Myths about "drop-outs" from council housing estates must be exploded if the government's lifelong learning revolution is to succeed, the Further Education Development Agency has warned.
FEDA research contradicts the common view that people from housing estates - more likely to be working class, with low incomes, or from ethnic minorities - are more likely to drop out of further and higher education than their less marginalised counterparts.
Published this week, the paper, Access to Education and Training: High Density Residential Estates, found drop-out rates were "low" at 20 per cent among people from estates who had been to a further education college.
John Brenchley, director of training and consultancy at FEDA, said: "Colleges must help change the perceptions of students from housing estates through staff development programmes."
The report suggested that misconceptions combined with a funding council methodology which linked funding to "successful outcomes", deterred colleges and universities from committing themselves to opening their doors to more socially deprived groups.
The analysis of participation rates in three housing estates - the Ferrier Estate in Greenwich, the Pollards Estate in Merton and the Netherley Estate in Liverpool - found that 33 per cent of respondents who had left school with qualifications intended to attend a further education college.
FEDA calls for a national drive to monitor the take-up of places from estates, and incentives for further and higher education colleges to widen access.
"Outreach work needs to be developed to attract residents from estates," said Anna Reisenberger, head of participation and achievement at FEDA.
"By using strategies normally employed by community education organisations, identifying the education and training needs of people who live on estates and tailoring programmes to meet their needs, FE institutions can ensure they encourage participation among estate residents."