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How Far Backwards Are Oxford and Cambridge Bending For State 6th Formers Where You Are?

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SeekEveryEveryKnownHidingPlace Fri 19-Jan-18 13:29:46

The last time Oxford and Cambridge were in the news for their largely white and privately educated student body, I remember a lot of talk about how they 'bend over backwards' to widen participation.

So I am surprised that the session where I live (how to apply, what it's like, secrets of successful interviews etc) delivered by an Admissions Tutor from Oxford is happening at the most expensive and exclusive private school in the city. Other sixth formers can go, and our school has let anyone interested know about it, but something about this doesn't scream 'WP' to me.

I know there's an argument that this school probably has the Oxford contact, it works fine this way, if everyone can go then what's the problem... there are three private sixth forms, one state college and four state 11-18 schools here: it had to be somewhere.

But the message this gives out is - private schools are where you go, to go to Oxford and Cambridge, and Oxford and Cambridge are where you go from private schools. The link gets made. The very vast majority of state sixth formers here will never have been through the doors at this private school before: for some of them, it might actually be quite intimidating. The whole thing just suggests an inextricable link between private education and these universities.

So I wondered whether this is the norm, or just us? Anyone?

CountessOfStrathearn Fri 19-Jan-18 13:34:23

They will come to speak to any school that asks them to, and they will be in touch with lots of schools offering to come. They can't force themselves on a school though so it is at least good that a session is being more widely offered than only to the people in that private school.

ReinettePompadour Fri 19-Jan-18 13:37:50

They came to DDs high school for the last 3 years and ran the workshops for potential students. No student has managed to gain a place yet though.

Its a state school with a good Ofsted rating. High pupil premium and mediocre gcse and A Level results.

SeekEveryEveryKnownHidingPlace Fri 19-Jan-18 13:41:02

Yes, it's definitely good that everyone can go. I suppose I just think it's an unfortunate unintended consequence that this forges the connection between private schools/Oxbridge. Maybe it's where I am that's at fault then.

CountessOfStrathearn Fri 19-Jan-18 13:45:38

Yes, perhaps. Get in touch with your DC's school and ask them to invite an Oxbridge person. They'll be almost especially keen if it is a school with no/very little application/admission rate!

SeekEveryEveryKnownHidingPlace Fri 19-Jan-18 13:48:38

Good idea, I'll update on how that goes!

cuttingcarbonemissions Fri 19-Jan-18 13:53:32

Presumably the private school has taken the initiative and set this up? I think you would find that out reach at Oxford would be delighted ifyou did something similar. Have you approached them and been refused? Or have you been pipped at the post? Perhaps you could get your school to host this next year?

I atually feel that the state v private Oxbridge debate missrepresents the problem. The thing that unites most successful Oxbridge applicants is that they come from hugely supportive - not necessarily hugely wealthy- homes. Some of them will come from private schools, a similar number from state grammar schools and the vast majority of the remainder from state schools which select on the basis of house price, religion, or aptitude at 11. Supportive parents will move heaven and earth to get their offspring into these establishments at 11.

Oxbridge has a very diverse student body. The idea that this is a bastion of white privilege is wrong. Black British students and White working class British students are under represented - as they are at all UK universities - but this is because so few of them achieve the three A’s at A level (or AAB contextual) that they need to get an offer. The reasons for this are complex - family structure, deprivation, lack of aspiration etc) and need to be addressed far in advance of the university admissions stage.

LadyinCement Fri 19-Jan-18 13:54:44

Ds went to a state sixth form. He is now at Oxbridge.

His school were not particularly helpful, but it didn't really matter. There is more than enough information on the internet - YouTube, The Student Room and the university websites can give you more tips and "insider" knowledge than someone doing a talk.

Frankly though there is only one way to get in: being clever. Ds got 4 a*s at A Level. And he read a lot around his subject.

I did read somewhere that some of the outreach efforts by oxbridge have been rejected by some schools. I wouldn't be surprised if ds's school was among them as when we went to the higher education talk for parents the woman in charge started off by saying that, "All universities are equal and the University of the South West is just as good as Oxford." hmm. And ds received no acknowledgement whatsoever of his A Level results nor of his Oxbridge place.

