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University Admissions - does the school you attend make a difference?

Scott Milne, Radnor's Deputy Head (Academic), clarifies the most common admissions approaches to university admissions.

With nearly half of all school leavers opting to continue their education at university, and with UK higher education institutions amongst the best in the world, it is little wonder that so much attention is given to how to gain admission to these great seats of learning.

One of the enduring myths regarding UK university admissions is that there is a bias against students who attend independent schools, that studying at an independent school means you are less likely to get an offer from your chosen university, or that you may have to achieve higher grades at A Level than your state school contemporaries. The truth is that this is not where the universities make the distinction with regard to contextual admissions.

Great progress has been made in recent years to widen access and improve admissions to universities, and both the intent and action have helped in ensuring greater equality of opportunity. But the manner in which institutions do this is much more nuanced than a simple divide between the 93% of the population who attend state-maintained schools and the 7% who attend independent schools.

Each university has agency to set their own criteria, but the following approaches to contextual admissions are common across the most competitive institutions:

· Area-based measures: If you live in a postcode area where progression to university is particularly low, you may qualify for contextual admissions support. Further information on these can be found on the Office for Students website.

· Care leavers and care experienced young people. Many universities have specific programmes for young people who have been in care to ensure they are supported in applying for and enjoy a successful transition to higher education.

· School attainment measures: where a school has historically low attainment levels, such as being in the bottom portion of maintained schools by the ‘Attainment 8’ measure of GCSE performance

· Family circumstances: this can relate to eligibility for free school meals or being the first in your family to attend university

Of course, schooling is about so much more than just securing a place at university, and success at university requires much more in preparation than merely fulfilling the conditions of entry. Our purpose at Radnor House Sevenoaks is to provide each pupil with a strong academic foundation, essential skills and attributes, and a moral compass to guide their choices. In remaining true to that purpose, we have enabled our students to make good choices about their next steps in life and to enjoy considerable success in progressing to these.

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