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News - 18 October 2013

Bright, but poor, have been held back for decades

According to a long-term study from the University of Oxford, which tracked 5,000 people in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the level of qualifications achieved by adults now in their 40s, 50s and 60s was influenced by social background as much as their own intelligence.
The study, from Oxford University's Department of Social Policy and Intervention, examined the academic achievements of cohorts of people born between the late 1940s and 1970.
Their academic results as young adults were compared with cognitive ability tests taken when they were aged between 10 and 13.
Lavinia Newman, founder of ABDS comments:
“The study has showed that children from wealthier and better educated families had been much more successful in exam results than poorer children of a similar intelligence level. It meant that many poor, bright young people leaving school in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s have failed to reach their full potential.”

Last week figures from the OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) think tank indicated the 55-65 age group in England had stronger literacy and numeracy skills than 16-24-year-olds, even though the younger group had much better qualifications, and they also warned about the diminishing job prospects for those without skills.

What surprised the Oxford University researchers was that a parallel study in Sweden, across the same decades, also showed a strong link between economic background and academic achievement.

The lead author of the study, Erzsebet Bukodi, said there were expectations that Sweden would have had more equal outcomes, but the results showed that poorer children were also disadvantaged there.

The study suggests that among the cleverest children born in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland in 1970, in the top fifth of the ability range, 80% of the richest children achieved two A-levels or their equivalent, compared with only 40% for the poorest.

"We see that in both the British and Swedish educational systems, even the very brightest children are hampered if they come from a disadvantaged background," said Dr Bukodi.

If you need any help and advice with Free School or Academy Schools, contact Lavinia Newman or Peter Ham now to discuss how ABDS can help bring their experience to these matters.

ABDS Chartered Certified Accountants of Southampton.
Tel: 023 8083 6900  E-mail:

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