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Scots More Likely Than English To Reach University, Though Background Still Counts

Whilst young people in Britain increasingly value education and stay on at school, the proportion gaining qualifications and going to college and university over the past 20 years has been 'consistently and substantially' greater in Scotland, according to a unique study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

In Scotland, the picture was different. Inequalities at age 16 were similar to England, though with more evidence of the gap closing north of the border. But inequalities in attainment at 18 and in entry to higher education were considerably wider north of the border, and showed fewer signs of narrowing over the period.

Even so, according to the study, overall levels of attainment and participation were higher in Scotland. And despite wider inequalities, Scottish working-class youngsters consistently outperformed their English peers.

Dr Croxford said: “The narrowing of the gap in Scotland during compulsory education years may reflect the stronger Scottish emphasis on comprehensive education.”

She continued: “A key issue, however, is the effect of educational expansion on social inequalities. In Scotland young people from higher social classes have been far more successful in gaining academic qualifications so that they can take advantage of increasing opportunities for higher education.”

Professor Raffe said: “In England, the narrowing of inequalities at 18-plus may reflect the growth of vocational courses and the increased diversity of post-16 opportunities during the 1980s and 1990s.

“For Scotland, our findings pre-date the new courses and qualifications introduced by the Higher Still programme, and we need more research to find out if they have spread opportunities more widely.”

He added: “The implications of our findings may depend on how we value education. If education has value in its own right, the working class has been better off in Scotland. However, if education only has value to the extent that you possess more of it than other people, the working class has been better off in England.”

Annika Howard | alfa
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