Chocolate50 Fri 19-Jan-18 14:02:38

Well they have an equal ops statement on their admissions site which makes clear that people from less well off backgrounds will be equally as welcome as others, they put in place bursaries etc.
It should be that kids who go to a comprehensive school have just as much opportunity as the next person, but IDK how true this is in terms of Oxford or Cambridge. I think they make the effort though, they make it clear.
IS there any way of checking? isn't there some way of looking at stats?

SeekEveryEveryKnownHidingPlace Fri 19-Jan-18 14:05:24

Cutting I don't work at the school. I do work at a university and am engaged in WP and we regularly make contact with schools to ask if we can come and do visits. Maybe that's been the case here, and, as I say, it's a bit of an unfortunate outcome that they've ended up at the most expensive private school in town.

That said, there are at least 2 state schools which are very proud of their Oxbridge rates, so I'd be surprised if they had turned it down. I don't know enough about the specific personnel at our school to know what is likely in their case.

CountessOfStrathearn Fri 19-Jan-18 14:15:05

"That said, there are at least 2 state schools which are very proud of their Oxbridge rates, so I'd be surprised if they had turned it down."

If they have a good Oxbridge record, Oxbridge might not have targetted them with an offer to come. They might not have asked. To be fair, they can't go to every single school and will target where they go. If there are 2 state schools with good records, it sounds like (not in the Admissions Office of either university here - this is all supposition) it is fine for them to share with the private school. The school where no one has ever applied to Oxbridge though might get its own focus.

SeekEveryEveryKnownHidingPlace Fri 19-Jan-18 14:30:32

That's what I would have thought - which makes the decision to target where they have more surprising.
I don't think there will be any school where nobody has ever applied or got in, but definitely some (and likely the college) where they very rarely do.

RedHelenB Fri 19-Jan-18 17:18:46

Dd got invited to her local state college from school to attend a Cambridge talk when she was in y11. Interestingly sixth formers are getting offers but starting to decline them.

BubblesBuddy Fri 19-Jan-18 19:34:49

How do you know they targeted that school? Perhaps they were the only school that bothered to be proactive about it? All this chip on shoulder stuff really gets me. Just get your DD to go and get over it.

BubblesBuddy Fri 19-Jan-18 19:36:07

Declining an offer is down to lack of confidence I suspect. What a shame when all that effort has gone into it trying to get them to think differently!

RedHelenB Fri 19-Jan-18 20:23:52

I'm thinking the opposite Bubbles in that they don't feel it's the be all and end all because people get in every year on the whole and come back to say how they're liking it.

CountessOfStrathearn Fri 19-Jan-18 20:40:50

"I don't think there will be any school where nobody has ever applied or got in, but definitely some (and likely the college) where they very rarely do."

It's increasingly clear from your posts that Oxford/Cambridge can't do anything right in your eyes. There is nothing to say that they "targetted" the private school, as I explained. They also can't force themselves into schools that don't want them!

There is still a surprising (and to be fair, disappointing) number of schools who have never had anyone go to Oxbridge or even thought about applying because they felt it "wasn't for them". (If you work in that area for another university, I'm surprised that you think that!

You just need to check the local papers each spring for good news stories of someone being the first to go. Here are just a couple from last autumn!

There is a huge amount of widening participation work happening to try to change this but, yes, dismiss it all, because someone is also going into the local private school. hmm

Nettleskeins Fri 19-Jan-18 20:46:10

Ds1's school had about 20 people applying but only one acceptance (although I think at least 5 got to interview) They made a big deal about it to the students, and certainly spent a lot of time preparing them to the detriment I feel of all the other students who could have benefited from that time and intervention NOT to go to Oxbridge but to other unis. I think sometimes getting your cohort "into Oxbridge" is overemphasised in all the literature that Sixth Forms produce, to prove how great they are. Surely all the students deserve time and energy invested in their progress, even if they are not Oxbridge candidates. That's where I have an issue with the whole WP, yes fine, but not if it trumps the rest of the Sixth Form apparatus.

Nettleskeins Fri 19-Jan-18 20:48:48

Talking to people whose children went through the process and were rejected, well it took an enormous amount of time and energy, and then they felt "second best" when rejected; I can now see why people don't want to apply in the first place. I hasten to add that my own son was never in the running!!! or Oxbridge "material", but I find it odd that clever hardworking children should end up feeling disappointed not to get in, when they have everything going for them, and will make a fantastic success of other unis/degrees.

