Pupils in poorer areas are half as likely to have access to an "outstanding" secondary school than their wealthier peers, according to new research.
The study by Teach First also found that deprived areas are five times more likely to be served by a school rated less than good.
The teacher training and social mobility charity published the research to coincide with a new campaign, "Challenge the impossible", which aims to break the “class ceiling” – which means a child’s background is the biggest factor in their chances of future success.
According to Teach First’s analysis, only 18 per cent of children from the poorest fifth of families in the UK attend an "outstanding" school, compared with 43 per cent of those from the richest fifth.
Nearly all secondary schools (93 per cent) in the richest areas are rated "outstanding" or "good" by Ofsted, compared with just two thirds of schools (67 per cent) in the poorest areas.
While just 7 per cent of secondaries in the richest areas “require improvement” or are “inadequate”, this rises to 36 per cent of schools in the poorest areas.
But while poorer families have unequal access to good schools, a survey commissioned by the charity found that parents have equally high aspirations for their children, irrespective of their income.
The ComRes poll of over 2,000 adults – including 1,000 parents – found that 87 per cent felt their child going to a secondary school rated "outstanding" or "good" was “important” or “very important”, with only small variations between social grades.
However, there were differences in the likelihood of parents to challenge decisions about school places.
The poll found that 77 per cent of the wealthiest parents said that if their child didn’t get their first choice of secondary school they would be likely to appeal, whereas only 68 per cent of the poorest parents said they would.
'The biggest problem'
Brett Wigdortz, chief executive and founder of Teach First, said the lack of social mobility was “the biggest problem” Britain faced.
“These barriers are preventing us from achieving a country that works for everyone; where opportunities are available for all, not an impossible dream for many,” he said.
Teach First said that students from poorer backgrounds faced hurdles throughout their entire educational journey.
In early years, half a million children – disproportionately from low income backgrounds – were not school ready by the age of 5, the charity said.
At secondary school, it pointed out that only one in three teenagers from low income backgrounds achieved five GCSEs at grades A*-C, compared to twice as many teenagers from wealthier backgrounds.
And in higher education, young people from better backgrounds were 5.9 times more likely to go to the most selective universities.
Mr Wigdortz said: “Even those who manage to break down barriers early on in their life are still likely to struggle later on.
“We are now calling upon the government and society as a whole to challenge this, by working together to help provide every child the opportunity to smash through the so called ‘class ceiling’ and reach their life's potential.”
NUT, general secretary, Kevin Courtney, said: “Teach First are right to point out that poverty does have a negative impact on children’s educational achievement. Poverty blights children’s and parents lives and is a problem that successive governments have failed to address. It is this failure that is the elephant in the room of every education debate.
“Schools, however, cannot rectify the problems on their own. Teachers work tirelessly to ensure all children get the education they deserve regardless of background but nevertheless poverty holds children back. Cuts to school budgets and local authority support services mean many head teachers are struggling to provide the resources and extra-curricular activities that are so important in bridging economic disadvantage."