YOUNGSTERS from Portsmouth state schools are the least likely in the country to study at university, new figures show.
Statistics published by the Department for Education show that on three different counts – the number of people going to university, the number going to a leading ‘Russell Group’ institution and the number making it to Oxford or Cambridge – the city comes at the bottom of the league tables.
The data is broken down by local authorities and shows:
n Only 28 per cent of pupils from Portsmouth are sent to university;
n Only one per cent of pupils from Portsmouth go to Russell Group universities, such as the University of Southampton, which are seen as among the best in the UK;
n No pupils from Portsmouth went on to the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge.
This compares to Reading which saw 70 per cent of its students go to higher education, and 38 per cent go to a Russell Group university.
Councillor Neill Young, the city council’s cabinet member for children and education, said the figures are ‘disappointing’.
He said: ‘In a city like Portsmouth we have different aspirations, and have things like apprenticeships and work-based training.
‘We have a mixed economy and aspirations and we need to make sure we fulfil the needs of pupils.
‘However it is disappointing to see how low the figures are, and it’s a real shame.
‘What we need to do is encourage young people to do what’s suitable for them.
‘So if that’s getting into university, then we must help that aspiration.
‘But young people may also want to go into apprenticeships and we must look at that too.’
And the head of a teachers’ union in Portsmouth believes the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) – a benefit that was paid to 16 to 19-year-olds who live in a low-income household – is partially to blame.
Amanda Martin, of the National Union of Teachers, said: ‘When the government took away the EMA, it meant many students couldn’t go on to do A-levels.
‘If they can’t do those then how will they go on to university?
‘Teachers are also under a lot of pressure at schools and the impact on the students long term is showing.’
The figures, from 2011, suggest that selective, or grammar, schools are more likely to send pupils to top universities than other state schools.