Revealed: The best and worst parts of England for disadvantaged pupils

The chances of poorer children getting a decent education remain determined by where they happen to live, report suggests

Jonathan Owen

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The best and worst performing areas of England for disadvantaged pupils have been revealed today, highlighting what the Social Mobility Commission describes as a “stark social mobility postcode lottery”.

The commission’s annual State of the Nation report shows London boroughs dominating a list of the top 32 local authority areas, which have been ranked according to how well children from disadvantaged backgrounds do at school.

Children in London have better educational prospects than their peers elsewhere, according to the report.

The difference between London and the rest of England is down to factors such as a legacy of greater investment in recent years as well as having a supply of quality teachers, it says.

Around half (51 per cent) of London children on free school meals achieve A* to C in English and maths GCSE, compared with a third of pupils on free school meals in all other English regions, the report states.

The worst ranked parts of the country are dominated by rural and coastal areas, such as Knowsley in the North West and Hastings in East Sussex, as well as former industrial towns and cities. Corby in Northamptonshire is the worst performing local authority area in England. Cities such as Bradford, Oxford and Reading are also ranked in the bottom 32 of local authority areas.

A series of measures has been used by the commission to determine school social mobility, with the rankings based on indicators measuring access to quality schools as well as education outcomes.

These included the proportions of pupils eligible for free meals at "good" or "outstanding" primary and secondary schools, those reaching the expected standard in literacy and numeracy at the end of key stage 2 and the average Attainment 8 score per pupil.

Kensington and Chelsea is ranked as the best area in the country when it comes to the educational prospects of disadvantaged pupils.

Elizabeth Campbell, leader of Kensington and Chelsea, said: “It is hugely encouraging that our schools are among the best in the country for helping young people from all backgrounds have the opportunities to succeed in life. This is a credit to the teachers, schools and children in this borough – and the investment made by this council in our young people.”

Westminster is ranked as the third best performing area. This is due to “major investment in our schools going back nearly a decade,” according to Nickie Aiken, leader of Westminster City Council. She added: “That decision is now paying dividends, and shows that education is a real ladder to opportunity for young people growing up in London."

'A stong early years service'

Deprived parts of the capital are also among the best performing. Tower Hamlets is ranked as the fifth best. A Tower Hamlets council spokesperson said: “We are home to some of the most disadvantaged children and families in the UK, but we also have some of the best performing schools in the UK.

"We have invested in a strong early years service and have six 'outstanding' nursery schools. All of our primary schools are rated 'good' or better. A third of our primary schools are 'outstanding', as are over 40 per cent of our secondary schools. We have shown progress year on year and we will continue to improve so that young people can have a strong, well-rounded education”.

The highest-placed area outside the capital is Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire, ranked 15th-best. Debbie Mason, deputy leader of Rushcliffe Borough Council, told Tes: “We pride ourselves in Rushcliffe on being a great place and having great sport and a great lifestyle”. The council has created and supported initiatives in schools “with partners from business to ensure young people have the opportunity to develop their work experience and entrepreneurial skills”.

Philip Owen, chairman of the children and young people’s committee at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “One of the key drivers for social mobility is high aspirations and you can find this in abundance in Rushcliffe. Also, the support of parents is essential in the pursuit of good academic results."

Other parts of the country that are outside London but have managed to make the list of the best performing areas are Rutland, Fareham, Harborough, Uttlesford, South Tyneside, East Hertfordshire, Craven and North Kevesten.

Responding to the news that Corby is ranked as the worst performing local authority area in terms of social mobility for disadvantaged pupils, Tom Beattie, leader of Corby Borough Council, said: “We are, of course, disappointed to be at the bottom of the table in regards to school social mobility but we are very positive that things in Corby are moving in the right direction, working with the local enterprise partnership to address the issue of low educational attainment.'

He cited major investment in new schools in recent years, and added: "We by no means think that our job in Corby is done and understand that there are still issues to be tackled. However, this doesn’t happen overnight. We will continue to regenerate our borough and bring more diverse and skilled jobs to the area, working to increase the range of skills available, that will ensure Corby is a place of ample opportunity and somewhere that our young will want to live, work and bring up their own families".

Another of the worst performing areas is Hastings, which is ranked 20th from the bottom. An East Sussex County Council spokesperson said: “We are committed to working with the regional schools commissioner and all schools to drive up standards through our Excellence For All strategy. This enables us to work with education providers, parents and carers to ensure all children are taught in a school rated 'good' or 'outstanding' by Ofsted and are able to reach their full potential."

Here is the list of the best and worst areas in England when it comes to school social mobility for disadvantaged pupils, from the Social Mobility Commission's State of the Nation 2017 report:


School social mobility table

Source: Social Mobility Commission: State of the Nation 2017

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Jonathan Owen

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