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Closing the gap

Successive governments have sought to improve social mobility in England so that young people, whatever their background, have the opportunity to succeed and fulfil their potential.

The report considers  how well the school system is serving disadvantaged young people. They measured the gap between disadvantaged pupils (those eligible for the Pupil Premium) and their peers and considered how that gap varies between local areas and whether it has closed over time.

Key findings:

  • The gap is closing, but at a very slow rate. Despite significant investment and targeted intervention programmes, the gap between disadvantaged 16 year old pupils and their peers has only narrowed by three months of learning between 2007 and 2016. In 2016, the gap nationally, at the end of secondary school, was still 19.3 months.
  • Disadvantaged pupils fall behind their more affluent peers by around 2 months each year over the course of secondary school. Over the same period (2007 – 2016), the gap by the end of primary school narrowed by 2.8 months and the gap by age 5 narrowed by 1.2 months.
  • At current trends, it would take around 50 years for the disadvantage gap to close completely by the time pupils take their GCSEs.
  • For pupils who are persistently disadvantaged (i.e. those that have been eligible for free school meals for 80 per cent or longer of their school lives), the gap at the end of secondary school has widened slightly since 2007, by 0.3 months. In 2016, it stood at 24.3 months, equivalent to over two years of learning. There is also significant variation across the country.
  • The disadvantage gap is generally smaller in London, the South and the East (16 to 18 months) while in the East Midlands and the Humber, the North and the South West, the gap is significantly larger, at 22 months by the end of Key Stage 4.
  • The gap becomes more prominent in rural areas by the end of secondary school.

 See the full report here.