An interesting article in The Guardian in the UK on the 19/10/2018.

To boost social mobility, universities need to start speaking to children from disadvantaged backgrounds at a younger age.

Traditionally, universities looking to widen access have focused on secondary aged children preparing to take their next step in education. This is certainly an important moment in a young person’s life, but in many cases it may be too late to shape their decision-making. Universities are looking to solve problems which can become entrenched far earlier in a child’s education.

In 2016, a Ucas survey pointed out that children who know they want to enter higher education by age 10 or earlier are 2.6 times more likely to end up at a more competitive university than someone who decided in their late teens. This is why universities need to do more work in primary schools.

 Next steps for widening access: ensuring all students get a share of the spoils.

Primary school children make an excellent audience. They are open, receptive and interested in external visitors (even if they can be a bit fidgety). For example: ask a question to a group of year six children, who are aged 10, and watch a forest of hands go up. Then ask the same question to a group of year nine children, aged 13. You’ll be lucky to receive any volunteers.
If we want to raise aspirations of children we need to do it early, far in advance of the teenage years and before they are embroiled in the examination treadmill. By the time they reach their final years of school, pupils have generally already made up their mind about whether they want to go to university. While university visits may persuade prospective students of the institution they want to attend, the overall impact on widening access is negligible. A student gained by that institution is lost by another. Instead, we need to target children who believe university is not for them.

The seed of doubt is often sewn earlier than people think. Educational disadvantage is often the result of a geographic lottery determining access to high-performing schools, which can begin to have a lasting impact on students during their time at secondary school. If we target children earlier, we can embed the idea that higher education is an achievable goal for all. To make real impact on a national level, a far earlier stance needs to be taken by all institutions.

The full article is available here