No improvement in school performance in England for 20 years, report says | Education

The learning gap between poorer students and their wealthy classmates is now as great as it was 20 years ago, according to a scathing new report that says the coronavirus pandemic will likely have widened educational inequalities

The landmark study, based on research conducted for the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, found that underprivileged students start school behind their wealthy peers, and those inequalities persist through their school years and beyond — ultimately affect profits.

The authors state that there is overwhelming evidence that the education system in England is leaving too many young people behind, and despite decades of policy focus, there has been little or no shift in the differences in educational attainment among children from different backgrounds.

The report said: “Despite decades of policy focus, there has been virtually no change in the ‘backwardness gap’ in achieving GCSE over the past 20 years. While achieving GCSE has increased over time, 16-year-olds eligible for free school meals are still about 27 percent less likely to achieve good GCSEs than less-disadvantaged peers.

At the start of their educational journey, only 57% of English pupils eligible for free school meals achieved a good level of development at the end of care in 2019, compared to 74% of their well-to-do peers, the report said.

Failure is “ingrained” at a young age, the authors say. Less than half of underprivileged children reached the expected level at the end of primary school, compared to almost 70% of their well-to-do peers. Of those who achieve the expected level, only 40% of disadvantaged pupils achieve good GCSEs in English and Mathematics, compared to 60% of wealthy pupils.

Perhaps the greatest failure of the education system, the report suggests, is that for those who drop out of school with bad GCSEs, there is a lack of a clear path and “second chances”, leaving millions of people at a disadvantage throughout their lives.

The report finds that the relationship between family background and education level is not limited to the poorest, but that educational performance improves as family income increases. Just over 10% of young people in middle-income families achieved at least one A or A* grade at GCSE, compared to a third of students from the richest tenth of families.

These inequalities lead to huge pay gaps, the report says, noting that by the age of 40 the average British worker with a degree earns twice as much as someone qualified to GCSE level or below.

“These challenges will become more acute,” the report concludes. “The Covid-19 pandemic has put enormous pressure on the education system, with significant learning loss in general and a massive increase in educational inequality.

“Perhaps even more damaging in the longer term are the social, emotional and behavioral effects of missing out on classroom learning and formative experiences during the lockdowns.”

Imran Tahir, research economist at IFS and author of the report, said: “We cannot expect the education system to overcome all differences between children from different family backgrounds. But the English system could be much better.

“If the government wants to fulfill its mission to have 90% of students reach the expected level by the end of primary school [as stated in its recent schools white paper]it should prioritize the education system and especially the underprivileged students within it.”

Bridget Phillipson, the shadow secretary of education, said: “Some 12 years of Conservative governments have utterly failed to address the inequalities in the education system, which leave our children behind and hinder young people’s opportunities and life chances.

“200,000 primary school children do not have access to a good or excellent school, teachers are leaving our schools in record numbers, GCSE rates of children with free school meals are falling. The Tories mess with school structures, not to improve children’s outcomes.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, added: “Government policy is in a rut of pointless goals, empty rhetoric and appalling funding levels.

“We need to invest in early childhood education, better support for schools facing the greatest challenges, funding for schools and education beyond 16 to meet needs, and rethinking qualifications and curriculum so they work well for all. pupils.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said: “Since 2011, we have reduced the education gap between underprivileged students and their peers at every stage of education up to the pandemic, and recent figures show a record percentage of the most disadvantaged students move on to higher education. education.

“As part of our work to increase opportunities for all, we have invested nearly £5bn to help young people recover from the impact of the pandemic – with more than 2 million tutoring courses now launched by the students they care about most. need – in addition to an ambitious target for 90% of children to leave primary school with the expected level in reading, writing and math by 2030.”

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