Poorest children almost 13 months behind wealthier peers at GSCE.

The Fair Education Alliance (FEA), a coalition of 86 organisations, has today published its third annual State of the Nation Report Card in association with founding corporate supporter and lead sponsor, UBS. The report finds that educational inequality remains deeply entrenched in the UK and outlines a number of policy recommendations for improving social mobility. The country is in danger of failing to hit is social mobility targets by the end of this parliament. The report’s findings include:

  • Marginal progress on some indicators over the last year - the gap in literacy and numeracy at primary has narrowed from 8.4 months to 8.2 months
  • The GCSE achievement gap has narrowed from 13.1 months to 12.8 months
  • On current trends, the nation will fail to meet the coalition’s national targets for tackling educational inequality by the end of this parliament
  • Children attending schools serving low-income communities fare the worst in the South East, both in terms of the lowest GCSE attainment and the largest gap compared with schools serving high-income communities. The gap in this region is still the largest in England, at 18.7 months. This compares to a national average of 12.8 months
  • Children from more affluent families from state schools were almost four times as likely as young people from low-income families (3.8 times) to go on to join a higher-tariff university in 2016.
  • One in forty children who were eligible for free school meals, went on to one of these higher-tariff institutions, compared with almost one in ten better-off children.

In response to the findings, the coalition of 86 has proposed a number of recommendations. These include:

  • School Funding: A commitment from the government that national spending should not decrease in real terms on a per pupil basis.
  • Destinations and Careers: - Every primary and secondary school in England should have a designated and trained senior leader responsible for developing and delivering a whole school approach to destinations
  • Grammar Schools - The government should continue to resist calls to expand selective education in the future.
  • Measurement of Social and Emotional Competencies: A framework of measures should be available to all schools in the UK to support their knowledge of the social and emotional competencies of their students.
  • Early Years: The government should commit to ensuring that every group setting serving the 30% most deprived areas in England is led by an early years teacher or equivalent by 2020.


Sir Richard Lambert, Chair of the Fair Education Alliance commented:

“Inequality in education is still deeply entrenched in our country and our Report Card is a stark reminder of the scale of the challenge. The government must address the funding crisis in schools – freezing school budgets in a time of rising inflation will only make the journey more difficult. As the UK seeks to reposition itself in the world, it becomes more crucial than ever that our young people are able to fulfil their potential irrespective of their parental background.”


David Soanes, UK Country Head UBS:

The Report and the Impact Goals themselves are also a clarion call to action: they place the spotlight firmly on the most pertinent issues in order to raise awareness and influence policy, but also to illustrate the wasted potential, to individual lives and to the UK economy. We cannot become complacent; these recommendations should set the tone for policy and practice – together action is needed through replicable and evidence-based approaches. Much more needs to be done.


About the Fair Education Alliance:

The Fair Education Alliance was launched in June 2014 and is a coalition of 86 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 poorest communities and their wealthier peers. 

The FEA believes that England must meet five impact goals to be achieved by 2022. The Report Card reports on progress on each.

1.     Narrow the primary school literacy and numeracy attainment gap

2.     Close the gap in GCSE attainment

3.     Ensure that young people develop key strengths including character, wellbeing and mental health they need to support high aspirations

4.     Narrow the participation gap in post 16 education or training

5.     Close the graduation gap, with a particular focus on the most selective universities

UBS’s UK Community Affairs Programme

For over 30 years, UBS's strategic Community Affairs programme has consistently addressed economic and social deprivation in the London Borough of Hackney, supporting community initiatives in education and social entrepreneurship. Through carefully selected, and rigorously managed multi-year partnerships, a central objective of the programme is to break the link between disadvantage and poor skills and attainment. Impact has been achieved through a combination of targeted financial support and employee volunteering. As a founder member of the FEA UBS continues to seek out, promote and support practical solutions and programmes working in partnership to tackle educational disadvantage.

David Soanes, UK Country Head, UBS, chairs UBS's Community Affairs Committee which oversees this programme. Externally David chairs Business in the Community’s Education Leadership Team.


UBS provides financial advice and solutions to wealthy, institutional and corporate clients worldwide, as well as private clients in Switzerland. The operational structure of the Group is comprised of our Corporate Center and five business divisions: Wealth Management, Wealth Management Americas, Personal & Corporate Banking, Asset Management and the Investment Bank. UBS's strategy builds on the strengths of all of its businesses and focuses its efforts on areas in which it excels, while seeking to capitalize on the compelling growth prospects in the businesses and regions in which it operates, in order to generate attractive and sustainable returns for its shareholders. All of its businesses are capital-efficient and benefit from a strong competitive position in their targeted markets.