The Education Policy Institute launch their new report exploring the progress made in closing the gap in attainment between disadvantaged pupils and their peers. It also considers how the gap varies across the country, how it is associated with other pupil characteristics, and how it has changed since 2007.
The report highlights both the progress which has been made in narrowing gaps over the last decade, and the significant challenges still faced - both due to the magnitude of these learning gaps and the very disappointing lack of progress for the most persistently disadvantaged pupils.
Whilst the report finds that the gap is closing the rate of change is very slow and that 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. In fact, disadvantaged pupils fall behind their more affluent peers by around 2 months each year over the course of secondary school.
The report indicates that without real improvement in the rate at which the gaps are being closed, it would take until almost 2070 before disadvantaged children did not fall further behind other students during their time in education.
The report recognises that some progress has been made in closing the gap for disadvantaged students in England but notes that the changes have not been cast enough nor consistent.
It remains the case that, on average, a disadvantaged pupil falls two months behind their peers for each year of their time at secondary school and, by the end of school, that disadvantaged pupil is almost two years behind.
The report puts forward that the disadvantage faced is not a societal one but instead that the gap is is one entrenched in our education system. The improvement in London gives evidence that a sustained focus, investment, and political will can lead to significant improvement and a real breakthrough for poor families.
The current system is delivering change far too slowly. On the current trend, it will take a staggering 50 years before the gap is closed and disadvantaged pupils finally achieve parity with their
more affluent peers.