Low incomes spark Sunderland education gap

Poorer students in Sunderland are still significantly less likely to go to university than their more affluent peers, new figures show.

Monday, 18th October 2021, 3:01 pm
Education attainment gap

Data from the Department for Education shows that, of 541 students in Sunderland who received free school meals at the age of 15, 111 (20.5%) were at university in 2019-20 – a rise on the 18.7% the year before.

Of 2,300 other pupils in the area, 38% were studying in higher education at the age of 19 – meaning the progression gap between poorer pupils and non-disadvantaged students was 17.5%, though this is down from 22.8% in 2018-19.

The Sutton Trust – which campaigns for equal access to high quality education said the university access gap is as large now as it was 14 years ago.

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In England, 26.6% of pupils who received free school meals at age 15 were participating in higher education in 2019-20 – compared to 45.7% of those who from better of families.

James Turner, chief executive of the Sutton Trust, said: "The fact that the university access gap has not closed at all in the past decade, shows just how stubborn and ingrained inequalities are in our system.

"The Covid-19 pandemic means that the divide between disadvantaged students and their classmates is likely to become even wider, but there is an urgency to act now to prevent the gaps widening still further.”

A DfE spokesman said: “Ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to access a world-class education remains a top priority, and we expect universities to do all they can to help disadvantaged students.”