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Sutton Trust / Oxbridge / Top schools - yet more fatally flawed data

(80 Posts)
Talkinpeece Sun 09-Dec-18 19:02:01

Yet again the Sutton Trust has released a report and press blurb based on fatally flawed analysis of their own data

Here is the BBC story
Here is their press release
Here is the full report

My LEA got listed as one of the ones that hardly sends any kids to Oxbridge or the Russell Group
I know this to be untrue so I checked the data.
They deem the location of pupils to be where they sit their A levels.

Southampton kids mostly do A levels in Hampshire
so Hampshire is getting the credit for bright Southampton kids

Then you look at the other LEAs that are shamed for failing their kids
and discover that many also have good 6th forms in neighbouring LEAs

so the schools are NOT failing the kids
just the Sutton Trust does not know how to read a map

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Fifthtimelucky Sun 09-Dec-18 22:09:57

But no one will have access to information about where pupils live, so all they can do is look at the schools.

It is hardly surprising that Knowsley is on the list. I think it is still the case that there are no schools or colleges offering A levels in Knowsley.

Is there a similar issue with Southampton? If not, one might wonder why, if
all the Southampton schools are good, the parents of bright Southampton children feel they have to send them to 6th forms in Hampshire.

BubblesBuddy Sun 09-Dec-18 23:35:21

They don’t appear to have good 6th forms in Southampton. Results are not that good and the schools tend to have few taking A levels. So parents seem to be choosing academic 6th forms in Hampshire.

I think this report has understood the poor prep and advice that some students receive in terms of aiming high. It is inevitable that some independent schools have huge numbers of very bright children. It’s their usp. Many of the parents are brilliant themselves and come from academic families. They also have money. They are small in number but they cluster in a few schools.

The challenge is to deliver better prep and advice in the lower reaches of the state sector where only a few children might benefit from it. And it will be just a few. The schools won’t have the expertise and won’t make much effort to get it. Funding issues and other constraints on spending and priorities mean it won’t happen. There should be grouping of schools so the cohort of bright children is bigger for mentoring and advice. But again, this takes time, effort and money.

RG universities are not that difficult to get into as a group so the obsession with Oxbridge is tiresome.

greenlanes Sun 09-Dec-18 23:41:25

I occasionally look at Sutton Trust reports for a particular piece of education sector I am interested in and have good knowledge of. Their reports are biassed. Their recommendations would often cause harm to the majority of school children to help the minority that is their focus. That cannot be an acceptable outcome yet their opinion is given a lot of weight (and funding I believe). So I am not surprised by your experience.

titchy Mon 10-Dec-18 07:13:59

But no one will have access to information about where pupils live, so all they can do is look at the schools.

Yes they do! At least the POLAR category of each postcode.

Sutton Trust is a charity btw - it doesn't receive any statutory Government funding.

Was it Sutton trust that said Knowsley sent not one child to university, omitting the fact that there was no sixth form provision in the LA?

Everincreasingfrequency Mon 10-Dec-18 08:00:45

"RG universities are not that difficult to get into as a group so the obsession with Oxbridge is tiresome."

Is there statistical evidence that the very fact of being an Oxbridge graduate is likely to mean higher salary, more choice of career etc (after controlling for degree subject, A level results, different A level subjects, etc) than other RG univs?
Whether that is (still?) the case, compared to eg Imperial, LSE, Bath for some stem, 'top' RGs etc, I don't know. Does attendance at Oxbridge still confer a measurable 'premium' ? Sutton Trust itself may have done some research on this - I don't know.

HPFA Mon 10-Dec-18 11:15:34

RG universities are not that difficult to get into as a group so the obsession with Oxbridge is tiresome.

Totally agree with this.

Clearly this is a complex issue but I wish we would question ourselves more on why Oxbridge graduates are so dominant in public life. I went to Oxford and yes, there were some brilliant people there but I doubt the average intelligence was that much higher than at many other universities.

Everincreasingfrequency Mon 10-Dec-18 15:08:57

" I doubt the average intelligence was that much higher than at many other universities."

Imperial would be a good example perhaps.
There is a table showing average UCAS points per person for each university though, which I think does perhaps show Oxbridge at or near the top - I can't remember precisely. But the differences at the top of the table were not huge, and of course that may not properly measure average intelligence either - it's hard to do so, because you would have to take into account the effect of school on A level results.
(assuming it's accepted that it may be harder to get an A* at one school than another, that is)

Talkinpeece Mon 10-Dec-18 15:53:22

Was it Sutton trust that said Knowsley sent not one child to university, omitting the fact that there was no sixth form provision in the LA?

Almost all state schools in Hampshire / Southampton / Portsmouth stop at GCSE and then all the kids transfer to 6th form colleges.
The buses to Symonds and Barton cover the whole of Southampton.

