Progress in closing the GCSE attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their wealthier classmates has come to a standstill, signalling “a major setback for social mobility”, according to a study by the Education Policy Institute thinktank. It estimated that it would take 560 years to close the gap if the recent five-year trend continued.
The most persistently disadvantaged pupils are now almost two years (22.6 months) behind their peers by the time they finish their GCSEs. The government’s own data showed that the average gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students by the end of secondary school went up from 17.9 months in 2017 to 18.1 months last year.
In Rotherham and Blackpool, poorer pupils lagged behind their peers by more than two years on average by the time they finished their GCSEs.
David Laws, EPI’s executive chairman, said the report showed, “We are now witnessing a major setback for social mobility in our country. Educational inequality on this scale is bad for both social mobility and economic productivity.”
Jo Hutchinson, the report’s author, said: “Rising average pupil attainment has not resulted in more equal outcomes for all, and we must be sceptical of rhetoric about social injustices that is not matched by a credible plan and resources.”