Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Today’s OECD report makes for alarming reading. But for anyone who works with the best interests of children and young people at heart, its conclusions are all too familiar.
“Despite the improving standards in schools and two decades of sustained effort, narrowing the gap between richer and poorer students is taking too long.
“Rightly, schools are at the centre of the efforts that we make to narrow the gap. But it would be wrong to expect schools to solve the problem on their own. The issues that underpin inequality reach far beyond the school gates and exist throughout the communities that schools serve.
“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. If we’re serious about improving equality in the UK we’ve got to look at all these factors. Schools can’t do it alone.
“It would also be entirely wrong to expect schools to make a difference if they are struggling for money themselves.
“The alarm bells are ringing. The DfE seems to be paying attention. Now it’s time for the Treasury to wake up too. Only new money from the Treasury will solve the school funding crisis. Next week’s Budget is a golden opportunity but whether the Chancellor takes advantage of it is far from certain.”
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