The attainment gap between children who are "long-term disadvantaged" and their peers has been growing in recent years, new research reveals.
The research examines the academic results of children who are eligible for the pupil premium: those who have been entitled to claim free school meals (FSM) at least once in the past six years.
The researchers separated these children into four groups, depending on how long they had been eligible for free school meals, and looked at how their average grade in GCSE subjects compared with the national average in each year since 2008.
They found that all four groups have been below the national average in each year, but only the group of those who had been eligible for FSM the longest – dubbed the "long-term disadvantaged" – had seen their attainment gap widen.
Attainment 'actually falling'
Education Datalab associate research fellow Mike Treadaway wrote: “Although attainment has been improving for some groups – those FSM-eligible for less than 60 per cent of their time in schools – the improvement has been small for pupils who were FSM-eligible for between 60 per cent and 90 per cent of the time.
“And for pupils who were FSM-eligible on almost every occasion the school census is taken (90 per cent or more of the time), their attainment, relative to the national average, has actually been falling.”
In 2008, attainment of this latter group was similar to children who had been FSM-eligible for 30-60 per cent of the time, and the 60-90 per cent of the time pupils.
However, the disadvantage gap for the 30-60 per cent group started to narrow from 2008, while that for the 60-90 group started to narrow in 2010.
In contrast, the gap between the long-term disadvantaged and the national average started to grow in 2010.
The government gives primary schools an extra £1,320, and secondaries £935, for each pupil who has been eligible for the free schools meals in the past six years, and Ofsted inspectors are told to “take particular account of the progress made by disadvantaged pupils from their starting points”.