The latest research form the Sutton Trust
shows that those pupils entitled to free school meals (FSM) perform badly on educational criteria, particularly when compared to their public school counterparts. Headlines from papers like the Daily Mail
and the Daily Telegraph
are gleefully telling us that "private pupils are 55 times more likely to go to Oxbridge".
I don't think too many people will be surprised to know that there is a correlation between pupils from financially poor backgrounds where the householder is on welfare benefits like Jobseekers Allowance/Income Support/Incapacity Benefit etc don't usually make it to an elite university. Often there are many other factors which contribute to their educational outcomes. The fact that schemes like AimHigher are being withdrawn from schools means that the proportion of FSM pupils gaining access to university education isn't likely to increase in the immediate future.
But what struck me most when reading the research wasn't the FSM statistics but that in 2005 on which the data was based, 29% of privately educated pupils don't reach the standard 5 GCSE passes including English and Maths. I really do find that incredible! So parents were forking out around £10,000 a year (sometimes more) and in only just over 70% of cases was the pupil achieving the GCSE benchmark. It just shows that private education isn't necessarily the magic bullet.
This means that I can see my youngest non academic (though beautiful) daughter who passed only 5 GCSEs including English and Maths at her local comp in 2003 and went on to college to do a GNVQ Beauty Studies course in a different light knowing that she would be placed in the top 71% of private school pupils in educational attainment.
To me the research shouldn't be telling us about the lack of achievement by FSM pupils but about the relative failure of the 29% of pupils attending private schools.