GCSE disadvantage gap widens again

Gap in attainment between poorer pupils and better-off peers widest since 2011

Gap in attainment between poorer pupils and better-off peers widest since 2011

The gap in GCSE attainment between disadvantaged pupils and their better-off peers has widened again, and is at its highest for over a decade.

Key stage 4 data published today shows the gap, which is based on average GCSE English and maths attainment nationally, widened from 3.84 last year to 3.95 this year. The gap has now widened every year since 2020.

It comes after the proportion of top GCSE grades handed out to 16-year-olds in England dropped by 17 per cent, falling to near the same level as pre-pandemic 2019.

The DfE said the widening of the disadvantage gap index “may reflect the difficult circumstances that many pupils will have experienced over the last few academic years”.

But the gap was already widening before the Covid pandemic, having narrowed to its joint lowest level in 2017.

It comes after the attainment gap between disadvantaged primary school pupils and their better-off peers stopped growing, but remains far above pre-pandemic levels.

Slight uptick in EBacc entries

Today’s data also shows a slight increase in the proportion of pupils entering the whole suite of five EBacc subject areas.

This year, 39.3 per cent of pupils entered the full EBacc, up 0.6 percentage points on 2022, but still lower than the 40 per cent seen in pre-pandemic 2019.

But as usual, low uptake of languages is holding back progress in boosting EBacc entries. Ministers want to see 90 per cent of pupils enter the EBacc by 2025.

This year, 86.3 per cent entered four or more components, but 88.9 per cent of those who did so were missing the languages component, while 10.8 per cent were missing the humanities component.

Forty-five per cent of pupils achieved a grade 5 or higher in English and maths. This is down 4.8 percentage points on last year, which was to be expected given the grading changes, but 1.8 per cent higher than in 2019.

Average attainment 8, the performance measure calculated across eight subject “buckets”, has also decreased to 46.2 this year, down 2.6 points on last year and 0.5 points lower than in 2019.

The average EBacc points score, which measures attainment in EBacc subjects, is also down 0.22 points to 4.05, which is also 0.02 points lower than it was in 2019.

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