Youth Response to the 2018 Report Card

In September 2018 we held our first Fair Education Youth Summit in partnership with Get2Learn, a youth advocacy group that works to get youth voice represented in the development of policy that will affect their future society.

With a commitment to improving the lives of young people, and ensuring the effectiveness of the work undertaken, Get2Learn and the FEA have collaborated to provide an insight into the views and proposals of young people in response to the FEA’s 2018 Report Card. The result of the Fair Education Youth Summit, this response explores two major themes of the report: university admissions, and provision of rounded education.

In this report, Get2Learn outlines what they see as being the cause of inequalities, and put forward key proposals that youth see as being integral to the progression of educational social mobility.

Read more here

Report Card 2018

Over 100 organisations call for a national commitment to reduce educational inequality as report finds poorer students are less than half as likely to pass GCSE English and maths than their wealthier peers.

The Fair Education Alliance, a coalition of over 100 organisations, has today published its fourth annual Report Card, measuring progress towards its five ‘Fair Education Impact Goals’ which aim to narrow the gaps between the most advantaged and least advantaged students at each stage of education including gaps in skills and wellbeing.

Key Messages from the Report

Progress has been too slow and patchy.  Large gaps between the most advantaged and least advantaged students still remain across the country, and some gaps have widened. Small gaps at primary school level grow through to GCSE and university admission, leaving poorer students playing catch up for the rest of their lives.

The report’s findings include:

  • Disadvantaged pupils are more than 8 months behind their peers in reading, writing, and maths by age 11
  • Disadvantaged children are less than half as likely to achieve passes in GCSE English and maths.

  • Children from low-income families continue to be four times as likely to be permanently excluded from school

  • After taking their GCSES, disadvantaged children are six times more likely to be recorded as not in education, employment or training

  • Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are nearly ten times less likely to go to a top university

The FEA believes improvements can be made and educational inequality reduced, but changes need to be rolled out everywhere to achieve this. There are pockets around the country where the gap is small and closing fast. We need to take proven strategies from these areas and change the system nationwide to ensure the benefits are felt by every child in every school.

The coalition has identified three priorities that can be achieved if measures are rolled out across the whole system to make education fairer for every child:

  1. World-class teachers and leaders, particularly in the most disadvantaged areas

  2. An education system which develops the whole child, promoting emotional and social competencies alongside academic attainment

  3. Joined up support for all post-16 destinations, giving every student a choice about their future

We cannot do this alone – The FEA is committed to working to achieve this vision but we need a shared commitment as a country – from parents, young people, teachers, government, and businesses. Only together can we drive the systemic changes that will make education fair.


Sam Butters, CEO of the Fair Education Alliance:

“We have seen progress in pockets across the country but it is not enough - systemic change now needs to be rolled out everywhere. We need to take proven strategies from these areas and change the system nationwide to ensure the benefits are felt by every child in every school. None of us can do this alone, we need a shared commitment as a country – from parents, young people, teachers, government, and businesses. Only together can we drive the systemic changes that will make education fair.”

Sir Richard Lambert, Chair of the Fair Education Alliance:

“These objectives are more important than ever in the current UK context, a period of economic and political uncertainty, and a time when the pressures that drive communities apart can sometimes feel more powerful than those that hold them together. Our evidence points to two firm conclusions. The first is that deprivation is not destiny: there are plenty of examples of communities that have dramatically improved their educational outcomes for young people despite tough economic circumstances. The second is that the economic gains that would arise from eliminating extreme underperformance in schooling would be very significant”

David Soanes, UK Head of Country, UBS:

“As a unique coalition of more than 100 members, combining powerful expertise and experience in addressing educational inequality, the FEA, in the period since the last report card, has brought increased collaboration, focus and momentum to this critical endeavour. We cannot be complacent. Progress is patchy; it needs to be faster and the headwinds are strong.”

Melanie Richards, Deputy Chair, KPMG in the UK:

“It is heartening to see from this report that in some parts of the country progress is being made in reducing the attainment gap. There is still a way to go if we are to level the playing field and remove the inequality that characterises the education and careers landscape in the UK. But this serves to reinforce our belief in the initiatives we are pursuing and gives us further motivation for the future.”

Andrew Ballheimer, Global Managing Partner, Allen & Overy:

“We are delighted to be part of the Alliance. It allows us to make a difference in a more concerted way and offers the chance to learn from others, which we value highly. As this report card makes clear, it is only through joined-up, system-wide action that we will turn the localised successes we have achieved to date into benefits for society as a whole.”

Notes to editors

For media enquiries please contact Joseph Dudley at during office hours, and Sam Butters via phone on 0776 682 7319 outside of office hours.

We would be happy to arrange broadcast appearances (Radio/TV) to discuss the report as well as print articles.

