The Social Mobility Commission has today warned that nearly 166,000 disadvantaged children who failed Sats tests which were reformed to make them more challenging and demanding should not be “disenchanted” by the education system.
The harder exams resulted in the proportion of free school meals pupils who passed the test dropping from 66 per cent in 2014/2015 to 35 per cent in 2015/2016.
In a landmark report, published today, the government commission gives a damning verdict on the school system’s capacity for improving social mobility.
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And it highlights how the Sats reforms, which began in 2014, were “quickly implemented” and that there was “simply not enough time for schools to prepare children adequately”.
The report states: “The way in which the reforms were implemented made reaching the expected level more difficult for a greater proportion of disadvantaged 11-year-olds than before. It is imperative to ensure the nearly 166,000 disadvantaged children, who failed the test in 2016 and 2017, are not disenchanted by the education system, as they move through their secondary schools and beyond.”
The report also highlights how the reform of GCSEs has widened the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their more advantaged peers.
It highlights the English Baccalaureate, which encourages pupils to study certain subjects at GCSE, as being “a compromise in the breadth of learning” and states: “The breadth within the school experience is particularly important for children from disadvantaged backgrounds because children from more advantaged backgrounds are more likely to have such exposure elsewhere.”
The report, launched today in central London, also criticises the decline in breadth of A level subjects, partly due to the need to make savings, as impacting the most on disadvantaged students.
In particular, it highlights the decline in modern languages entries stating: “The reason proficiency in a modern language appears to be beneficial for social mobility is because the skill can prepare young people for future employment opportunities in an increasingly globalised economy and it enhances one’s cultural agility, which in turn can improve prospects in the global labour market.”
The report also calls on Ofsted to 'move beyond' 'harmful' inspection grades which can ‘obscure schools strengths’ and ‘enhance social imbalance.’