Selective Comprehensives Great Britain

Carl Cullinane, Jens Van den Brande, Jude Hillary

26 March 2019

Download the reports from the Sutton Trust website

NFER was commissioned by the Sutton Trust to look at high performing state schools in Scotland and Wales and establish how socially representative they are. State schools offer a platform to foster educational equity by educating and improving the skills of pupils across the whole socio-economic spectrum. Equal access to high quality education is key for the state-funded system to improve upward social mobility. However this overview report published by the Sutton Trust, which compares England, Scotland and Wales, highlights there is still work to be done to improve equity in the state-funded system.

Key Findings

In Scotland:

  • The numbers of disadvantaged pupils attending the 70 top performing schools are very similar to the average levels of disadvantage in their catchment areas.
  • While the social backgrounds of pupils in Scottish schools tend to reflect the local area, the top performing schools are in more affluent neighbourhoods. According to the research, around four out of five top performing comprehensives are ranked in the 40% most affluent areas of the country.

In Wales:

  • Three-quarters of schools in the top 40 take fewer disadvantaged pupils than live in their catchment area, with over almost half having a gap of five percentage points or more.
  • Top faith schools admit a proportion of disadvantaged pupils just over half of the rate living in their catchment areas (11.4% vs 21.1%), a gap of almost ten percentage points.
  • Welsh language schools, be they top performing or otherwise, have on average a lower proportion of disadvantaged pupils (10.3%), than bilingual (13.7%) and English language (21.2%) schools. Top Welsh language schools also have a lower average proportion of disadvantaged pupils compared to their catchment areas, with a gap of 6 percentage points, compared to 3.5 for English schools, and less than 1 for bilingual schools.