Poorer GCSE pupils in Redbridge three months behind richer classmates
PUBLISHED: 12:00 01 September 2020
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Disadvantaged secondary school pupils in Redbridge are three months behind their better-off peers, new research reveals.
But the gap is among the smallest in England.
The Education Policy Institute said the failure to close the national attainment gap will alarm policymakers and undermine prime minister Boris Johnson’s “levelling up” agenda.
The annual report shows disadvantaged GCSE students in Redbridge were 2.7 months of learning behind their better-off peers nationally in 2019. This has shrunk by 0.6 months since 2012, however.
Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of the area’s secondary school pupils were classed as disadvantaged, meaning they were eligible for free school meals at any point in the past six years.
The figures also show that 10pc are defined as persistently disadvantaged – eligible for free school meals for 80pc or more of their school life.
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Researchers at the EPI said a rise in persistent poverty had stunted progress in closing the gap nationally over the past five years, with the poorest GCSE students still an average of 18.1 months behind.
Last year, the EPI estimated it would take more than 500 years to eliminate the education gap. This year’s data suggests the gap is no longer closing at all.
In Redbridge, disadvantaged five-year-olds trail their wealthier classmates by 2.5 months and primary school pupils are 4.6 months behind.
Jo Hutchinson, report author and director of social mobility and vulnerable learners at the EPI, said vulnerable children who have suffered abuse or neglect are at risk of falling further behind because of lockdown.
He added: “Our research shows that over the last two years an increasing number of children are living in long term poverty, and since these children are furthest behind in their learning, that is contributing to adverse trends in the national disadvantage gap.
“There is now abundant evidence that poverty and social vulnerability require urgent action both in and outside of school.”
A Department for Education spokesman said: “While the attainment gap had narrowed since 2011, many have had their education disrupted by coronavirus, and we cannot let these children lose out.”
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