The English education system must become one in which a disadvantaged background ceases to be a barrier to a young person’s attainment and future participation in a competitive workplace. After prior attainment, poverty is the single most important factor in predicting a child’s future.
We should all have high expectations of every child regardless of their background. Disadvantaged1 pupils underperform on average compared to their peers. Low attainment is due to a complex interaction of social and demographic factors. Material deprivation can influence educational outcomes by reducing the educational resources that families can provide, and by adversely affecting the home environment. Deprivation is commonly associated with other factors which can influence children’s outcomes: ill health; family stress; low levels of parental education and parental involvement in their children’s education; low levels of cultural and social capital; and low aspirations.
Attainment among disadvantaged pupils has improved slightly and the attainment gap between them and their peers has closed, but only slowly, in recent years. In 2012 the attainment gap at age 11 was 16 percentage points; and at age 16, 26.3 percentage points. The gap widens throughout a child’s compulsory education, and so has a direct bearing on access to higher education and the best jobs. Tackling disadvantaged pupils’ underperformance during school years is therefore critical to the Government’s broader social mobility aims and strategy as a good education is the key to improving young people’s life chances.
Within this strategy, the Pupil Premium is a specific policy targeted on disadvantaged pupils – giving schools extra funding to enable them to take the most effective action to raise the attainment of all disadvantaged pupils and close the gap with their peers.
1 A pupil who has been on free school meals in the previous 6 years or who was 'Looked After' for at least 6 months in that year.