The gap between disadvantaged pupils in England – children eligible for free school meals – and their peers is equivalent to one whole maths GCSE grade.
England would have to double the number of disadvantaged pupils achieving top GCSE grades in maths to match some of the best countries in the world, a new report has found. The country is in the bottom half of developed nations for the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers in maths, analysis from thinktank Education Policy Institute (EPI)and UCL Institute of Education (IOE) academics has revealed.
Just one in 10 disadvantaged pupils in England achieve the top GCSE grades in maths, while nearly twice as many disadvantaged pupils in Singapore achieve these top grades.
The report concludes that the countries that achieve both high academic performance and equity between pupils from different backgrounds tend to avoid selection by ability, streaming and setting – and they have a significant focus on attracting and retaining high-quality teachers.
Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said: “This report confirms that the government’s education reform programme has failed some of our most disadvantaged learners. This should be a national scandal and education ministers should be ashamed of their record." She added: “The government’s inability to confront the harmful practice of ability grouping, coupled with its desire to further expand selective schools, will exacerbate the challenges highlighted in this report and further entrench educational disadvantage.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “We have to improve outcomes for disadvantaged students, and the greatest barrier in doing so is teacher shortages, which are particularly acute in schools with high levels of disadvantage because these schools often face the greatest recruitment challenges. It cannot be a coincidence that maths outcomes for disadvantaged pupils are the most concerning finding in this report given that teacher shortages are very severe in this subject.” He added: “The government must do more to ensure they have the vital resources of teachers and funding – both of which are in desperately short supply.”