The Government came under fire this week for scrapping the collection and publication of data on the proportion of school-leavers from state and independent schools intending to enter higher education.
Jeff Rooker, the former Labour higher education spokesman, said it was "quite unaccepatable" that the School Examinations Survey, through which the information was compiled, had been abandoned.
Statistics gathered by the annual survey in the 1980s had shown that students from the independent sector were about five times more likely to go to college than those from state schools, Mr Rooker said. By 1991, the ratio was about four to one.
But Mr Rooker's attempts to update this information were met with a reply in the House of Commons from schools under secretary Robin Squire that the Government no longer collected the data, which gave a percentage of school leavers planning to take a degree or teacher training course for both the state and independent sectors. Mr Squire said: "The decision to abandon the SES is part of a move towards securing the department's examination statistics directly from the examination boards and groups. The new source provides more comprehensive and accurate figures, although it cannot identify school leavers."
He added that there were "significant cost savings" to be realised once the SES had been discontinued, which helped offset the added burden on schools in providing data for the school and college performance tables, published this week.
Mr Rooker said the decision meant the loss of a "valuable social and educational indicator of how the public resource of higher education is being used". He added: "Expansion of entry to higher education cannot hide the fact that it appears places can be bought via the independent sector. It is essential that the situation can be monitored."