Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on the Education Policy Institute’s annual report, which shows that the attainment gap between poorer pupils and their peers continued to widen in 2022.
“It is desperately dispiriting news that not only has the attainment gap widened, but there has been no progress over the past decade in tackling the gap for the most disadvantaged children. Clearly, the disruption caused by the pandemic has had a huge impact, and the government’s failure to back education recovery with sufficient investment has made it all-the-more difficult to regain lost ground. But the problems go deeper than that. Teacher shortages are critical, funding is impossibly tight, mental health problems are on the rise, the SEND system is under huge pressure, and buildings are literally crumbling. We have an accountability system which not only fails to recognise these issues, but which actively makes things worse, stigmatising schools and colleges and driving people out of the profession. And we have an appallingly high rate of child poverty in the UK affecting nearly 30% of children.
“This has a huge impact on the educational attainment of these young people – too often consigning them to an intergenerational cycle of disadvantage. The government both now and in the future – whatever its political complexion – must deal with these issues in order to narrow the attainment gap. A good start would be to put into practice the recommendation of the EPI to target increased levels of funding to the most disadvantaged pupils.”