Scholarship scheme helps highlight an unfair divide

Inquisitor: John Humphrys

ZELLA COMPTON: Why does John Humphrys still have a national platform?

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We are pleased Brian Wilkie has offered to fund a scholarship scheme to help pupils at his old school.

Here’s a man who has made his own way in the world and achieved much with his life.

Losing his father at the age of 14 must have been a traumatic and life-changing experience. But he was determined to succeed and remains grateful for the education he received at Portsmouth’s Northern Grammar School.

That school has since become Mayfield and two pupils there will now get the benefit of Mr Wilkie’s generous offer to pay for them to attend Portsmouth Grammar School’s sixth form.

His kindness is touching and we’re sure the pupils who go on to benefit from it will gain much from the opportunity they are being gifted.

Mr Wilkie is right to highlight the shocking statistic that has inspired him to put aside almost £12,000 of his own money to fund this bursary scheme.

It is staggering to learn that private school pupils are 55 per cent more likely to get into the universities of Oxford or Cambridge than those who come from state schools and qualify for free school meals.

We know there’s no such thing as a perfect world and that inequality still exists in many areas of life. But the gap between the most privileged pupils and those who come from poorer backgrounds is far too wide.

Mr Wilkie can’t bridge that divide on his own but we commend him for trying to make a difference and for shining a light on the issue.

The government must now pick up the baton and run with it.

You don’t have to go to a fee-paying sixth form to get a good education. Our state run schools and colleges give pupils from all walks of life a fantastic chance to learn and take up university places.

Yet it is clear that those who aspire to go to Oxbridge benefit from going down the private school route. Those academic institutions should take a look at what Mr Wilkie is doing here in Portsmouth – and ask themselves why.