Attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils narrows

By Joe Lepper

| 13 December 2018

The attainment gap between disadvantaged primary school pupils and their peers is continuing to narrow, government figures show.

School standards minister Nick Gibb said every child, regardless of their background, deserves a high-quality education. Picture: UK Parliament

Statistics published by the Department for Education show that 51 per cent of disadvantaged pupils reached the expected standard in reading, writing and maths in their end of primary school tests, known as Sats, compared with 70 per cent of other pupils - a gap of 19 percentage points.

This compares with a 20 percentage point gap the previous year, when 47 per cent of disadvantaged pupils and 67 per cent of their peers reached the expected standard. In 2016 the gap was 21 percentage points, with 39 per cent of disadvantaged pupils and 60 per cent of other pupils reaching the expected level.

Disadvantaged pupils are defined as those who have been eligible for free school meals at any point in the last six years or are in, or have left, care.

Analysis of the figures by the BBC estimates that at the current slow pace of change it will take 50 years for the achievement gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers to close.

The figures also show that the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers achieving the best grades in the three subject areas widened between 2016 and 2018, from five percentage points to eight.

In 2016 two per cent of disadvantaged pupils achieved higher marks, compared with seven per cent of their peers. But in 2018 four per cent of disadvantaged pupils achieved high marks, compared with 12 per cent of their peers.


The statistical release for end of primary school tests also includes a disadvantage gap index, which measures whether disadvantaged pupils rank higher or lower than their peers since 2011. The gap by this measure has narrowed by three per cent in the last year and by 13.2 per cent since 2011.

School standards minister Nick Gibb said: "Every child, regardless of their background, deserves a high-quality education and opportunity to fulfil their potential."

The attainment gap between primary school pupils with special educational needs (SEN) and their peers is also slowly narrowing, after widening the previous year.

This year 21 per cent of pupils with SEN reached the expected standard in reading, writing and maths in their end of primary school tests, compared with almost three quarters (74 per cent) of their peers.

This 53 percentage point gap compares with a 52 percentage point gap in 2017, when 18 per cent of pupils with an SEN and 70 per cent of their peers achieved this standard.

In 2016 the gap was 46 percentage points, when 15 per cent of pupils with an SEN and 60 per cent of other pupils achieved this standard.

The gap between pupils with SEN and their peers achieving higher marks at their end of primary school tests has widened markedly over the last three years, the figures also show.

Since 2016 only one per cent of pupils with SEN achieved higher marks. In contrast, in 2016 six per cent of their peers achieved the same standard, rising to 10 per cent in 2017 and 12 per cent this year.

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