FEA response to Selective Schools Expansion Fund

The Fair Education Alliance condemns the Government’s decision to launch another round of the Selective Schools Expansion Fund and argues the £50 million would be better invested in comprehensive education and teacher training.

Sam Butters CEO of Fair Education Alliance said:

It is deeply disappointing to see that the Government is yet again pushing for the expansion of selective schools, which have been shown and time again to have a negative impact on social mobility.

We need to be investing in the education of all young people, not siphoning off a select few. If we invested the same time and resources into comprehensive education we could improve outcomes for all children.

Research by the Education Policy Institute, the Sutton Trust and other has shown that selective education has a negative impact on social mobility, and that pupils who attend grammar schools do no better than similar pupils in high performing comprehensives.

The Alliance calls for the £50 million fund to be invested in comprehensive education and programmes that are proven to have an impact on the lives of the most disadvantaged young people. Its coalition of over 100 leading education organisations identified three priorities for investment, including developing teachers and leaders serving disadvantaged communities, and providing disadvantaged children with a rounded education that focuses on character and social and emotional skills as well as academic attainment.

FEA response to SoS's speech on character education

The Fair Education Alliance urges DfE to tackle financial and accountability barriers to character education.

Schools in disadvantaged areas must have the resources they need to provide their students with a rounded education.

Sam Butters CEO of Fair Education Alliance said:

We warmly welcome the Secretary of State’s speech today on character education, particularly the emphasis on access for disadvantaged pupils inside and outside the school walls, but the DfE must tackle the financial and accountability barriers schools face in providing character-building opportunities to their students.

We have campaigned strongly on the benefits of rounded education and an education system that develops the whole child, and I invite the DfE to work with our coalition of organisations representing all five of the Minister’s foundations of character, including the Youth Sports Trust, Children’s University, Voice21, Step Up To Serve, and Young Enterprise in developing these plans further.

The Fair Education Alliance welcomes the Secretary of State’s speech on the value of education beyond academic attainment, but urges the DfE to also ensure they are tackling the financial and accountability barriers which are preventing schools offering this.

Social and emotional skills like character and resilience are vital for succeeding in school and in life, and the Fair Education Alliance is committed to ensuring disadvantaged students get the same life chances as their peers.

Many schools want to provide access to sport, creativity, performing, and volunteering opportunities for their pupils, but budget cuts in schools and communities coupled with high stakes accountability focused on exam results have led to tough decisions about what they can offer.

Many of the FEA’s member organisations are the providers of the types of activity that the Minister has outlined; sport, creativity, performing, volunteering and membership. Sam says “The more young people who can access this type of provision the more we can close gaps in outcomes for disadvantaged pupils, but this will only be possible if there is the funding and incentives to make this a reality.”

The FEA’s coalition of school leaders, parents, wellbeing experts, and skills organisations  is gathering case studies and evidence of effective interventions and will develop toolkits of resources with practical advice for schools on how to implement best practice and information about organisations that can offer them support.

FEA response to latest UCAS data

UCAS’ latest data, released today, shows that disadvantaged students are 15 times less likely to go to a top university than their more advantaged peers, and nearly half as likely to go to university at all.

Fair Education Alliance CEO, Sam Butters, said:

These are shocking statistics. University education continues to be a requirement for many jobs, so it is incredibly disappointing that disadvantaged students are still not getting the same life chances as their more privileged peers.

The Fair Education Alliance is committed to closing this gap and ensuring no student’s success is limited by their background. Ensuring disadvantaged students have the information and opportunities they need to make post-16 decisions that are right for them is one of our three priorities, and we are pleased to be working with UCAS and others in achieving this.

Technical Note

This year’s data uses different equality characteristics than those used in previous years. Under the old measurements, included in the FEA’s 2018 Report Card, disadvantaged students were 10 times less likely to attend higher tariff universities in 2017. Under the new measure the equivalent figure for 2017 is 14.6 times.

FEA recommendations included in DfE Recruitment and Retention Strategy

The strategy is a welcome step and success will come from collaboration beyond government.

The Fair Education Alliance’s recommendations to improve teacher recruitment and retention through measures on accountability, school culture, and teacher career development have been included in the Department for Education’s new Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy and Early Career Framework. The strategy was developed in collaboration with FEA members including NAHT, the Chartered College of Teaching, Ambition School Leadership, and Teach First.

The DfE’s strategy, published today, outlines plans to reduce teacher workloads, simplify accountability measures, and provide more support for early stage teachers to make teaching a more attractive career path.

Sam Butters, CEO of Fair Education Alliance, said:

Recruiting and retaining teachers, particularly in disadvantaged communities is one of our three Fair Education Alliance priorities to improve education for disadvantaged young people so we are thrilled to see the Department for Education strategy today. More importantly, the commitment to working in partnership with organisations from the FEA and beyond to make the changes is critical. No government, organisation or even sector can achieve these ambitious changes alone. Previous attempts at this have failed and we are now at crisis point so we need everyone on board and working together, not against each other to finally make the changes needed. Our members look forward to continuing to work with the Department to implement its strategy.

In its report in September last year, the FEA pushed for renewed focus and investment and commitment on leadership, CPD, and wellbeing in schools in order to address the crisis in recruitment and retention, specifically calling for the government to support and empower teachers and leaders to reduce and manage workloads, remove high-stakes accountability measures, and ensure that teaching is a rewarding and attractive career pathway.

The FEA is spreading best practice in training and retention, developing resources with practical advice on how to implement best practice, and signposting organisations that can offer support to schools.

The new strategy was developed in partnership with Ambition School Leadership and the Institute for Teaching, Teach First, the Chartered College of Teaching, and the Teacher Development Trust, all leading members of the FEA’s working group on teacher leadership, CPD, and wellbeing. The working group will continue to collaborate with the DfE as the strategy begins to be rolled out.

Great teaching is one of the most well-evidenced interventions that can be made to improve educational outcomes, but teachers are leaving schools at the same rate they join, whilst pupil numbers are rising significantly. Research by the Nuffield Foundation has found that schools in areas with higher levels of deprivation are more likely to struggle to attract teachers.

FEA 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