Poorer pupils in England ‘getting left behind’

30 Jul 19

The attainment gap between poorer students and the rest in England has stopped closing for the first time since 2011, a think-tank has said.

On average, disadvantaged children are now a year and a half behind their peers by the time they finish their GCSEs, according to a report released by the Education Policy Institute today.

The research looked at 2018 GCSE results and found the gap had widened slightly by 0.2 months since 2017, despite overall attainment continuing to rise.

Although progress to slow the attainment gap between poorer students and the rest had slowed down recently, 2018 is the first year it had stopped closing since 2011, the EPI found. 

EPI executive chairman David Laws said this poses a “major setback” for social mobility.

He said: “Recent progress on narrowing the education gap between poor children and the rest has ground to a halt.

“Indeed, the very poorest children are actually further behind now than they were a decade ago - they are almost two years of learning on average behind other children by the time they take their GCSEs.

"Educational inequality on this scale is bad for both social mobility and economic productivity.”

EPI found the gap went from six months in some parts of the country to two years in others, and in some areas of the North the gap is growing.

And some demographics, such as black Caribbean pupils, were falling further behind than their white British counterparts.

Laws said the report should act as a “wake up call” for new prime minster Boris Johnson, and called for evidence-based policies to close the gap.

This was echoed by report author Jo Hutchinson, who warned we should be “sceptical of rhetoric about social injustices that is not matched by a credible plan and resources”.

Pupils with special educational needs remain the furthest behind.

The Local Government Association called on Mr Johnson to give councils more money to spend on schools.

Chair of the Children and Young People Board Anntoinette Bramble said: “Councils have an excellent track record in improving schools, and need to be given the necessary powers to intervene and support all failing schools, including academies. 

“Yet all this good work is at risk if all schools aren’t adequately funded.

“This is why it is essential that the prime minister provides sustainable funding during the forthcoming Spending Review, and plugs the funding gap of up to £1.6 billion by 2021 that councils face supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities.”

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