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By Jonathan Tomlin
Almost six in ten state school teachers do not push their brightest pupils to apply to Oxford or Cambridge, a recent report has revealed.
The latest study by the Sutton Trust, a charity promoting social mobility, suggests that opposition among teachers to the universities is increasing.
The research found that only 44 percent of teachers would “advise academically-gifted pupils to apply to Oxbridge”. When the charity carried out similar research five years ago, the figure was roughly half.
A spokesperson for the University of Oxford said: “The findings are frustrating, not only because state students are in the majority at Oxford (58 percent), but because of all the outreach work we do in state schools, running over 1500 events a year and spending millions on activities.
“Sadly, just one bad headline can unravel that work in an instant, so we certainly don’t blame the teachers: media coverage of Oxford tends to be somewhat weighted towards the negative and stereotyped.
“These findings make us more determined than ever to continue our work with teachers. Misperceptions are a hurdle we must overcome.”
The research also suggested that teachers vastly underestimate the proportion of state school pupils at Oxford.
Only one in fourteen believed that the majority of students at Oxbridge were state-educated. Almost two thirds of teachers thought the proportion was under 30 percent, even tough the actual figure is almost double that.
The Sutton Trust surveyed 730 secondary state school teachers as part of the study.
Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “It is deeply concerning that the majority of state school teachers are not encouraging their brightest children to apply to Oxford and Cambridge.
“It is also worrying that almost all state school teachers – even the most senior school leaders – think that Oxbridge is dominated by public schools.”
He added: “The sad consequence of these findings is that Oxford and Cambridge are missing out on talented students in state schools – who are already under-represented at these institutions based on their academic achievements.
“We need to do much more to dispel the myths in schools about Oxbridge and other leading universities.
Several students have said that they often encounter misconceptions about Oxford.
Emily Romain, a third year Classicist at LMH, and head of the student ambassadors at the college, said the University should engage more with teachers: “Working with teachers from state schools, I often find teachers are misinformed about Oxbridge and assume that students from their school are not the sort of people Oxbridge is looking for.
“However, this statistic is truly shocking and shows the depth of lack of communication between Oxbridge and many state schools.
“Teachers need to be encouraging their brightest students to apply to Oxbridge no matter what school they are from and we need to make sure that teachers are properly equipped to do so.”
She added: “The University does already work with teachers. I myself have participated in a conference at LMH to inform teachers about admissions and interviews, however there are still many teachers we don’t reach.
Lampl commented: “[T]hese universities need to ensure that they are accessible to bright students, regardless of background. That means investing in proven outreach schemes, offering adequate financial support and ensuring that their admissions processes are fair and do not discourage talented state school students from applying.
“It is by tackling the issue from both the school and university perspectives that we can hope to change things.”