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Could more grammar schools mean more BME students going to top unis?

Grammar schools send more black and minority ethnic students to Cambridge uni than all UK state schools combined.

What it means: Cambridge and Oxford have long been known as the creme-de-la-creme of British unis, with the power to propel most of their graduates into high-flying, high-paid careers. So people who care about equal opportunities get peeved off when data shows that getting into Oxbridge is statistically much less likely if you’re black. 1 in 8 black applicants to Oxbridge get a place, compared to 1 in 4 white applicants. (Students who identify themselves as being of Chinese or Asian heritage have a higher success rate still of around 1 in 3).

Most people think the main problem is that black kids don’t tend to get as good A Level grades compared to other ethnicities (Oxbridge bases most of its acceptance decision on academic achievement). 5 percent of black kids got three A or A* grades in 2017. For white kids that figure is 11 percent.

Why is that? Well, systematic racism in the UK has long roots. For generations (including this one), it has meant that black people have had a significantly tougher time getting high-paying jobs or accumulating wealth. And because how well our parents do has a big impact on how well we do, that means black people are statistically much more likely than white people to be a lower income bracket.

Poverty and poor educational achievements are closely linked. Poorer areas tend to have worse schools. Parents struggling to make ends meet are less likely to have the time or the cash to help kids with their homework or ferry them to after-school tutoring.

Some people think we’ve got a good solution to this problem already: grammar schools. Grammar schools are free, but selective (they do an entrance test and accept only the smartest kids). Fans of them say they have the resources and top-notch teachers needed to maximise the potential of smart kids from poorer households.

And there may be some truth in this: kids (of all races) from the poorest 20 percent of households double their chances of getting into Oxbridge if they live near a grammar school. BME grammar students are five times more likely to get in. But critics of grammar schools say that the majority of their pupils are still from rich families, and therefore the schools do more to expand inequality than to solve it.

Read our explainer on race and economic chances.

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