Even excellent schools ‘don’t help poor catch up with rich’

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Category: Media

The Independent, 23/09/2014, p.22, Richard Garner

The gap in performance between poor and better-off pupils is just as high in schools ranked ‘outstanding’ as those labelled ‘inadequate’, researchers have found. A study by an Oxford University academic reveals that children on free school meals (FSM) lag just as far behind their richer peers in good schools as in bad schools. The findings show the gap in performance between those achieving five A* to C grades at GCSE including maths and English is 25 percentage points in ‘outstanding’ schools – with 50 per cent of children on free school meals obtaining the grades, compared with 75 per cent of other pupils.. This gap is exactly the same in those schools ranked ‘good’ by the education-standards watchdog, Ofsted, though the overall performance level is lower – 39 per cent compared with 64 per cent. Almost exactly the same performance gap exists in ‘inadequate’ schools. Professor Steve Strand, the report’s author, concludes that successive governments have been wrong to blame ‘failing schools’ for the stark differences in performance between the two sets of pupils, Instead, the reason is likely to be ‘factors outside the school gates (in the home, wider community or peer groups)’.

Poor classmates affect wealthier pupils’ grades
The Daily Telegraph, 23/09/2014, p.6, Graeme Paton

Children from relatively wealthy families perform worse at schools with large numbers of disadvantaged pupils, according to research. A study by an academic from Oxford University found that a “greater concentration of poverty” in a school had a negative effect on both rich and poor children. It emerged that the gap between the two groups was narrower in schools with large numbers of poor children – those entitled to free school meals (FSM) – than schools with an affluent intake. Steve Strand, professor of education, said the findings underlined how economic factors outside the classroom remained a huge driver of exam results, insisting it was wrong to blame schools for big gaps in grades between rich and poor pupils.

Also in:

Quality of school ‘does not affect gaps in attainment’
The Guardian, 23/09/2014, p.7, Sally Weale

Middle class pupils drop 2 grades in poor schools
Daily Mail, 23/09/2014, p.8, Unattributed