This blog is part of the series featuring ideas contained in the new HEPI-Brightside report, Reaching the parts of society universities have missed: A manifesto for the new Director for Fair Access and Participation. It showcases the idea from Ryan Shorthouse, Director of Bright Blue.
Decision makers and opinion formers should stop wasting time advocating the abolition or reduction of tuition fees. It is ignorant and lazy policymaking. Instead, to further boost participation of those from less advantaged backgrounds, they now need to focus earlier on in people’s lives.
Cognitive ability at age five strongly predicts educational attainment by adulthood. The Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education (EPPSE) study shows that participation in high-quality, pre-school education is associated with better A-Level results. We desperately need, but still do not have, a high-quality, pre-school education system.
Universities, bringing resources and expertise, could help. Many already sponsor or offer other support to state schools, and, according to Universities UK’s analysis of Office for Fair Access (OFFA) Access Agreements, most have plans to increase their work in this area significantly. The Office for Students should encourage universities to devote similar attention to nurseries too, so that more people can get a high-quality education as early as possible.