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Disadvantaged children twice as likely to miss out on top GCSE grades

The Sutton Trust has called on government to boost support for highly able pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds after their study found that across all children, 15% of pupils who scored in the top 10%t nationally at age 11 in their Sats tests failed to get in the top 25% at GCSE level.

24% of disadvantaged girls were found to underperform in their GCSEs.

The Sutton Trust has called on the government to create a national programme with ringfenced funding for highly able state school pupils. It also wants:

  • All schools to be made accountable for the progress of their most-able pupils.
  • Schools that are already successfully catering for highly able pupils to be invited to consider providing extra-curricular support to expand the "horizons and aspirations of children living in the wider area".
  • Schools to be encouraged to use pupil premium funding to improve the support that bright pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds receive.

The report found that areas with high levels of "missing talent" included Lambeth, Knowsley, Nottingham, Stoke, and Tower Hamlets.

Lee Elliot Major, chief executive of the Sutton Trust described the report’s findings a “scandal”, adding that they highlight a “tragic waste of talent”. 

“The fact that a pupils’ chance of reaching their full potential is linked to their background tells us that we urgently need to do more to make sure that our most able students have the support and advice they need to thrive,” he said. 


“This attainment gap is holding many young people back from gaining the grades they need to get to the best universities.”