News | Published July 30 2019

Disadvantaged pupils "18 months behind" by time of GCSEs

Disadvantaged pupils, defined as those eligible for free school meals, are 18 months behind other pupils on average in terms of academic achievement according to a study by the Education Policy Institute.

This comes in spite of the Department for Education pledging £2.4 billion per year to supporting pupils from economically deprived backgrounds.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb says that the government is "investing £2.4bn this year alone through the pupil premium to help the most disadvantaged children" and pointed out that the gap in achievement at both primary and secondary school level is slimmer than it was back in 2011.

If progress continues at the same rate, the EPI says that it will take until around 2581 to close the gap in academic achievement in terms of GCSE results.

EPI chairman David Laws says that the figures are a “major setback for social mobility”.

Jo Hutchinson, responsible for writing the report, says that “the gap between poorer pupils and their peers at GCSE level has stopped closing” for the first time in some years.

The north of England has been highlighted as a problem area, with the aptitude deficit equivalent to around two years in Blackpool and Rotherham.

The gap in achievement in the major city of Sheffield is also above-average and the gap is widening in other places.

Further south, Portsmouth and Kent were identified as problem areas but in London, the gap between poorer pupils and their peers is below average by some distance.

The report also differentiated between ethnic groups, with disadvantaged black Caribbean pupils performing "particularly poorly" when measured up to their peers. Pakistani pupils have also returned lower results compared to white British pupils.

Meanwhile, on average, Chinese pupils are more than two years ahead of white British pupils, while Indian and white Irish pupils are also performing better than their white British counterparts.

At primary school level, the overall gap for poorer pupils has seen a slight decrease but at secondary school level the gap is widening based on GCSE results in English and mathematics.

David Laws feels that the progress that has been made on "narrowing the education gap between poor children and the rest has ground to a halt.”

Meanwhile, Julie McCulloch, of the ASCL head teachers' union, said the "report makes for grim reading”, pointing the finger at “severe financial pressures” on schools which have forced cutbacks on the individual support it can offer to underachieving pupils.

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
July 30 2019

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