Research at the University of Bristol has shown that the Sutton Trust’s summer schools, which have been running since 2007 in Russell Group universities, have been successful in helping young people from poorer backgrounds to go on to university.

The Sutton Trust was set up to increase social mobility by improving educational opportunities for young people from non-privileged backgrounds. 

The Impact of the Sutton Trust’s Summer Schools report showed that,

Summer school attendees were more likely to engage with the university application process overall…attendees were also considerably more likely to apply to - and end up at - leading universities than students in one of five control groups. 

Summer schools make the biggest difference to the poorest students.  Attending a summer school substantially narrows the gap in application and registration rates for those meeting all the Sutton Trust eligibility criteria, in receipt of Education Maintenance Allowance, from low participation neighbourhoods and with non-graduate parents.  In some cases, the summer schools reduce completely the gap between the success of the more affluent students and those from non-privileged homes.

This echoes some other research that The Sutton Trust were involved with, which showed that the achievement gap between less and more advantaged young people can be made smaller by giving all children pre-school education, as happens in France and Denmark. This research into summer schools gives hope that even if poorer young people are not given early childhood education, there is still a chance for them to succeed and help to close the achievement gap through schemes such as these summer schools, which need to be supported by government. Currently The Sutton Trust is supported by personal donations almost entirely

This year the Sutton Trust will hold summer schools in 50 subjects at seven universities: Cambridge, St Andrews, Bristol, Nottingham, Durham, University College London and Imperial College London. Oxford now runs its own scheme. The summer schools are one of a number of outreach initiatives aimed at encouraging young people from poorer backgrounds to apply to university.


19th January 2012

Amy Hannington is Research Assistant at PARN and Editor of

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