Laura Sharman 26 August 2020

Progress on closing the learning gap has stalled, report warns

The attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers in primary schools has increased for the first time since 2017, new figures have shown.

A new report from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) warns that the learning gap between the poorest and richest pupils has stopped closing overall for the first time in a decade.

The report argues the stalling of the gap occurred even before the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted the education system.

The report states: 'The gap has now begun to widen across all three phases of education that we consider in this report – the early years, primary school and secondary school. In 2018, the gap widened for the first time in our data at early years and secondary school. In 2019, the gap also widened for the first time at primary school.

'We find that the slowing and/or reversal of progress is related to a rise in persistent poverty among disadvantaged pupils. The gap for the most persistently disadvantaged pupils, already twice the size of the gap for the least persistently poor pupils, has increased in every year but one since 2014. This suggests that progress in closing the gap has not trickled down to the most persistently poor pupils.'

Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: ‘Good quality early education can make an enormous difference to children’s lives, with around 40% of the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers emerging by age five.

’Councils have long raised the issue that funding for early entitlements is not enough, impacting on the quality of provision and the availability of good support for children with special educational needs and disabilities.’

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