-old entrants domiciled in England holding three or more A-levels who entered a full-time first degree in 2007-08, and their higher education achievements up to August 2011.

The findings include:
 

  • State school students tend to do better in their degree studies than students with the same prior educational attainment from independent schools.
  • Students who have remained in the state school sector for the whole of their secondary education tend to do better in their degree studies than those with the same prior educational attainment who attended an independent school for all or part of their secondary education.
  • Degree outcomes are not affected by the average performance of the school that a student attended
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