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BubblesBuddy Mon 10-Dec-18 18:32:12

May I just say that intelligence isn’t just A level results either. If it was, the people with the best school results would be top of every tree, and they are not. They are not often entrepreneurs who employ thousands of people, for example. The truth is, we need everyone who can get good A levels to go to the best university they can. We also need people who think in a different way but can also add value to this country.

whatatod0 Mon 10-Dec-18 20:01:00

Not all the pupils who attend private schools are financially privileged either. I often wonder how many of the private school Oxbridge places are won by bursary pupils.

Bestseller Mon 10-Dec-18 20:04:03

Ah timely, as I have a thread about sixth form provision. Isn't it shameful that the poorest areas have no sixth form provision though?

Talkinpeece Mon 10-Dec-18 20:23:31

Isn't it shameful that the poorest areas have no sixth form provision though?
You are misinterpreting the data.
(a) Southampton is not particularly poor
(b) It has plenty of 6th form provision, just not much A level
(c) it happens to have fantastic A level provision a bus ride away in a neighbouring LEA

Knowsley is a teeny LEA - so the kids travel a couple of miles to get their A levels at the relevant place

its about specialisation and creating excellence

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Bestseller Mon 10-Dec-18 20:33:40

A bus ride is out of the reach of the most disadvantaged though and no local provision rules out those from families who don't see A levels as the "normal" route for their children.

Thurrock is another area that sent no children to these Universities. It is possible to do A levels of you live there and are prepared to travel but it is harder than for those whose local schools (in posher areas) offer Alevels. Its not considered the natural route in the same way as it is if your own school offeres the opportunity to stay on, so therefore is less likely to be taken by disadvantaged students.

Talkinpeece Mon 10-Dec-18 20:37:13

no local provision
There is local provision ....
Tauntons college does A levels, as do St Annes (which regularly gets kids into top Unis) and St Georges (also state)
just that the provision over the border is better
and Barton is within cycling distance of the whole of Southampton.

The Sutton Trust regularly make crass data errors
I have learned to read their reports with scepticism
which is a shame

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Aceinthehole Mon 10-Dec-18 21:33:03

Southampton does have a lot of A Level provision.... Itchen, Taunton, Barton and many students travel further to Peter Symonds or Brock.

In addition to that, I work in the largest secondary school in the city which has its own sixth form attached, mainly offering A Levels.

Talkinpeece Mon 10-Dec-18 21:40:09

Barton, Symonds and Brock are not in Southampton - so the Sutton Trust treated all of their students as Hampshire

and yes, I forgot the Bitterne Park 6th Form grin

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Genevieva Tue 11-Dec-18 00:39:34

They also didn't know exactly which schools were getting the high number of Oxbridge places, because they used terms like 'mostly private' and 'likely includes Eton'. It strikes me as an attempt to stir up resentment.

Talkinpeece Tue 11-Dec-18 16:27:12

The Sutton Trust are the people who cannot see that describing an all Girls' Jewish only School as a "comprehensive" is more than a tad misleading.

Their agenda is damaging the value of their brand.

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expat96 Tue 11-Dec-18 16:38:50

The Sutton Trust know exactly which schools are getting the high number of Oxbridge places, they just chose not to publish the names so the BBC made inferences. However, the top 8 schools they referred to almost certainly included:

Westminster School
Eton College
Hills Road Sixth Form College
St Paul's School
St Paul's Girls School

and probably some from:

King's College School
The Latymer School
Manchester Grammar School
North London Collegiate School
Winchester College

Talkinpeece Tue 11-Dec-18 16:45:29

Peter Symonds sends around 50 a year
I suspect Farnborough College do similar
and what about the superselectives like Tiffin and Colyton

because on raw numbers, huge schools / colleges can hit big numbers with normal percentages

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expat96 Tue 11-Dec-18 17:21:53

My guess is that 8 schools had at least 100 Oxbridge acceptances over the 2014-2016 period and that is the reason the author chose to emphasize the top 8. There is no reason to believe that there was a big drop-off after the 8th school.

I believe Peter Symonds hit 50 places only this year, whereas the study covered 2014-2016. Nevertheless, I suspect you are correct and it is one of the top 8.

I believe Farnborough College has recently averaged mid-20's Oxbridge places so I suspect it did not make the cutoff. Tiffin (either boys or girls) and Colyton have much higher Oxbridge rates than Hills Road or Peter Symonds, but are much smaller so are also unlikely to have averaged 30+ acceptances.

Talkinpeece Tue 11-Dec-18 17:32:24

Symonds has not been below 30 a year for yonks
Barton regularly gets in the high 20's

Symonds gets around 750 a year into Russell Group / top200 Universities

its just that certain expensive schools have perfected the art of filling certain courses at Oxford and Cambridge

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Changemyname18 Tue 11-Dec-18 17:48:55

There is no consideration in their data for the selective nature of the schools sending kids to Oxbridge. A highly selective school is far more likely to send more to Oxbridge than a bog standard comp. That is not the fault of the comp. It would seem more strange if highly selective schools didn't send more

expat96 Tue 11-Dec-18 17:49:21

top200 Universities

The Russell Group of 24 universities already accounts for something like 25% of the full-time places in the UK. Just how many universities are there?

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