Schools have been attacked for not doing enough to improve poorer pupils’ exam results by a critical new report on social mobility. There is a “shocking gap” in performance between schools, according to the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.
The report analysed the GCSE results of secondaries with similar proportions of pupils eligible for free school meals and found that in the best performing schools more than 70 per cent of disadvantaged pupils achieved five good GCSEs including English and maths. By contrast, only 20 per cent did so in the weakest.
Commission chair and former Labour cabinet minister Alan Milburn said: “This research has unearthed a new and shocking gap in performance between similar schools serving similar communities with similar intakes of poorer pupils.
“But some schools are proving that deprivation needn’t be destiny. They have cracked the code on how to improve social mobility by helping disadvantaged children to excel in education. If some schools can do it, there is no excuse for others not to.”
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) hit back, saying that “attacking schools will not help to tackle deep-seated issues of social inequality”.
The report says that low expectations among some teachers may be part of the problem. A poll of more than 1,100 teachers carried out for the commission found that most had high expectations of their pupils. But more than a fifth (21 per cent) agreed that colleagues at their school had lower expectations of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Secondaries in London and Birmingham dominate the group of schools that have high proportions of disadvantaged pupils and do well with them, the report has found. The high-performing schools are also “very ethnically diverse”, with most having a majority of students from ethnic minority backgrounds.
The report also warns of the impact of reforms to exams.
“Constant changes to the examination system are making it more difficult for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to succeed," it says. "These issues need to be addressed as part of the response to this report. There are no simple answers to tackling disadvantage.”
Save the Children: Life chances determined by seven October 8 2013