The State of the Nation

Why we need to act

The achievement gap between poorer children and their more affluent peers begins long before they start primary school and widens throughout their education. Children from low income communities often fall behind in literacy and numeracy at primary school, achieve fewer good GCSEs at secondary school and are less likely to attend and graduate from a top university. All of this has a negative impact on their future health, happiness and career prospects. 

 

Primary school attainment:

Impact Goal One: Narrow the gap in literacy and numeracy at primary school

The goal: 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.

The gap: According to Alliance measures, this gap is 1.76 points. Although this gap has decreased from 1.94 points in 2010/11 or by 9.1%, it increased slightly by 0.02 points during 2013/14.

 

Secondary school attainment:

Impact Goal Two: Narrow the gap in GCSE attainment at secondary school

The goal: The Fair Education Alliance is committed to closing the attainment gap between secondary schools serving lower income pupils and those serving higher income pupils. Our goal is to close this gap by 44% by 2022.

The gap: According to Alliance measures, this gap is 79 points . In 2013/14, this gap closed by 17.1%. However, these figures should be interpreted with caution. The narrowing is very likely to be due to changes in assessment methods, hindering accurate comparisons.

 

Character, emotional Wellbeing and mental health

Impact Goal Three: Ensure young people develop key strengths, including character, emotional wellbeing and mental health, to support high aspirations

The goal: The Fair Education Alliance recognises that this goal underpins all of the impact goals and is committed to ensuring young people develop the character, wellbeing and mental health they need to succeed in life. The Alliance is working with other organisations to develop measurement tools which will allow us to understand this area more.

The gap: Over the year, our knowledge and understanding of the area has evolved, moving us closer to the development of measuring tools. Uniting behind a set of these tools will be a strategic priority for the Alliance over the next two years. In the interim, although we cannot quantify change in young people’s development of the character, wellbeing and mental health needed to succeed in life, we have a better understanding of the area through developments in policy and research. Last year, permanent and fixed period exclusions were identified as quantitative measures to aid our understanding of the national picture in this area. Across this measure, the gap has increased over the year; children and young people from poor families were more likely than last year to receive a fixed period exclusion or to be permanently excluded when compared to their more affluent peers.

 

Further Education

Impact Goal Four: Narrow the gap in the proportion of young people taking part in further education or employment-based training after finishing their GCSEs

The goal: The Fair Education Alliance wants to see an increase in the number of young people from schools serving low income communities who stay in further education or employment-based training once they have completed Key Stage 4 (KS4). Our goal is for 90% of young people from schools serving low income communities to be in post-16 education or employment-based training by 2022; currently this figure is 84.9%. In light of changes to the participation age, the Alliance will focus on an increase in the number of
young people from low income communities who stay in further education or employment-based training once their post-16 education has ended.

The gap: According to Alliance measures for 2012/13, the gap between those from schools serving low and high income communities staying in education after KS4 has remained constant at 7 percentage points.

 

Higher Education

Impact Goal Five: Narrow the gap in university graduation, including from the 25% most selective universities

The goal: The Fair Education Alliance is committed to closing the graduation gap between young people from low income backgrounds and those from high income backgrounds. Our goal is for at least 5,000 more students from low income backgrounds to graduate each year, with 1,600 of these graduating from the most selective universities.

The gap: According to Alliance measures, the gap of 17 percentage points (2012/13) between the proportion of students from low income and high income families going on to university has closed by one percentage point.

Other trends: This gap is also closing for young people from poor families who were more likely to enter a medium or low tariff university than they were in 2014; the gaps between these young people and their more advantaged peers have closed by 0.2 percentage points and 0.1 percentage points respectively.

This gap, however, is not closing for young people from poor families accessing selective universities. In 2015, the gap between young people from poor families and their more advantaged peers entering a high tariff university increased by 0.1 percentage point. Entry to any university is variable across England; whilst some regions do very well in helping young people from poor families go to university, others underperform compared to the rest of the country.

In 2015, the gap between young people from poor families and their more advantaged peers entering university in the North East and the East Midlands increased by 1 percentage point; this gap for Yorkshire and the Humber remained unchanged. In 2014, the proportion of young people from advantaged families who went to a Russell Group university increased by one percentage point, whilst that of their less advantaged peers remained the same.