Sutton Trust report

20 September 2007

Commenting on today's report by The Sutton Trust, Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said:

"The Russell Group welcomes The Sutton Trust report and in particular the announcement of a minimum £10m in funding over the next five years to help address the serious issues it raises. Russell Group universities are working extensively with schools, charities, businesses and government alike to remedy the problem of the under-representation of students from low income backgrounds in our universities. These activities range from summer schools to out of school support, to sponsorship of City Academies. Russell Group universities recognise that they have a part to play in tackling the root cause of the problem by improving attainment, raising aspirations, and encouraging applications.

"Admissions practices within the Russell Group universities have long set out to identify potential in candidates over and above A-level results. Oxford, for example, has recently introduced a new admissions form offering schools the opportunity to provide detailed and reliable information about a candidate's educational environment. The Russell Group welcomes the research being conducted on SATs by The Sutton Trust. We are exploring a number of other aptitude tests. However, we must be satisfied that such tests really do measure potential accurately, fairly and independently of what is already measured by A-levels."

Professor Malcolm Grant, chair of the Russell Group, added:

"We share the report's identification of the "extreme disparities in the academic performance of schools in the UK.

"However, we are disappointed that the report fails fully to consider a number of other subtler but crucial factors which impact admissions disparities. For example, the fact that independent pupils are far more likely to take STEM subjects and classical and modern languages - key entry routes to Russell Group universities and the significant variation within the top A-grade bracket of A-level scores."

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