Schools should publish progress measures for disadvantaged pupils on their websites, a new report has claimed, after revealing stark differences between how schools are closing the gap.
The Education Policy Institute (EPI) has today published what it calls the “first comprenhensive analysis” of the progress of disadvantaged pupils over the last decade.
The report, titled Divergent Pathways: the disadvantage gap, accountability and the pupil premium, examines how the progress gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers has shifted in early years, primary and secondary phases.
Researchers found large differences in the pupil progress gap between different types of schools, and have now called on the government to consider new policies including requiring schools to publish their progress measures for disadvantaged pupils on their website, and for that measure to be included in performance league tables for multi-academy trusts.
Below Schools Week picks out the key findings:
Primary schools with the largest number of disadvantaged pupils are closing the gap fastest
It’s good news for primary schools where more than 45 per cent of pupils are disadvantaged: the progress gap at KS2 has closed completely over the last decade, the report found (see below image). This means, between KS1 and KS2, disadvantaged children make the same level of progress as their peers do nationally.
Primary schools with borderline attainment pupils also seem to do well
Schools with more disadvantaged pupils who are nearer to the expected standards set by the government for primary floor standards are also making “remarkable inroads”. For example, the KS2 gap has decreased by 68 per cent since 2011, falling from 2.2 months to 0.7 months.
But while primaries close the gap, secondaries lag behind
The latest figures reveal primaries closed the progress gap by one month (difference between disadvantaged pupils and their peers) in 2015 (represented below by birth years, rather than academic year).
But secondaries seem to be struggling. The gap at KS4, despite closing between 2006 to 2013, has now widened to 2008 levels, the report found.
What is causing the fall? EPI said it is not clear, but it has been suggested the drop could have been impacted by the government’s decision to only allow first-entry exam results to appear in performance tables from 2014.
Schools with low levels of disadvantaged pupils are also struggling
The report found that schools with the lowest proportions of disadvantaged pupils have seen their progress gap widen. For example, since 2006 the KS2 progress gap in these schools has increased from 1.1 to 2.6 months.
Momentum is slowing for schools with large numbers of disadvantaged English as additional language (EAL) pupils
The gap for these schools had closed for three years prior to 2012, but it has since widened, slightly (although progress still remains above the national average for KS2 and secondary school).
In 2011, the coalition government merged Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant funding into schools’ main budget. EPI said this redirection of funds may suggest support is beginning to diminish support for schools most affected by language and deprivation needs.
So, is pupil premium cash working?
The upshot is that it seems like it is. But it’s still early days.
The report says there wasn’t a “turning point” in 2011 when the cash was introduced, but there are “promising developments” that coincide with its introduction.
They pointed to the slowing of the growth gap at KS2 and KS4 for schools with the fewest disadvantaged pupils, and a narrowing of the gap schools with the most disadvantaged pupils at KS1.
But the report calls for more action to address an increase in progress gaps in the least disadvantaged schools and for the most persistently disadvantaged pupils.
David Laws (right) , EPI chair and former schools minister under the Liberal Democrats*, said the conclusions are mixed. “With the new prime minister in her first speech making a commitment to improving life chances, this research is timely and indicates the mountain to climb in terms of the gap between disadvantaged pupils and the rest of pupils.”
Jo Hutchinson, author of the report, added there is “much more to do to adequately address the issue of deprivation”.
“It is vital that the government protects the pupil premium and clarifies how much additional deprivation funding will be available to schools through the new national funding formula,” she said.
*Worth noting that pupil premium was a flagship policy for the Lib Dems
What needs to be done?
EPI has proposed five main policy recommendations that it has asked the government to consider. They are:
– Continue providing pupil premium
– Quantify how much cash will be handed to schools as deprivation funding under the national funding formula
– Require schools to publish their progress measures for disadvantaged pupils on their website
– Include disadvantaged pupil’s progress in government league tables for multi-academy trusts
– Prioritise policies to increase the educational quality of childcare-aged pupils
The Department for Education said
“As the Prime minister set out this week, opportunity should not be restricted to a privileged few and every child should be afforded the chance to fulfil their potential – and that starts with an excellent education, no matter what their background. We are making progress with over 1.4million more children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010 and the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers is falling at primary and secondary level.
“However the job is not complete which is why we have pledged to continue investing in the pupil premium, worth £2.5billion this year alone, until 2020. We are also consulting on a new national funding formula for schools to ensure for the first time that funding follows need rather than an outdated historical formula and by 2019/20 we will be investing an extra £1billion to help working families access high quality childcare. As these changes take effect we expect to see them have a positive on the results of disadvantaged pupils.”