Disadvantaged GCSE pupils nearly a year and a half behind their peers

PUBLISHED: 11:35 05 August 2019 | UPDATED: 12:08 05 August 2019

Students carry bags and books. Picture: Ben Birchall PA Archive/PA Images

Students carry bags and books. Picture: Ben Birchall PA Archive/PA Images

PA Archive/PA Images

Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in Devon are nearly 18 months behind their peers by the time they finish their GCSEs, new figures reveal.

In its annual report, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) found pupils on free school meals in the county were, on average, one year and seven months behind their peers at the end of secondary school.

For the first time in several years, the difference in GCSE scores between poorer pupils and their peers has widened slightly.

Disadvantaged students in England, defined as pupils who have been eligible for free meals for at least 80 per cent of their time at school, persistently trail behind by an average of almost two years.

In Devon, almost a fifth of secondary school students are disadvantaged - around one in 12 pupils have been eligible for most of their school lives.

The EPI's report examines the progress made in closing the gap in educational ability for less affluent pupils.

David Laws, executive chairman of the EPI, said: "Educational inequality on this scale is bad for both social mobility and economic productivity, and this report should be a wake up call for our new prime minister.

"Recent progress on narrowing the education gap between poor children and the rest has ground to a halt, and we need a renewed evidence-based policy drive to change this."

Responding to the EPI's annual report, school standards minister Nick Gibb said that the disadvantage gap had 'narrowed considerably' since 2011.

He said: "During that time, this government has delivered a range of reforms to ensure that every child, regardless of their background, gets a high-quality education."

Angela Rayner, shadow secretary of state for education, blamed the Government for squeezing school budgets, and promised that Labour would 'end Tory cuts'.

She said: "Sadly, there is no reason to expect that will change with the new Prime Minister and Education Secretary, who are intent on handing out yet more massive tax giveaways to the super-rich rather than investing in all our children."

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