The attainment gap between the most disadvantaged pupils and their peers has worsened over the past decade, analysis of government data has revealed.
Analysis by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) found that children defined as “persistently disadvantaged” – those who are entitled to free school meals for 80 per cent of their time at secondary school – are on average more than two years (24.3 months) behind their peers in terms of academic achievement by the end of secondary school, an increase of 0.3 months on figures recorded for 2007.
The study also found that progress has been made in narrowing the attainment gap for “disadvantaged” pupils, defined as those who are entitled to Pupil Premium funding, but it warns that this gap is closing “slowly and inconsistently” – despite considerable investment and targeted intervention programmes by the government.
While the overall gap for this group has narrowed by three months since 2007, much of this gain is made in primary school. The analysis found that, during secondary school, disadvantaged pupils fall behind their peers at a rate of around two months per year.
“Our research finds that the most persistently disadvantaged pupils in England have fallen even further behind their peers, with their attainment gap at the end of secondary having grown since 2007,” said Jo Hutchinson, the Education Policy Institute’s director for social mobility and vulnerable learners.
“At the current rate of progress, it would take a full 50 years to reach an equitable school system where disadvantaged pupils did not fall further behind their peers between the ages of five and 16.”
The research found that disadvantaged pupils at schools on the Isle of Wight face the biggest attainment gap, being two years and five months behind their peers by the time they leave secondary school. Other areas that have larger than average attainment gaps for disadvantaged pupils include Derby, Cumbria, South Gloucestershire and Knowsley.