Pupils from elite schools secure one in ten Oxford places (The Telegraph 10.28.10)
– One in ten new Oxford University undergraduates came from just a handful of the country’s most elite private schools last year.
Westminster School alone secured almost two per cent of all undergraduate places at the university, with 47 former pupils beginning their studies last October.
St Paul’s School in London sent 40 leavers to Oxford last year, while students from Eton College – whose alumni include David Cameron and Princes William and Harry – took up 37 places at the university.
A group of 11 independent schools, which charge parents up to ￡29,000 a year, accounted for 278 of the 3,034 undergraduate places at Oxford last year, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.In exchange for their fees pupils at many of the schools are given mock interviews and can consult staff dedicated to the Oxbridge admissions process. The results, obtained by The Oxford Studentnewspaper, show that Oxford still takes almost a tenth of its students from an exclusive pool of schools, despite spending almost ￡9 million on initiatives to broaden access over the last three years.
In contrast, many of the best-performing state schools struggle to secure places for their brightest pupils despite securing some of the country’s most impressive exam results.Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School, which consistently ranks highly in national league tables, typically sends only five students to Oxford out of a year group of 140. Beverley Johnstone, an English teacher at the school, said: “State school students are massively disadvantaged, not because teachers in the private sector are any better but because they have such smaller class sizes.”We often have more than 20 students in an A-level class ? we just can’t devote the same amount of time to our students.”Last week Oxford came under fire from Trevor Philips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, after it disclosed that it had admitted only one black Caribbean student in last year’s intake.Some 53 per cent of Oxford places awarded last year went to students from state schools, but applicants were much more likely to be successful if they applied from a private school.While independent school pupils made up only 39 per cent of applicants in 2009, they comprised 46 per cent of acceptances.Simon Wood, an Oxford student who helps run the ‘Target Schools’ access initiative, said: “These are disturbing statistics that show that in reality only 80 per cent of spaces are open to applicants from anywhere, state or private, other than the elite public schools.“Clearly some of this is down to natural ability and encouragement from an early age, but the fact that the level of public school admissions is so high gives the lie to the notion that ability alone will get you into Oxford.”An Oxford University spokeswoman said: “There are a whole range of factors stretching back to birth and beyond that affect someone’s ability and potential at age 17 or 18 when they are applying to Oxford.”Oxford cannot compensate for a lifetime of inequality but it is doing its best to ensure all those with the potential to succeed apply, regardless of background.”
Number of pupils admitted to Oxford in 2009
Westminster School – 47
St Paul’s School – 40
Eton College – 37
St Paul’s Girls’ School – 35
Wycombe Abbey School – 23
Cheltenham Ladies’ College – 19
North London Collegiate School – 19
Harrow School – 19
Royal Grammar School, Guildford -17
Magdalen College School – 12
City of London School for Girls – 10