Strategic Schooling

It was the first day of sixth form and in they came, an influx of kids from all of the surrounding private schools. One, an all girls school, was only across the street from ours. They arrived in their pre-made cliques, ready to learn and ready to get into Oxbridge. Since acceptance rates are higher for state schools, their parents had moved them to us. Their movement was strategic. To the parents, it was simply a stepping stone. For their children, it was two years of their life. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, my state school might as well have been a private one. Sure, we didn’t have the one-on-one attention private schools do but we had some fabulous teachers. I’m tempted to say the best in the country. Situated slightly outside the city centre of Oxford, we all had some connection to the university. Even before the influx, a fair amount of us had professors for parents, the remainder working for some division of it, all roads leading back there. But what these private school parents wanted was our admission rates. As of 2020, Oxford had a 68.6% UK intake from state schools, with my school on the list of top 80 schools that get the most Oxbridge offers. While 68.6% might seem low considering the majority of schools in the UK are state, that figure has risen by 10% in the last 5 years. 

Of course, not all new arrivals were Oxbridge wannabes. For many, their schools didn’t have attached Sixth Forms or Colleges, so it was a natural move. For others, it was a move of convenience for location or friendships or a fresh start. Not all of the influx should be blamed on parental education strategy. But for those who made this strategic movement, they maneuvered the system to benefit their children. So, this 68.6% intake from state schools is not an accurate portrayal of actual state school pupils being admitted to Oxford. 

The privilege of education cannot be underestimated and open access to education should be just that: open. Strategic schooling undercuts this in every way. 

Perhaps these percentages will just keep increasing and a greater and greater majority of state school pupils will be admitted. Or maybe it will return to its elitist ways (not that it ever really left them behind…).

By Hannah Armour

Photo by Vadim Sherbakov on Unsplash