GiveMePrivacy Fri 19-Jan-18 23:16:53

I do agree that it's unfortunate the only Oxbridge outreach event near the OP was in an independent school, but echo the suggestion of others to contact the university and try to arrange one elsewhere. But yes, Oxford and Cambridge really do bend over backwards to encourage state school applicants. One example is the UNIQ summer schools, which are only open to students from non-selective state homes, but there are other outreach schemes which work in a similar way. Groups of students are able to stay in colleges and get an insider's view of the university, with advice about applications.

One of the things Oxbridge do to widen access which doesn't get much attention, is offer decent bursaries to students from low-income backgrounds. A friend left Oxford 18 months ago, who had attended a state sixth form college and from a low-income family. She had reduced - rate fees of a third the standard rate, plus a bursary of £5k a year towards living costs. She became involved in the university's outreach efforts and was frustrated by schools and colleges misinforming students about what was required & so putting them off.

The Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, is a former Guardian editor and has a blog where he writes about widening participation, and the application process.
Applications process and trying to balance out different backgrounds :

and the LMH Foundation Year - a free foundation year at Oxford for students from underprivileged backgrounds, after which they can apply for a regular place :

LadyinCement Sat 20-Jan-18 12:04:19

The Oxbridge application process is a lot of work - a lot of extra work during a busy year anyway.

A great many people apply. Some have no hope, some progress to the final hurdle and are pipped at the post. The fact is that the odds are against you - especially in some very popular subjects. When ds attended the interview reception they were all told that there were 40 of them there and they had 8 places. Of course it hurts to be "rejected", but I think you have to keep telling yourself that the chances are that you will not be going.

I think that some students get extremely worked up over the whole business, plus if they are a bit of an outlier in an ordinary school they might have been bigged up and too many expectations heaped on their shoulders. I've read on MN about people telling extended family, friends, neighbours etc about their dc applying (hell - one person I remember had even told their MP!!!) and saying, "Everyone's rooting for them!!" Poor, poor student. No wonder they feel crushed and humiliated if they are unsuccessful.

SeekEveryEveryKnownHidingPlace Sat 20-Jan-18 16:10:35

It's increasingly clear from your posts that Oxford/Cambridge can't do anything right in your eyes. There is nothing to say that they "targetted" the private school, as I explained. They also can't force themselves into schools that don't want them!

Good grief, I said I reckoned there are some schools here which reasonably regularly send there and some which do less often - my hunch is that there are probably none who never do, but that could be wrong - I don't know how you came up with the idea I don't think they can do anything right!

GiveMe - yeah, we are looking at the summer schools at the moment - competitive, but worth a punt I hope!

boys3 Sat 20-Jan-18 17:41:55

two years old though but busts some of the more commonly pedalled myths

boys3 Sat 20-Jan-18 17:59:48

from last summer also worth a read

BubblesBuddy Sat 20-Jan-18 18:49:11

There are schools that never do. I think the Sutton Trust reported that only 8 candidates were successful from state schools in some Midlands and Northern local authorities. I would bet that the worst performing schools never send anyone and most secondary moderns wouldn’t either, despite having 6th forms.

They also found 43% of teachers in their survey rarely or never recommended Oxbridge to their brightest students. Shamefully 20% of those had judged that the potential student wouldn’t fit in! Not for the likes of them they decided. 80% of Oxbridge students come from professional or managerial backgrounds but over 60% are from state schools.

We know the worst performing schools are in the midlands and the north. It is clear though, if no-one supports you to go, then you probably won’t. If students don’t want to try because of lack of confidence, support from family and teachers and sometimes attainment, if is very difficult for Oxbridge to get through to the opinion formers in the young persons life. They have had years of being told not to bother because they are not good enough and won’t fit in. There have been other threads where students cannot even feel they would be happy at Exeter because they only want to mix with people like them. It is a monumentally uphill struggle to change this mindset. Perhaps we should accept that the harder to reach young people vote with their feet and don’t value social mobility as we think they should.

See Graham Norton in The Telegraph on 18 Jan about the angst of Oxford rejection!

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