Poor pupils fall further behind on results

18th March 2011 at 00:00

The achievement gap between pupils entitled to free school meals and their counterparts at the age of 15 has reached an all-time high, new figures show.

In 2006, the gap in the percentage of key stage 4 pupils gaining five A*-C GCSEs or equivalent qualifications, including English or Welsh and maths, was 29.5 percentage points - last year that had grown to 34 percentage points.

Known as the level 2 threshold, the target is one of the six key indicators the Assembly government is using to measure the progress of its Child Poverty Strategy, which was launched last month.

Although the performance of pupils eligible for free school meals is lower than their counterparts in all key stages, the gap has narrowed at KS1 and KS2 and remained stable at KS3.

Free school meal entitlement has often been used to measure the socio-economic conditions of a school's population, but critics point out that while there is a link between entitlement and achievement, many other factors affect results.

David Egan, professor of education at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, said the "strong and enduring" link between poverty and low attainment is one of the major weaknesses of Wales's education system.

"It's disappointing that the gap is widening given everything that has been done in recent years, particularly in relation to 14-19 policy," he said.

"It's another piece of evidence that shows there is a major issue that has to be tackled, and we have to step up our efforts."

Education minister Leighton Andrews recently outlined a series of actions to improve every aspect of the education system by raising literacy and numeracy standards and narrowing the equity gap.

An Assembly government spokesman said: "We will use every opportunity and policy lever available to break these links and ensure that children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds do just as well as their better off peers."

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today