A full press kit with background notes and graphics can be found at


The Fair Education Alliance response to analysis of grammar school expansion

The Fair Education Alliance, a cross-sector coalition, continues to oppose the expansion of grammar school, and is disappointed by the results of the BBC’s analysis, published today, which show that grammar school places in England have grown by more than 11,000 since 2010.

There is clear evidence to show that selective education has a negative impact on social mobility and widens the gap between the most advantaged and most disadvantaged students. The BBC has found that less than 60% of grammar schools have a policy to give priority to poorer children, and that several schools admitted no free school meals students in the past year.

The Government’s £200 million expansion fund could have a huge impact if invested in programmes that are proven to have an impact on the lives of our most disadvantaged young people. Our education systems needs investment in early years education, in supporting teaching and leadership in hard-to-staff schools serving disadvantaged communities, and in building social and emotional skills for young people from all backgrounds.

Fair Education Alliance Contextualised Admissions 2018 Press Release

We are at a point where we need to move beyond the debate of if we should use contextualised data in admissions to widen participation to elite universities; instead we should be focusing on how to do it more efficiently and effectively.

Today we launch a Fair Education Alliance report (based on research from the University of Exeter) with calls to action on how we can improve the effectiveness of use of contextual data in admissions to higher education.

Please click here to view our report, and you can click here to view the full Exeter report.

The CEO of the Fair Education Alliance Sam Butters says “We want to see change in widening participation within the most selective universities. We know that parents’ income, the quality of school attended and a myriad of other background factors affect educational outcomes for young people, including how well they do in their exams and their likelihood of progressing to Higher Education. Contextualised admissions are a way of overcoming this challenge and recognising the additional barriers disadvantaged young people face but we need some changes to how the practice is being used for it to be effective.” 

Through this research we demonstrate how contextual data is used in practice at highly selective universities. In doing so, we share best practice across the sector; and make recommendations on how we can better ensure institutions have access to and use contextual data in ways that will make education in the UK fairer. The report’s findings include:

•    Many universities have undertaken new approaches to the admissions process, through ‘contextualisation’ in admissions processes; where data is matched to applicants to assess an applicant’s prior attainment and potential to succeed in higher education in the context of the circumstances in which their attainment has been obtained.
•    The use of contextualised data in admissions has become increasingly more accepted over the last five years and the practice more widespread.
•    Although now widely accepted, contextualising admissions are applied in a wealth of ways across HEI’s; and it is often unclear to applicants exactly which practices are undertaken.
•    Currently a wide range of approaches are adopted by institutions to determine how ‘disadvantage’ is defined; with issues of inconsistencies across the UK and a problem of missing data.
•    Most critically the variety of contextual data sources and measures used is making it difficult for potential applicants and their advisers to assess where and how their chances might be enhanced, and the benefit of encouraging more applicants from non-traditional backgrounds is lost.

In response to the findings, we propose several recommendations. These include:

•    Public buy-in and Office for Students (OfS) support for the practice
•    Improved access to relevant data for institutions
•    Accountability for institutions on relevant data measures
•    Increased transparency for applicants
•    Greater consistency around principles and terminology
•    Shared commitment to measuring impact on student outcomes

HE stakeholder commented:

“If you go back ten years plus, institutions were using [it] in very pioneering ways, and there were lightning bolts of criticism about the impact it might be having on standards and on potential applicants from more advantaged backgrounds. As contextualised data has been accepted and become more established, the debate has changed to how to do it more efficiently and effectively.” 

Notes to editors: 

For media enquiries during office hours, please contact Yasemin Aykut via email on
For media enquiries out of office hours, please contact Sam Butters via phone on 0776 682 7319

About the Fair Education Alliance:

The Fair Education Alliance was launched in June 2014 and is a coalition of 103 of the UK’s leading organisations from business, education and the third sector. The aim of the FEA is to work towards ending the persistent achievement gap between young people; from the most disadvantaged children to their more advantaged peers. The FEA believes that England must meet five impact goals to be achieved by 2022.

These impact goals are:

1.    Narrow the gap in literacy and numeracy at primary school
2.    Narrow the gap in GCSE attainment at secondary school
3.    Ensure young people develop key strengths; including resilience and wellbeing, to support high aspirations
4.    Narrow the gap in the proportion of young people in education, employment or training; one year after compulsory education
5.    Close the gap in university graduation, including from the 25 percent most selective universities.

The Fair Education Alliance response to new funding for grammar school expansion

The evidence is clear that selective education has a negative impact on social mobility. £50million is significant resource which could be far better invested in the things which are proven to make a difference to the most disadvantaged young people.

The Fair Education Alliance, a cross-sector coalition, has called for investment where the evidence shows we can have the biggest impact on social mobility, notably investment in early years education, teaching and leadership in hard-to-staff schools serving disadvantaged communities, and in building social and emotional skills for young people from all backgrounds. These are the areas where resource should be targeted to help children across the country to succeed, irrespective of their background.