Students from state-funded schools who aspire to Oxford and Cambridge need more help with the rigorous admissions process, according to a leading international consultancy.
State school students achieve lower grades in admissions test than those privately educated because they have insufficient knowledge about the process, according to Oxbridge Applications.
The company, which provides support for students applying to the universities, believes more has to be done to address the issue.
Despite record numbers of students applying to study at Oxbridge for the 2014/15 academic year, the gap between rich and poor applicants remains sky high. Statistics released last year showed students from disadvantaged areas are still three times less likely to go into education than their more advantaged peers.
Managing director Lucinda Fraser told HuffPost UK: "Oxbridge colleges do magnificent out-reach work with schools but, understandably, not enough state schools have the in-house experience or resources to help their brightest pupils through the process.
"However, students attending our preparation days, which we run in partnership with groups of state schools, find extra knowledge about interview and admissions’ procedures can make all the difference."
The company has seen the number of state school students it works with rise over the years - standing now at 57.7% compared to 33.6% from independent schools and 8.65% from overseas.
The company's success rate, at 43%, is twice as high as the Oxbridge average of 22%.
Peter Boursnell, a former state school head teacher, said: "There’s a healthy level of interest in Oxbridge from state school students but often there is a gap in expertise in the whole admissions process. Perhaps too many students fall at the famously challenging interview, the final piece of the application jigsaw."
According to information published by the Department for Education, just 0.1% of year 11 pupils who claimed free school meals who took A-levels or equivalent went on to Oxbridge in 2010-11.
In August it emerged the top jobs were overwhelmingly held by those educated at private schools and Oxbridge, with a staggeting 59% of the Cabinet attending Oxbridge - compared to less than 1% of the public.
The Office For Fair Access (Offa), which aims to promote and safeguard fair access to higher education, recently revealed elite universities are as socially exclusive as ever. Despite the millions of pounds spent on outreach schemes since the 1990s, teens from the richest 20% of families in England were 6.3 times more likely to attend a prestigious university than those from the most disadvantaged 40% of households in the country.
Geraint Edwards is head teacher at The Priory School, a 1,020-strong mixed community comprehensive school in Hitchin. His school hosts a hub Access event with Hitchin Boys’ School and Hitchin Girls’ School, both academy schools.
He said: "Four of our students have won Oxbridge places in the past two years. It would not have been possible without expert external support.
"More schools should do this, there’s no reason why not. We all set out to do our very best for our students, and that includes achieving places at the best universities.
"Of course, extra help in sixth form is only part of the answer. We also work to build confidence and a ‘can do’ attitude throughout students’ school lives," he said.
Offa declined to comment.Suggest a correction