State schools

Oxbridge shouldn’t ’tilt the system’ to favor public schools

Earlier this month, Professor Toope said the rise in the number of children attending school in the state at Cambridge – from 68.7 per cent in 2019 to 72 per cent last year – was “genuine progress “.

The Harvard graduate, who leaves his post in September, told The Times: ‘I would say that we have to continue to say very, very clearly that we intend to reduce, over time, the number of people from independent schools to places like Oxford or Cambridge.

“We do this by welcoming others, not telling them we don’t want you. Individual students who are talented, we would like them, but they are going to be competing against an ever-growing pool because there are more students coming from state schools who see a potential place for themselves at Cambridge or Oxford or other Russell group universities.”

Robert Halfon, the Conservative chair of the Education Select Committee, said the status quo is “not a level playing field” and that more change is needed to ensure a “meritocracy”.

However, heads of private institutions have criticized pitting independent institutions against their state counterparts. They argue that private schools helped create public schools, and that many public school students came from wealthy backgrounds.

Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council, said contextual admissions are “reasonable”, but it is wrong that the debate is escalating into a showdown between private and public schools.

He said private schools support their state counterparts and are responsible for helping choose top universities in a broader field.