Poorest pupils fall further behind peers, says think-tank

4 Aug 17

The poorest pupils have fallen further behind their non-disadvantaged peers since 2007, an Education Policy Institute report has found.

Disadvantaged pupils were last year on average 19.3 months behind their peers by the time they took their GCSEs, Closing the gap?, released yesterday, concluded.

It would take 50 years to close that gap at the current rate - with disadvantaged pupils falling behind their peers by 2 months each year over the course of secondary school – the think-tank stated.

The EPI found the disparity in attainment between disadvantaged children – defined as those eligible for the pupil premium - and their more affluent classmates is closing, but at a “very slow rate”.

This is “despite significant investment and targeted intervention programmes”, the think-tank noted.

Currently the government’s school budget stands at £42bn per annum.

Researchers found that the gap between disadvantaged 16 year old pupils and their peers has only narrowed by three months of learning between 2007 and 2016.

Over the same nine year period, the gap by the end of primary school narrowed by 2.8 months and the gap by age 5 narrowed by 1.2 months.

A spokesman for the EPI said: “In conclusion, we find that, while there has been some small improvement in closing the gap between disadvantaged pupil and their peers, it is taking far too long.

“If we carry on at this pace, we will lose at least a further three generations before equality of outcomes is realised through our education system.”

The Department for Education stated it was investing £2.5bn of additional funding this year into supporting disadvantaged pupils as it acknowledged “there is more to do”.

A spokesperson said: “We are determined to ensure that all children, regardless of their background, get the excellent education they deserve.

“Our data, which looks at the number of children who have been eligible for free school meals in the last six years, shows the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers has narrowed since 2011.”

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