Free meal pupils not getting into top universities

College in running for top national awards

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CHILDREN who are on free school meals in Portsmouth are not making it into the country’s top universities, statistics have shown.

Children who are eligible for free school meals (FSM) is a key measure of poverty.

And new statistics published by the Department for Education (DfE) have provided new information on the background of pupils and what they went on to after finishing GCSEs or A-levels.

They show that poorer teenagers are less likely to continue their studies, whether they leave school at 16 or 18.

Nationally, around 46 per cent of FSM students went on to higher education at the age of 18 in 2010/11, compared to 48 per cent of their non-FSM peers.

Just four per cent of those eligible for free dinners went to a Russell Group university - considered among the top in the country - making them half as likely to go as their richer classmates.

And statistics show that not one FSM pupil in Portsmouth was admitted to one of the 20 institutions that were part of the Russell Group in 2010/11.

Councillor Rob Wood, cabinet member for children and education at Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘I’m disappointed and that’s something we are working towards.

‘I think this is a message for sixth form and FE colleges about their ambitions for their children.

‘It’s about making sure their ambitions and their aspirations are at the very top. We will be working hard to make sure that disadvantaged children have as much opportunity as possible. That’s our ethos.

‘Secondary schools need to be prepared to be challenged about their provision.’

The council added that the figures do not include students who left the city to study at colleges or sixth forms outside of the local authority, before going on to university.

Other local authorities to suffer the same problem include Southampton, and the Isle of Wight

A DfE spokesman said: ‘These statistics underline, yet again, the gap between the achievement of children from poorer backgrounds, and their better off peers.

‘Too often the poorest children are left with no choice but the worst schools while the rich can send their children to private school or move house into the catchment area of a good school.’