1,000 state schools have no applicants to elite career schemes
Out of all the former state school pupils who applied, more than half came from just 10% of England’s secondary schools.
Applications to graduate-entry positions at leading law, finance and management firms reveal an “unrecognised apartheid” among England’s state schools, according to research that found more than 1,000 state secondary schools had no former pupils applying to elite programmes.
The research, looking at state-educated applicants to join companies such as Linklaters or Deloitte, found one in 10 came from a small group of mostly selective schools around London. Out of all the former state school pupils who applied, more than half were drawn from just 10% of England’s secondary schools.
While the success of former independent school pupils in applying to graduate positions has long been recognised, the research by Rare, a specialist recruitment and diversity consultancy, reveals a premier league of state schools that enjoy similar application rates.
Rare said the results suggest the traditional split between independent and state schools is not the only dividing line in British education.
“There is also an unrecognised apartheid within the UK’s state school system, raising serious questions for government, employers and schools alike about how to ensure fair life chances for the country’s young people,” it said.
The research examined the applications made by more than 160,000 graduates in 2017-18 to more than 60 graduate recruitment programmes run by companies including Deutsche Bank, Barclays and Slaughter and May.
Raph Mokades, Rare’s managing director, said it was misleading to see state schools as a uniform bloc, since most of those in the elite group had a high proportion of students from affluent backgrounds who went on to leading research universities.
But Mokades said the data showed school background remained powerful, so that those from lower-performing schools were less likely to apply to elite graduate programmes.
“We have found that the university you go to doesn’t completely eradicate the influence of the school that you went to,” Mokades said.
The figures showed that former pupils from 34% of state secondary schools in England did not make a single application to any one of the 60 leading graduate recruiters in the study.
“Geography plays a part in this but only a part. We also found high-performing schools that had very few pupils apply, so there is something else going on here,” said Mokades, who argues that employers should do more to identify talent from those schools.
The state school that generated the highest numbers of applications was the Henrietta Barnett school, a selective girls’ school in north London with exceptionally high A-level results.
But the elite group also included a small number of non-selective schools, such as Coopers’ Company and Coborn school in Havering, which produced high proportions of applicants despite more modest A-level results.
According to Mokades, one prime difference was in the quality of a school’s careers advice and contacts with recruiters, which could explain why some schools with strong A-level results produced few applicants.
Lucy Powell, the Labour MP and a member of the Commons education select committee, said: “There is no excuse in this day and age for a system that creates preferential treatment to a minority of elite, well-connected schools. We need real careers advice to ensure opportunities are open to all.”
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