Peter Shreeve, Isle of Wight Branch Secretary – Association of Teachers and Lecturers Section and National Education Union, shares his views on the latest Education Policy Institute report which places the Isle of Wight with the largest academic attainment gap between those at GCSE level who are on Free School Meals and those who are not. Ed
The ‘Education in England: Annual report 2018’ published by the Education Policy Institute (an evidence-based research institute) last month (July) considers the academic attainment gap between those on Free School Meals and those who are not.
This is known as the ‘disadvantage’ gap and is based on the latest available data from the Department for Education, with ‘disadvantaged’ referring to those entitled to free school meals.
Island has largest absolute disadvantage gap
Looking at the Isle of Wight data, the gap between those ‘disadvantaged’ and ‘non-disadvantaged’ students has worsened since 2011.
Nationally at secondary level, the area with the largest absolute disadvantage gap is the Isle of Wight with a gap of 27.2 months.
Commenting on the report, Peter Shreeve, Joint Island Secretary of the National Education Union said:
“It is disappointing, yet not totally unsurprising that the achievements of those on free school meals have failed to achieve results closer to those who are socio-economically better off.
“The reasons for this gap are complex and it would not surprise anyone if things were to worsen.
“Austerity has impacted negatively on all aspects of education from the ongoing pressures on special educational needs and disability (SEND) to this week’s announcement that schools are expected to fund 1% of the cost of a teacher pay rise from their already severely strained budgets.”
He went on to say,
“The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies recently published analysis which shows that funding per pupil in England has been under constant downward pressure and has fallen by about 8% in real terms between 2009-10 and 2017-18.
“We agree wholeheartedly with the report’s main recommendations, namely if we are to close the gap, we need to ensure:
- access to high quality early years provision,
- a high quality and stable teaching workforce in all schools,
- pupil well-being is prioritised alongside academic attainment,
- early and sustained additional support for those who are behind with attainment.
- and promote a strategy of poverty alleviation – which forms the basis of a programme to improve the attainment of disadvantaged pupils throughout their childhood.
“We regret continued cuts to education and believe this is a false economy. The fact that those on free school meals have yet again failed to achieve results closer to those who are socio-economically better off comes as no surprise.
“We will continue to campaign for improved funding for all schools, as the government moves into the comprehensive spending review.”