England’s engines of mobility

England’s sixth form and further education colleges are among the most significant engines of social mobility as measured by the number of 16-18 year olds eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) progressing to Higher Education. This contribution needs to be recognised and valued if we are serious about promoting social mobility when FSM students are still progressing to HE at less than half the rate of non-FSM students.

Based on government destination data for 2012, just 25 sixth form providers account for over 20% of the total number of FSM students progressing to university for England. As there are over 2,500 sixth form providers in England, this means that less than 1% of institutions provide more than 20% of all FSM students who progress to university.

Of these top 25 sixth forms, 13 are sixth form colleges, 10 are further education colleges, 1 is a sixth form centre and 1 is a school. 15 of the 25 are in London. As a group, they have an average progression rate for FSM students which is 12% above the national average and all but two of them are themselves above average.

Area reviews of post-16 provision across England have now started and they will be seeking to evaluate the contribution of colleges to their local communities including the promotion of social mobility. This measure of their success must surely be one useful key indicator to inform their work.

Sixth form % FSM


to HE



to HE

Newham sixth form college (NewVIc) 63% 265
City and Islington college 60% 246
Leyton sixth form college 64% 179
Birmingham Metropolitan college 40% 172
Sir George Monoux college 60% 156
Joseph Chamberlain sixth form college 55% 127
Richmond-upon-Thames college 57% 114
Salford City college 49% 113
Westminster Kingsway college 61% 104
St Francis Xavier sixth form college 74% 104
Loreto college 57% 103
The Manchester college 46% 101
Luton sixth form college 63% 101
Tower Hamlets college 57% 97
Christ The King sixth form college 64% 96
Oldham sixth form college 64% 96
Ealing, Hammersmith & West London college 52% 94
Bolton sixth form college 53% 90
Brooke House (BSix) sixth form college 64% 90
Xaverian college 61% 85
Sir John Cass school 68% 82
Haringey sixth form centre 66% 79
Uxbridge college 56% 78
Bury college 41% 78
Havering sixth form college 65% 72
Top 25 sixth forms for FSM progression 57% 2,922
England 45% 14,252

See also:

London’s engines of mobility (October 2015)

NewVIc breaks all its university progression records (September 2015)

Russell group numbers soar in Newham (August 2015)

From free school meals to university (April 2015)


About Eddie Playfair

I am a Senior Policy Manager at the Association of Colleges (AoC) having previously been a college principal for 16 years and a teacher before that. I live in East London and I blog in a personal capacity about education and culture. I also tweet at @eddieplayfair
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