Impact Goal One
Narrow the gap in literacy and numeracy at primary school
The Fair Education Alliance is committed to closing the attainment gap between primary schools serving lower income pupils and those serving higher income pupils. The goal is for this gap in reading, writing and maths to be narrowed by 90% by 2022. This gap stands at 1.76 points. Although it has closed from 1.94 points in 2010/11 (or by 9.1%), in 2013/14 it widened slightly by 0.02 points.
In 2013/14, pupils at primary schools serving low income communities were better served by their schools than they were in 2010/11. The attainment gap between schools in low/high income communities narrowed from 1.94 points in 2010/11 to 1.76 points, or by 9.1%. Although, this decrease over the three-year period is promising, in 2013/14 the attainment gap widened slightly by 0.02 points.
Early Years Foundation Stage
Children begin school at the age of four or five with considerable differences in English and maths skills. In
2014/15, 34% of children from poor families failed to achieve at least the expected level in numeracy at the end of the early years foundation stage (EYFS). This compared to 19% for their more advantaged peers. For literacy, the picture was even more concerning. Over 2 in 5 children from low income families failed to achieve at least the expected level at age five, in comparison to 1 in 4 of their more affluent peers. In addition, children from poor families were less likely to achieve at least the expected level in
communication and language at age 5 than their more affluent peers; in 2015, the proportion of children from poor families in this category was almost two times that of their more affluent peers.
This situation is not inevitable. Evidence shows that young children benefit from quality, age-appropriate, teaching and learning activities during early years education. Primary schools that are successful in closing the gap for their most disadvantaged pupils focus on the development of literacy and numeracy skills, along with support for attendance, behaviour, confidence building and resilience.
There is a lot more work to do in order to achieve this Impact Goal by 2022. Changes in the way the government measures success at KS2 – with levels removed and scaled scores replacing average points score (APS) – will complicate comparison over time. Additionally, schools are
developing their own measures to monitor pupil progress, with descriptions of a ‘national standard’ for the end of each key stage which will be used to estimate an ‘end point’ in this progress. The new system is focused on formative assessment, which is expected to provide better evaluation and feedback, enabling pupils to know where improvement is needed and how to achieve it.
The Regional Picture
The regional picture shows that the gaps in attainment at the end of EYFS (Map 1.1) for children from poor families are closing. However, children in some regions do better than others. At the end of EYFS, children from poor families in the South West of England are least likely to achieve a good level of development compared to their more advantaged peers. At school level (map 1.2), children at schools in low income
communities in the North East and London attain more highly than children at such schools in other regions of England; this is reflected in their higher average point scores. The smallest gaps between schools in low and high income communities are in the East of England, the North West and the West Midlands. The biggest gaps are in the South East and Yorkshire and the Humber, although overall the variation between regions is small. However, it still remains the case that areas with higher levels of poverty are better at supporting their most disadvantaged children. This may be because, with a higher
proportion of children from poor families, there is a more focused approach to their learning needs.
Closing The Gap
Since 2010/11, some progress has been made at the national level in closing the attainment gaps between
children at schools in low/high income communities. However, the regional picture shows more discrepancy. It highlights local authority areas where children at schools in low income communities are being let down by the education system; this is particularly acute in rural and coastal districts and areas with a relatively small proportion of children from poor families. In order to break this pattern of underachievement for some of the most disadvantaged children in England, the Alliance has identified the following four key areas where greater focus is required during the early years of education and through primary school: the role of parents, quality early years education, quality teaching
and learning, and school leadership.