Today, the Education Policy Institute has published analysis of the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers. The report identifies that the gap is narrowing but at an alarmingly slow rate for school leaders.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary designate of school leaders’ union NAHT commented on the release of the report. “Despite the improving standards in schools and two decades of sustained effort, we’ve struggled to shift the needle on the equality of opportunity dial. Britain still faces an emergency when it comes to equality of opportunity for children and young people.
“The gap is closing but the rate is so slow that it will alarm many school leaders who have tried hard to bear down on the issue. As the EPI have identified in their very detailed report, if we carry on at this pace, we will lose at least a further three generations before equality of outcomes is realised through our education system.
“There is hope. According to the research, primary and secondary schools in and around London have been able to improve outcomes for disadvantaged students that buck the national trend. Additional investment and focus through projects like the London Challenge appear to have had an impact. We should be looking for ways to spread this to areas of the country that still need support. When it comes to funding level up not down.
“The government’s latest strategy is the creation of Opportunity Areas. Whilst its right to focus funding and support, Opportunity Areas must use evidence to back up their work otherwise they will join the long list of failed attempts to improve equality across Britain. Particular attention needs to be paid to pupils with special educational needs and disabilities.
Investing in equality
“What’s clear is that if we are serious about improving equality in the UK, it would be wrong to expect schools to solve the problem alone. Cuts to local authority budgets have greatly reduced the sources of support for families on low incomes. Some of the areas where it is hardest to be socially mobile have suffered from decades of under-investment and shrinking opportunities for well-paid and highly skilled work.
“Schools in those areas have always struggled to attract teachers and whilst no-one believes that there is a silver bullet that will provide the answer, without enough highly skilled and motivated teams in schools, equality of opportunity will always remain an unreachable goal. That is why NAHT believes there should be a national strategy for teacher recruitment that recognises teachers as high status professionals, and guarantees enough teachers for every school.
“Those of us who work with the best interests of children and young people at heart have never underestimated the scale of the investment needed.”
The need for investment in schools was iterated in Paul Whiteman's recent blog for TES, in which he said, 'Schools can't improve equality for pupils if they are struggling for money themselves – vital interventions that could improve equality are already disappearing.'
NAHT is campaigning hard for increased investment in education and a national strategy for teacher recruitment. To find out more, please visit the campaign areas of our website.
Page Published: 02/08/2017