GCSE attainment gap for disadvantaged students widens

Students sitting exam in hall
by Hayley Pearce | 31 July 2019

Gap at end of secondary school will close in 500 years at this rate

The difference in GCSE grades for disadvantaged and nondisadvantaged students in England grew from 2017 to 2018, a study has revealed.

The Education Policy Institute’s Education for England: Annual Report 2019 shows that, while the disadvantage gap continues to narrow in primary phase, the Key Stage 4 gap has widened slightly.

Disadvantaged pupils were found to be 18.1 months behind their nondisadvantaged peers in terms of years of learning in 2018 for English language and Maths, up by 0.2 months from 2017.

If this current trend continues, the disadvantage gap for GCSE attainment would close in the year 2581.

Disadvantage gaps tend to be higher in the North

In 2018, there were 17 local authorities where the disadvantage gap was already six months by the age of five. These were mostly in the North West.

At age 16, the largest disadvantage gaps were equivalent to more than two years of learning. These were more concentrated in the North.

The authorities with the largest increases in the secondary school disadvantage gap since 2012, of around five months, were in the North West (Bury, Halton and Wigan).

The authorities with the largest reductions in the secondary gap were in London.

Attainment of pupils by ethnic background remains consistent

Similarly to rent years, in 2018 Chinese and Indian pupils attained significantly higher than White British students, and are ahead by 24.8 and 14.2 months respectively.

Pupils from any other Asian background and pupils from White Irish background are ahead of White British pupils by 10.6 and 9.6 months respectively.

The pupils from any other Asian background have raced further ahead since 2011 (by an additional 4.5 months, as have Bangladeshi pupils (by 4.3 months), Chinese pupils (by 2.6 months) and Black African pupils (by 2.4 months).

Ethnicities that remain behind White British pupils include those from Gypsy and Roma backgrounds (by 34.1 months), Travellers of Irish Heritage (by 28.9 months), Black Caribbean pupils (by 9.3 months) and Pakistani pupils (by 0.5 months).

Black Caribbean pupils have fallen further behind White British pupils since 2011 by an additional 2.2 months, while Pakistani pupils were 3.4 months behind White British pupils in 2011, and have now narrowed that gap.

Post-16 education is ‘increasingly segregated’

In 2017, the Education Policy Institute's 'segregation index' was 21.8 per cent – which represents a continued increase in segregation since 2013 (when it stood at 21.0).

The study found that there is over-representation of disadvantaged students in further education institutions, employment or 'unknown or un-sustained destination', and an under-representation in sixth forms, college and apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships were designed to support social mobility, but while the proportion of disadvantaged young people taking up apprenticeships has risen in recent years, so has the proportion of nondisadvantaged young people.

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