The research aims to explore the long-term impact of the Assisted Places Scheme on beneficiaries’ occupational and social prospects and on their aspirations for their children’s education.
The scheme was designed to provide a ‘ladder of opportunity’ for academically able students from poor homes. Introduced in 1980 by the Conservative Government, the scheme saw 75,000 pupils receive means-tested assistance from public funds to attend the most selective and prestigious private schools in England and Wales.
Following much debate, New Labour abolished the scheme when it came to power in 1997, arguing that public funds should be designed to ‘benefit the many, not just the few’.
In 2010, following the return of a Conservative administration, the prospect of assisted places returned when it was proposed that businesses could sponsor places for disadvantaged children at private schools. Last year, the Sutton Trust launched a campaign to introduce an Open Access Scheme whereby the ‘top’ independent schools would open their doors to academically able students on a fees-blind basis.
Professor Power’s research will contribute to the ongoing debate surrounding these developments by exploring how the benefits and risks associated with the Assisted Places Scheme continue to play out in the lives of its intended beneficiaries.
‘The research will build on our ongoing investigations of the Scheme and of the complex relationship between school type, mode of sponsorship and subsequent educational and occupational trajectories. These have been based on a cohort of young men and women who were deemed to be ‘destined for success’ at the start of their secondary education,’ explains Professor Power.
A final report will be produced in Summer 2013.