Poorest youngsters ‘struggle to reach university’

14 Aug 17

Young people who live the country’s poorest postcode areas have only a 20% chance of entering university, education charity Teach First has found.

Those from the wealthiest postcodes would by contrast have a 50% chance of accessing higher education.

In a report, Teach First – which works to combat educational inequality – warned that unless the government acted young people from disadvantaged backgrounds would continue to struggle to reach their full potential.

As an example, it noted that in parts of Derbyshire only 5% of young people progress from school to university, while in Buckinghamshire more than 80% do so. 

The report, Beyond Access: Getting to University and Succeeding There, said that in 2015-16 universities and colleges spent £725.2m on access help for more disadvantaged students, but said this should be better targeted on ‘hard to reach’ communities.  

Teach First carried out research for the report with polling company ComRes among more than 2,000 people aged 18-25.

Among disadvantaged young people who did not go to university, 37% they felt they missed out on career opportunities, 27% on social opportunities and 17% on both.

The charity urged the government to forgive a proportion of student loans for teachers who commit to working in areas of greatest educational need.  

It called for a Widening Participation Outcomes Fund, created by either new funding or top slicing university access agreement funding, to target specific geographic areas.

Students from disadvantaged areas also had a higher drop-out rate from universities than their peers, at 8.8% against 5%.

Universities had committed £134.7m to retention work, but Teach First said this had little impact and admitted “there is little evidence to suggest which methods are the most successful in retaining disadvantaged students”. 

Professor Les Ebdon, director of fair access to higher education, said: “Teach First is quite right to highlight how important it is for disadvantaged young people to achieve their full potential at school.

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