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Education in the media: 9 February 2017

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Attainment gap, Selective schools


Today’s news review looks at a report on the attainment of children from disadvantaged backgrounds and coverage of a newsletter about grammar schools.

Sutton Trust

Today, Thursday 9 February, a report published by the Sutton Trust claims that bright teenagers in England who come from a poor background can lag two-and-a-half years behind more affluent bright classmates.

The report is based on research carried out by the UCL Institute of Education that analysed test scores for the brightest 10 per cent of 16-year-olds.

The story has been covered by the BBC, Guardian, and Huffington Post, among others.

However, we are clear that the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers is narrowing, and there are nearly 1.8 million more pupils in good or outstanding schools than in 2010.

Furthermore, our plans to introduce more grammar school places will mean that more pupils will benefit from a world leading education, regardless of their background. Grammar schools have a track record of closing the attainment gap to almost zero between children on free school meals and their better off classmates. A study by the University of Bristol and included in a review by the Sutton Trust found the educational gain from attending a grammar school to be around twice as high (seven to eight GCSE grades) for pupils in receipt of free school meals.

The government is also targeting social mobility ‘coldspots’ with twelve Opportunity Areas where we are working with local organisations, schools, colleges, and businesses to overcome barriers to social mobility.

A DfE spokesperson said:

We want to create a country where everyone has a fair chance to go as far as their talents will take them. Education is at the heart of this, breaking down the barriers to social mobility that too many face.


Thanks to our reforms there are nearly 1.8 million more children in schools rated good or outstanding than in 2010, while the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers is narrowing. This year alone we are spending £2.5billion through the pupil premium to tackle educational inequality.


But we are determined to go further, and through our reformed, more rigorous curriculum, we want to stretch all pupils, including the most able. We have also recently consulted on proposals to end the ban on new grammar schools, where we know bright children from disadvantaged backgrounds thrive, as well as harnessing the resources and expertise of universities, independent and faith schools to create even more good school places.

Grammar schools

On Wednesday, 8 February, the Grammar School Heads Association (GSHA) published a newsletter detailing a private meeting with the Secretary of State and other senior figures from the Department for Education on the Schools That Work for Everyone consultation.

The newsletter has been covered in various publications including The Mail and the Guardian.

The discussion was based on early impressions of the responses to our consultation, which ended in December. At this stage, we are still analysing the responses and will make more announcements in due course. Until that point, no firm decisions have been taken.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

Thanks to the government’s reforms over the last six years, there are now almost 1.8 million more pupils being taught in schools rated good or outstanding schools than in 2010. But we know there is more to do, and that’s precisely why we have set out plans to make more good school places available, to more parents, in more parts of the country - including scrapping the ban on new grammar school places, and harnessing the resources and expertise of universities, independent and faith schools.


The Schools That Work for Everyone consultation closed on 12 December. As the Secretary of State told the House of Commons on Monday, we have received several thousand submissions, which we are now going through. We will respond in the spring.

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