• January 23, 2015

Educational Aspirations Report

Our aim is to increase the public’s understanding of the effects of ethnicity and socio-economic background and address any misconceptions about how these factors affect aspirations for post-16 education. It is unclear whether ethnicity and socio-economic background have a greater effect on aspirations or whether the real problem lies in the resources needed for students to achieve those aspirations. It is likely that the problem will only be solved by attempting to improve both, as neither can be held to be mutually exclusive of the other. Aspirations are affected by lack of resources, and lack of aspiration means lack of ability to achieve.

We recognise that we cannot answer the question definitively, and our aim is to increase understanding and awareness. It is OxPolicy’s firm belief that policy should made on the basis of sound evidence, rather than on blind assertion. Therefore it is essential to prove that these factors do have an effect on aspiration before policy makers can make decisions on how best to combat the problems which the factors cause.

In the first part, we look at the education system in England and Wales and analyse how education policy in different types of schools affects access to secondary education. This is primarily to give an overview of the problems created by different types of school and how access to these schools may be effected by ethnicity or particularly socio-economic background. In the following parts, we look at the effect of ethnicity on aspirations, the effect of socio economic background and explore the impact on this problem of educational policy in the United States, Norway and Germany. Finally we have two case studies which highlight conclusions made in the secondary literature and provide an interesting factual example of how these factors have affected actual students.

From April 2014 to November 2014, OxPolicy ran a research project investigating these issues in detail, which culminated at a launch event consisting of a panel discussion. Speakers included Professor Steve Strand from the Department of Education who has done extensive research in the area, Baroness Helena Kennedy, the Principal of Mansfield College and founder of the Helena Kennedy Foundation, and Tom Cole, who represented educational charity Teach First.

You can download the report below. If you have any questions about the report, please do not hesitate to get in touch at contact@oxpolicy.co.uk.

OxPolicy Education Aspirations Report


This paper was written by a team of Oxford University students. Many thanks to our research team: Alexander Botham, Hugo Forshaw, Jack Noble, Martha Rhodes, Beth Morgan, Yuna Chang, Peter Connel, James Stewart, Alana Ryan, Ligita Visockyte, Finnian Clarke, Anya Green, Xanthia Hargreaves, Jacob Williams, James Heatley, Ciara Lenoach, Sakunthala Wijesinghe, Ellen Wiencek, Emily Lunnon, Camille White, Fay Niker and Garima Jaju. Many thanks also to those who provided an international angle: Anna Matthews and Luke Trouwborst for the U.S., Mads Danielsen for Norway, and Rebecca de Souza for Germany. Operational support was provided by the committee members Wei Qing Tan, James Heatley, Ern Huei Lim, Finnian Clarke, Jack Myers and Honor Fitzgerald. The report was edited by Charlie Dennis.

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