While some progress has been made in narrowing the attainment gap between richer and poorer students, new research suggests that this progress has stalled in recent years.
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According to the Fair Education Alliance – a coalition of 250 groups striving to tackle inequality within education – disadvantaged pupils have fallen further behind their better-off peers at both primary school and GCSE levels since 2012. This means that they are now at their furthest point behind since the coalition began monitoring attainment levels.
One of the key reasons for this widening of the gap is said to be the impact of Covid-19. The pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities, with schools in more deprived areas often having less access to resources and support than those in more affluent areas. This has had a knock-on effect on attainment levels, with poorer students struggling to catch up with their better-off peers.
The Fair Education Alliance is calling for urgent action to close the attainment gap, including more investment in schools in deprived areas and targeted support for disadvantaged pupils. Without this, it warns that the gulf between rich and poor will continue to grow, entrenching inequalities and holding back social mobility.
In addition, the alliance is calling for a new national strategy for education, which would put closing the attainment gap at the heart of everything that is done. This would involve a joined-up approach across government, with every department working to address the root causes of inequality. Only by taking this comprehensive and coordinated action will we stand any chance of giving every child an equal opportunity to succeed.
The government has said that it is committed to narrowing the attainment gap and has pointed to its recent investment in school infrastructure as proof of this. However, the Fair Education Alliance argues that much more needs to be done to make real progress on this issue. We urge the government to take heed of their recommendations and put in place a comprehensive strategy for tackling educational inequality. Only then will we start to see real change.
Do you think more should be done to close the attainment gap between richer and poorer students? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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