Special Report: Narrowing the Attainment Gap


The gap between disadvantaged children and better-off peers is narrowing slowly, but policymakers are developing innovative programmes to boost the academic achievement of those struggling at school.

The gap in attainment between disadvantaged children and young people and their better-off peers has narrowed over the past decade, thanks in part to billions of pounds of pupil premium funding being targeted at the poorest schools.

However, the pace of improvement has slowed in recent years and at the current rate, it will take a century for the attainment gap to be eradicated altogether. This has caused policymakers and practitioners to search for new approaches to supporting disadvantaged children that can deliver quicker results.

Analysis of the most recent government data shows that on average disadvantaged children are 4.3 months behind in reception, 9.4 months behind at the end of primary school and 18.4 months behind when they take GCSEs.

Since 2016, the government has launched a series of funding and policy programmes aimed at improving social mobility. The focus of many is enhancing early education support in the most deprived areas so that children start school with more of the basic skills needed to learn.

More funding has also been targeted at helping looked-after children get additional support in an effort to address the historically low attainment of that group. Meanwhile, there are signs the introduction of virtual school heads has improved the academic performance of children in care.

CYP Now's special report on narrowing the attainment gap summarises key policies on the issue, assesses latest research on what works in improving the attainment of disadvantaged children, and profiles four projects that are succeeding in narrowing the gap.

Click on the links below for more:

Policy context

Research Evidence:

Context and Solutions

EasyPeasy: Evaluation in Newham: findings from the Sutton Trust Parental Engagement Fund (PEF) Project

Reading Recovery: Research and evaluation

Raising Achievement of All Learners

Practice Examples:

Children in care buck attainment trend

Programme makes pre-schoolers champions at maths

Tower Hamlets harnesses power of collaboration

Laying foundations for future attainment