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The independent London newspaper

Too many Camden pupils missing out on Oxbridge, Tories claim

Education chief accuses rival of being 'misleading' over performance of state schools

04 February, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

Oliver Cooper, the leader of the opposition in Camden

CAMDEN’S state school teenagers are missing out on going to the country’s top universities, it was claimed this week.

The Tories launched a fierce attack on the council saying that declining school performances meant only 16 per cent of pupils who went on to higher education landed places at one of the leading institutions.

Group leader Councillor Oliver Cooper drew comparisons with neighbouring Barnet where 29 per cent enrolled at Russell Group universities, which include Oxford, Cambridge, UCL and the LSE.

“While Russell Group universities have expanded quite dramatically in recent years, that’s not led to more pupils in the local area going,” he said. “I think there’s been a decline in school standards in Camden relative to the rest. There’s been an educational revolution over the last seven or eight years that Camden has been left behind in.”

He added: “Camden has some of the best universities in the world but it’s the tale of two boroughs as local children get locked out of those universities by Camden’s state schools lagging behind other boroughs.” The figures relate to the universities that students arrived at in the 2016/2017.

Cllr Cooper has previously lamented the lack of academies and free schools in Camden – the UCL Academy is the only one in operation in Camden at secondary school level – adding that “they have given the opportunity for people living in some of the worst-off communities in our city to achieve some of the best results”.

Asked whether the statistics could reflect pupils pursuing less traditional paths and not necessarily going to university at all, Cllr Cooper said: “It’s possible, but we should have high aspirations for our children and whilst it’s the case the number of people going to university as a whole has increased across the board, the number going to the best universities because they are getting top results has fallen.”

Camden schools chief Councillor Angela Mason said the opposition were being “misleading”.

She said: “Across inner London there is considerable variation. Percentages for other London boroughs are very varied – Islington 10 per cent, Lewisham nine per cent, Haringey 19 per cent, Southwark 15 per cent, Wandsworth 15 per cent – and so low scores in some of the outer London boroughs.”

Angela Mason

She added: “I have said before that it is misleading to compare Camden with Barnet. Our child poverty figures are twice as high, and Barnet does have highly selective schools.”

Cllr Mason said she did not think a “highly selective education system” was in the best interests of children in Camden and also said austerity had a “very dire” impact on school, adding: “We can always do better, but if you look at the whole school piece, our primary schools are absolutely brilliant, the results for all lower age grades are all going up. “There was a slight dip in Key Stage 4 and we’ve got to think about that and clearly that was because there’s a variation in standards between our schools, but I don’t accept that our standards are declining.”

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