Thursday, January 02, 2020

Free school meals and Russell Group universities

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One of the statistics that those interested in equality of access to the best of higher education look at is the number of pupils receiving free school meals who gain a place at a Russell Group university.

The other day I realised that I had done exactly that in 1978. Yes, I was once a poster boy for social mobility.

Though the Russell Group was not formed until 1994, and the University of York did not join it until 2012, a place at York was certainly sought after when I was taking my A levels.

One of the problems poorer teenagers like me face is a lack of knowledge.

I realised when I applied to go to university that we were going to have to spend serious money on train fares when I went for interview.

The arrangement I came to with my Mum was that I would put the pound-a-week pocket money she gave me towards the fares and rely on my Saturday job (a whopping £3.50) for spending money.

It would be hard to check now, but I seem to remember that I later found out that the county council would have paid my fares to go to interviews because I got free school meals.

But no one at school knew this or thought to tell me if they did.

When I tweeted about this the other day, a much more recent student who had also achieved the same feat told me that every bursary he received came because he heard about it by chance. There was no communication about them from the university.

From which I conclude if you want to see social mobility in education then poor students need more information and schools and universities need to care about it more.


A Rambling Ducky said...

My Dad could have got a scholarship for Oriel, if he'd known about it. To do with being born in Swainswick in Gloucestershire. He went to Mansfield instead, with scholarships from the Congregational Church and the county borough.

I feel sure there are lots of under-advertised funds available - parish bequests and the like - which could perhaps be brought together, say at county level, to support children from poorer backgrounds. Tracking them all down will be the hard part.

And yes, universities do need to do a lot more to promote knwoledge of the support they have available - and that means getting out to VIth Forms and FE colleges so people know well before they fill out their UCAS forms.

nigel hunter said...

This is something the Young Lib Dems could chase up. Into 6th forms and campaign on our stalls or leaflets and of course on the internet.If we could use this it could lead to more young support

Phil Beesley said...

A professional librarian in the reference room once took a book from the shelf, "this is what you are after", and it was. That was in the 1980s at a normal county library. The book was a directory of charitable donors, dead people giving away money, and I found a charity to match my cause.

Directories of charitable donors exist on line, and you can search for them. But going to the library and talking with somebody who has met people like you -- it is the bigger thing, the social thing which really matters.