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A fifth of able schoolchildren do not apply to university, study finds

More than a fifth of high-achieving 11-year-olds do not go on to study at university, a study by education experts has found.

Researchers at the Institute of Education, University of London, found 24 per cent of children who had done well at their Key Stage 2 exams had not applied to study a degree by the age of 20.

The study also shows social background - measured by parental education and family income - plays a key role.

Some 85 per cent of children from "more affluent" homes who had done well applied to university – which dropped to 66 per cent for less advantaged high achievers.

The researchers analysed data on 8,000 young people in England, drawing from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE) - a survey of young people born in 1989 to 1990 by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies.

The findings would be bad news for policy-makers, educationalists and charities who have been aiming to increase the number of less advantaged teenagers who enter higher education, said Professor John Micklewright, who led the study with researcher Jake Anders.

“Our findings indicate that there is still too much wasted talent among our less advantaged young people.

“Their hopes of applying to university are already much lower than their wealthier peers at age 14, and that gap only continues to widen throughout their teenage years," he said.