News | Published February 23 2019

Attainment gap in schools widening social mobility report finds

The attainment gap in schools could widen without direct action, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility concluded as part of a long-running enquiry this week.

The report, published in tandem with the not-for-profit organisation Sutton Trust, found that "exam results between pupils from different social backgrounds, is one of the key challenges" facing the education system in the UK.

The group, who ran the enquiry during the 2017-2018 school year, said that the attainment gap will have a significant impact on a student's social mobility later in life.

"Children with poor vocabulary age five are more than twice as likely to be unemployed aged 34," the report stated.

In response to their findings, the group have called for the provision of additional funding to be directed at some of the poorest children, living in some of the most deprived areas in the UK.

They have also recommended that for a school to be rated "outstanding" it must offer support to other schools in the local area.

Similarly, they encouraged local authorities to encourage and facilitate further collaboration "including between schools, universities, local services and businesses".

Jaine Stannard, the CEO of education charity School Home Support, stated: "As a charity working on the frontline, supporting some of the poorest children and families in the country, we understand all too well that educational inequality starts before school even begins – and cannot be solved in the classroom alone.

"Therefore, as decision makers look to determine what kinds of interventions will effectively address the mounting issues of social mobility ‘cold spots’, we want to emphasise this: it is not enough to support disadvantaged pupils in school if they go home each day to an unsupported family, in a difficult home environment.

"That’s why pastoral support for the child’s whole family – provided by specialists that are trained and well-connected in the local community – is crucial to level the playing field for disadvantaged pupils and close the attainment gap."

The report also found that funding has a more significant impact on the development and education of disadvantaged pupils than it does on their peers.

This echoes the calls of Steven Rose, the acting headteacher at Charlton Primary School, who spoke to The Parliamentary Review during the teachers march in September.

Steven remarked that the funding restrictions were not allowing teachers to provide the “first class education that students deserve". He also told the Review that he has seen “services cut and costs on the rise".

As part of the report the findings were analysed geographically, with disadvantaged pupils in the northeast of England shown to have worst exam results.

It did stipulate that results cannot simply be put down to a "north/south divide", as pupils in the southeast and southwest also experience a significant attainment gap.

Authored by

William Winter
February 23 2019

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